Jacob Collier is the Community Officer at the University of Nottingham’s Students’ Union. His role involves fighting for students on a range of issues – from housing and transport to safety in our community. Jacob works with the Council, police and community groups to make sure that students’ voices are heard.
In your words, what exactly is the Democratic Review 19/20?
It’s the future of the student’s union. The officers and support and accountability that comes under that. It’s a big change we’re making and I hope people engage positively with it.
Why do you think the structure of the Student’s Union needed changing?
For me, I don’t believe we need a president. The officer team is equal but by having somebody called a president you indirectly have a hierarchy. Some of the people who have previously occupied that role, they haven’t added much value. In terms of the democratic structure, we get currently very low engagement from students. They don’t know how they can make change or be part of it. So, making it easier for them to get involved is a good thing to do.
According to the Students Union website, the Democratic Review “want to make sure that our democratic processes are right for you, and that we’re representing you and your needs in the best possible way”. How exactly does the Review go about doing this?
I have concerns about the way the review has been conducted. We should have involved more students than we have. The process should have been more public. Not just assumptions that students have come across this. Actively pushed it at them. Some of the decisions we’ve made as officers have not been particularly transparent. Asking ‘how did we come to a particular decision?’, probably wouldn’t be able to answer. How can we be held accountable when we haven’t been transparent in getting to that point?
In your opinion, what is the response you have received from the Democratic Review?
Confusion initially with sports council and hall committee presidents. Confused about role names but this has now changed. General student population don’t know its gone on, so I’m unsure what they think about it. This is a problem in itself. Didn’t feel we had all the right information to make decisions. Such a big change that will impact how Students’ Union operates in the future. So could’ve done better in the process.
From a survey that the News Team at Impact conducted last Thursday an Friday involving 30 students, 82% responded that they did not understand the new model proposed with only 18% who did. Although only a small sample, what are your thoughts on this considering the referendum is so soon?
Throughout this I’ve been saying we need to be more public. Involving students with the whole process. For example, a website but this never happened. How do you expect people to engage in the process when it feels very closed? If we want to be more democratic surely this should be more reflective of where we want to be.
How do you propose to ensure as many people hear about the referendum as possible?
Not sure what role I will take. I have publicly announced that I don’t agree with the model we’ve come to. It’s important that people engage with the process whether in support or not. Sports clubs in particular will have questions they feel have been unanswered. Anyone advocating this to go forward will have to think very hard about how they answer and give those people the assurances they need.
Please can you explain more on the upcoming referendum, will every student at the University be able to participate?
Model will be published with everyone able to view this Wednesday (February 5th). Then, one week for people to ask questions from James who is leading the project. The referendum will be later on in February.
For Jacob’s public announcement on the Democracy Review, click here.
Featured image courtesy of James Pheasey SU via Facebook.
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