Students’ Union finally embraces societies and sports officer

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The Vice Presidents for Sports and Finance, Events, Democracy and Societies propose the role change to Union Council. — Photo by Elliot Westacott.

On Friday Week Nine, Union Council passed a change to the current roles of the Vice President (Sports) and the Vice President (Finance, Events, Democracy & Societies). Societies will be taken from the remit of VP (FEDS) and given to VP (Sports) to create a Vice President (Activities) and a Vice President (Events & Democracy). Finance will be removed from the title of FEDS to reflect the minor role it plays in the officer’s remit and passed to the Union President.

LUSU President, Robbie Pickles, said that he thinks “the new position will be a fantastic way to ensure that both sports clubs and societies get a high standard of representation which is worthy of the hard work and dedication of their members”.

He went on to say that “the current role of VP (FEDS) is far too large and leads, every year, to each area being slightly neglected and the burden being passed elsewhere. However, this burden is not the main reason for the change. Instead, it is a need to bring sports and societies together to ensure better representation for both”.

This is not the first time, however, that this position has been proposed. In Michaelmas 2008 the position was discussed at the sabbatical review but was voted against, largely due to 500 students who had turned up to boycott it, particularly members of the then Athletic Union (AU).

As reported in SCAN at the time, the issue was with the AU clubs who believed that their interests would be overlooked if there was not a Full Time Officer solely in charge of running the Athletic Union. The opposition resulted in the VP (Activities) role being renamed VP (Sports) removing all responsibilities of societies and passing them onto the VP (FED). The meeting was seen by many as a clear battle between LUSU and the Athletic Union.

This year the reception was a more positive one. At Union Council meeting Marc Handley, VP (Sports), proposed the change and discussed how he had been round to all the individual sports teams and was met with agreement about the change. It was also taken to the Societies Executive Committee where it was approved. Handley went on to say how it is “the right change” to be made and it is “not about shifting workload” as sports and societies have so much in common that it just “makes sense”.

Some members of the council thought that the decision was perhaps too quick to be made in the meeting and may have needed more student consultation; however, Robin Hughes, VP (Academic), expressed enthusiasm about it, saying that “this change has received more student consultation that I think has ever been done” with a “massive amount of student support”.

Secretary of the Lancaster University Ballroom Dancing Society, Emma O’Gorman, was also very supportive of the new position. “Generally, we think it’s a good idea as at the moment we feel the societies are under-represented compared to sports. It seems quite unfair that we are tagged along with finance, events and democracy which in themselves probably could have their own position, whilst sports get an officer just for them. By merging the two positions it will give everyone equal consideration and time; and maybe blurring the distinction between societies and sports isn’t a bad thing.”

On the other hand, when asked what he thought of the new position, Chris Whalley, President of Lancaster University Tennis Club, said: “Handley seems to be stretched already, and even though he does a fantastic job, it would be far too much for one person to be able to do effectively. Even if they could manage all the responsibilities for the clubs and sports, it would leave very little time for the students to go in and see them about any issues, which could make the teams feel isolated or not sure how to resolve any issues.”

The new ruling has been passed and will be in effect in the Full Time Officer elections in Week Eight of Lent Term. The decision will be discussed at the next general meeting of the Union and its members, at the start of next term. General meetings are able to repeal any decision made by Union Council, providing it has a majority vote.

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