Should Exec duties be reserved for non-section heads?

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As the Exec Elections draw closer, and campaign week will soon be under way, many questions are brought up about whether the Union is run the way we want it to be. The whole of the Exec campaign and are voted in to represent students in their various positions, including as section heads, who work particularly closely with students and manage committees within their sections. These section heads come under the categories of: Sport; Media; Rag; Action; Societies; and Welfare and Diversity.

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Certain section heads also have a small team to help them with their work load, and most of the Exec have additional permanent staff members in their sections as well as volunteer students. However, it could be argued that non-section heads should be the ones to attend to the Exec duties, meanwhile, section heads can be working on any changes they want to make or that were promised in their manifestos. Currently there are a rather large number of Exec duties, such as promoting Union campaigns, yet there are also duties outside of the Union, such as attending University meetings, and visiting the Loughborough London Campus. Section heads are all also affiliated as “exec buddies” with two halls each and are encouraged to go to dinner with the hall and participate in certain events. Furthermore, section heads are often required to sign off certain work or make the final decision on something, which is difficult to do if they are always out of their offices completing other duties.

I caught up with Luke Thompson, current VP: Sport, to find out how he manages his Exec duties alongside managing the Sport section, he commented that:

“It can be challenging at times during the year to manage the demands that Exec activities require alongside running the Athletic Union.

I would be very neutral to a change in structure of the Exec either way. I think the advantage is obvious in that section heads would have a straight forward focus into their sections without other distractions, the downside however would be that a lot of students interactions with the Union and Executive are section based, roughly 4000 in both the AU and Societies as examples. Removing Executive duties from these may actually lead to less engagement or interest from students with the Executive and Union.

It is important to note that the purpose of these duties is to get out and meet students which is imperative to representing them properly, ultimately what the Exec has been elected to do. I think as a team we recognise that we haven’t got out there enough in the first term and so are making real attempts to be more visible and interact with a greater number of students. Regardless of time difficulties, it is essential to the current set up of the Exec and we need to continue to ensure we keep prioritising student engagement.”

Whilst it is important to be seen as representing the Union at open days, meetings, talks and the Loughborough London Campus, this arguably does not give section heads enough time to effectively manage their sections and make any long-term impact on the Union. By encouraging other Exec members to attend to such duties instead, this will relieve the pressure put on certain section heads and give them an opportunity to make a positive change; but will we see any changes for the new Exec next year?

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