SU officers – who was censured and who was commended?

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In the recent review panel, the SU community officer Matt Humberstone has received a censure. Jordan Kenny SU president and Lucy Woodcock the SU Education officer received commendations for their outstanding work over their tenure as officers.

The review panel is the highest accountability body within the Students’ Union which is held four times a year. It is made up of executive committee chairs and student co-opts.

The decision to censure Matt was made citing “severe and continuing problems”. It also highlights a current problem with the officer claiming “credit for other people’s work”. A censure is an indication of dissatisfaction with the current officer’s progress.

The official statement went on to mention “the officer’s approach to working with his student groups has been damaging to the SU’s relationship with said groups. Individual students have been left feeling undermined and demotivated.”

“The officer has focused mainly on Mental Health which has been fantastic but this has resulted in huge part of his remit being neglected, leaving other Officers to pick up the work or in some cases the work has not been completed at all.” Mental Health is only a fraction of the designated responsibilities within the Community Officer remit.

This is the first time Review Panel have used their powers of censure since its inception 5 years ago.

This raises questions on whether this censure would have had more of an effect had it been done earlier when Matt was re-elected by a 1000 vote margin in March of this year.

This censure was further backed by groups under his remit. Georgie Cozens, Volunteering Liason, has said, “From a volunteering perspective, we’ve had little to no support from Matt, despite having asked him specifically a number of times. Whatever support we have had has been very cursory, in the form of a Facebook post, which is really just as every officer does for us anyway. There has also been a breakdown of the relationship between Matt and volunteering due to his lack of contact.”

 

The Chair of the ISA (International Students’ Association) Roman Xia told bathimpact that, “Last year, Matt omitted international students in his manifesto despite it being one of his responsibilities and this year, he has practically done it again. The issues he wants to tackle for international students are often the wrong ones which come from the lack of understanding of us which ultimately originates from his lack of interest in [international students].”

Roxi Sweeney the chair of Diversity and Support Executive has said, “Matt has struggled to fully get to grips with some of the issues we have faced, and I think it has been a difficult year of trying to adjust to the unique position of an officer. I think he would do well to remember he is here to represent students, help students and support students. The basics being: its about students.”

In response to this, the Review Panel drafted a formal improvement plan that will be overseen by the Chair of the Review Panel and the SU president, with monitoring by the Review Panel.

Matt was approached by bathimpact to reply to the aforementioned comments about his tenure as Community Officer. “Whilst I don’t agree with every claim made by the Review Panel, I understand why some students may feel unhappy. I am keen to make significant improvements and have already started doing so where possible.”

In reference to other SU officers, Jordan Kenny has been commended for his work as SU president. The Review Panel report stated that “He has been a tireless campaigner for student interests, listens to student voices and simultaneously works with and tackles the University on issues important to students…this commendation, therefore, cannot be more appropriate or well-deserved and probably isn’t enough to recognize Jordan for the work he has done throughout the whole of his time at Bath, not just as President.”

Lucy was also commended being “brilliant in working with student leaders and developing student leaders in her area, and demonstrated true commitment to her position. Her attitude and approach is second to none and it has been a pleasure and an ease to work with Lucy this year.”

It would appear that there has been a mixed bag of results for the officer team this year. While there have been major changes in student life, it will be interesting to see how next years’ officers progress with Lucy leading the way.

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About Author

Alisha Lobo is the Editor - in Chief of bathimpact. She writes about international politics with specific focus on the Middle East and India. She also reports on the University of Bath and the Students' Union. She was the former News & Comment Editor of bathimpact (2015/16).

1 Comment

  1. Matthew Gilchrist on

    Having volunteered in the SU at quite a high level, I can say that the issues of poor communication are nothing new. In my experience, the SU tends to be very cliquey and working relationships (including communication) tend to depend quite a lot on whether people like each other. From my relationship with Matt, I know he doesn’t do cliques, and does what he believes is right. I suspect this is a big reason as to why people have issues with him. In short, without having a first-hand perspective, I suspect this is personal rather than professional.

    As for mental health, it may be a small part of his remit, but I think it is the most important. Mental health is a real crisis in the UK – according to Aviva, over 25% of 18-24 year olds report suffering from anxiety, and nearly half are lonely. Suicides among students have sky-rocketed.

    And yet I’ve felt in my time here that before Matt, Bath SU didn’t really see mental health as something of critical importance. Let’s put it this way – I’m a student who is bisexual and suffers with mental health problems. And I’ve loved how the SU has spent so much time and resources on LGBT issues, but dismayed to see how mental health has largely been ignored. If there is a group which is really marginalised in the SU at Bath, it is those with mental health issues. BME students, international students, LGBT students, female students all rightly have a powerful voice in the SU, but as a student with a mental health problem, until Matt came along, I felt ignored by the SU, and that it didn’t really care about people like me.

    Matt has at least given students like me the sense that someone is on their side. And if the only thing he achieves is gives one student the impetus to seek help and turn their life around, then he’s done well. If the SU is really ‘about students’ as Roxi Sweeney says, then focusing on mental health is the best thing a Community Officer has done in a long time.

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