Label recently caught up with Postgrad DO, Leo Rekiaro. At the same time, we also talked about the current discussions on whether the current DO role for Postgrads should be a sabbatical, VP position on LSU’s Executive Committee. Label also received some information from current VP: Union Affairs, Max Crawford, who is leading the discussions in Union Affairs Committee.
There are a few clear problems that changing the role to a VP position would entail. Development Officers are voluntary roles, and so having to fund a Vice President Postgrad position would involve paying another sabbatical officer, as well as potentially having to find further funding to put into projects in order to develop the role further. Max Crawford has outlined this in his proposal for the VP position:
“Quite simply, we would need the University to provide it. Union President, Jess Excell is going to speak to the Vice Chancellor about this and we are hoping that he will feel that appointing a VP Postgrad is great step for everybody and will therefore be happy to provide the funds.”
In the proposals which have been put forward to Union Affairs for discussion, VP Union Affairs, Max Crawford has also highlighted that further questions surrounding the other DO positions (we currently have five), may be raised. So, why no VP Global or VP Alumni and Employability?
“The reason why VP Postgrad has been proposed is because it has consistently been one of the most highlighted areas targeted as needing improvement. With regards to VP Global, there’s no doubt that it could be just as effective and there’s no need to rule it out – but why does it have to be all done at the same time? My proposal would be to try the VP Postgrad model and if it works, another similar position could be brought in at a later date.”
Why has this come about now? Well, LSU has been receiving feedback from Postgrads concerning their involvement and engagement within the students’ union. Max Crawford highlighted that:
“After focus groups with PGT and PGR students, the overwhelming consensus was that they would welcome the position.”
The challenges that adding this role to the Executive committee could potentially encompass have been clearly highlighted; with the right backing and careful planning it appears as though the introduction of the role would be welcomed by many. Whilst considering how to elect a VP Postgrad, there are several routes to consider. As with the VP College role (find out more here), a VP Postgrad caters to a very specific group of students, and not every undergrad in Loughborough is likely to engage with a Postgrad election campaign as much as they would with other roles- so who should vote? There are also problems concerning the periods of study of a PG student. For instance, many postgraduate courses are not completed by the end of summer as undergraduate courses are. With students potentially still studying or even working into what could be the beginning of their term in office, the amount of possible candidates could be reduced dramatically.
Label asked Leo Rekiaro, current Postgrad Development Officer, how he felt about the proposals, and he was keen to present both sides to the argument. His experience in the role so far, although only several weeks in, clearly presents him with a strong perspective on the ways in which the role could be taken.
“The Postgraduate position encompasses a tremendous amount of students at Loughborough, over a third. The Postgraduates haven’t been satisfied in recent years, and that’s fluctuated depending on the effectiveness of the individual officer. We’re not building as effectively as we’d like to or we have seen as significantly in other areas. Postgraduates are an extremely valuable part of the university…we’re trying to be conscious of that and keep building.”
Label mentioned that issues with balancing time for a Postgrad DO would no longer be a problem if the role was escalated to VP level. Leo was in agreement with this and said that his DO projects “could succeed or fail depending on the smallest variable because the structure isn’t necessarily around it”- all down to how much time he has to devote to the role in terms of balancing out course work and DO duties. Leo added:
“I’m trying to promote the structure and make it a permanent faculty. But if we have a VP: Postgrad that would become a mandatory necessary, which is excellent.”
Leo and I discussed the possibility of having a committee who sit under the VP: Postgrad, who represent each section of the union, here our current Postgrad DO shares his opinions against the VP role:
“This is my argument initially against the VP. I want to make myself clear that I think it’s inevitable and I do think it will be a good thing when we eventually have a VP Postgrad at Loughborough, I’m not suggesting that it doesn’t warrant the time or commitment of someone in that position full time.”
“I’m of the opinion now that the structure is in place that exists now within each section to maximise that with the engaged postgrad people we have, vs, it being on a committee of the VP Postgrad. The way I look at it now, you could only elect a certain number of people and their attention would be divided because of academic matters. I’d see it as more valuable if there was one committed person within each section. If that person worked for ten hours, they’d do more than whatever a volunteer would on a VP: Postgrad committee who is also trying to take part in events. It’s a very minor thing and I’m not saying it wouldn’t be effective and ultimately it comes down to the person.”
In light of Leo’s ideas of appointing specific representatives for each union section to reach out to postgrads as opposed to having a specific “VP: Postgrad committee”, he believes that altering the attentions given in each section now could enable a greater connection with PG students. This would involve all VP’s taking Postgraduates into account, but my counter-argument to this would be that we have a VP College already, so why not cater more specifically to engage those slightly older students too? Leo added:
“We’re going with the VP: Postgrad path, and I think it’s fantastic, I’m just conscious of now and what would be the most effective use of our time now and that’s all any of us want, and we want the most effective thing moving forward that would then benefit us now and students going forward in the future. I’m offering the counter- argument because the majority see the positive things.”
There is also a problem with when the courses end to take into consideration. Leo suggested that these things could be worked around through extended hand over periods and slow transitions into the role with the supposed assumption that the elected VP: Postgrad or indeed DO, would still be there the following September to do the handover with the next officer. Clearly there are many people with ideas on how to make the role of a VP: Postgrad a viable and worthwhile option going forward, including Leo Rekiaro who himself recognises the problems that are evident and has various ideas on how to work on them. Although presenting the counter-argument, he is completely for the idea of the role, and alongside the information that Label received from VP: Union Affairs, Max Crawford, it is clear that the right questions are being brought forward to Union Affairs in order to develop discussions and debate over whether this is a worthwhile venture or not.
The discussion over this role will be taken to Union Affairs Committee on Monday 7th December. Label will bring you updates when possible. For now, feel free to join in the discussions yourself by voting in the poll, commenting below and tweeting us @LabelOnline.