Posted by: sarahwakefield | October 24, 2010

Week Sixteen and Seventeen: Back Blog; Council, appointments and Nobels

It seems a bit silly writing a blog belatedly, but so much occurred in these two weeks that it seems worth recording them.

Everyone said to me, “don’t worry, after Welcome Week everything will calm down a little and you’ll have more time to breath.” Everyone that is apart from a good friend of mine who was Communications Officer last year…”it all kicks off after the first week he warned.” And indeed in the first week of term my focus was very much on two things, our first Council meeting which doubles as training for Council members and the interview for our new Union Director (our senior staff employee).

The first meeting of Council pulled off fairly well in the end, with an imaginative game from Miles getting everyone up on their feet and running about in the first fifteen minutes. This broke the ice in a forum which has enough political difference in it to fill any meeting with potential animosity. This year I am very much hoping that Council can provide a forum for solid discussion and debate around issues of higher education, but also the future governance of our Union. I also hope it is a place where already active students can feel empowered to make these decisions, but that they will be proud to represent an active democratic part of UMSU.

I was really chuffed that after some good advertising in The Mancunion five candidates came forward to be the chair of council, arguably one of our most important positions constitutionally (they make judgements where the constitution is silent and also do much to set the tone of council meetings and general meetings which they chair). I am pleased to see Cory Bernard to take the position as someone who has, up till this point, been more involved with societies than democracy in the Union. Every time I see him now he has a new sticky note in his copy of the constitution!

Much of the rest of the week was spent in preparation for and then the two day interview process of deciding who should be our new Union Director. This is an important position as UMSU employs over 40 full time staff and it is important for our direction and tone that we employed someone who is able to appreciate the potential in UMSU and have vision for where we can be in ten years. Part of the sadness, but also enjoyment of being an exec officer is that you have the chance to set the flavour of a Union for a limited time. The Union Director on the other hand can really set the atmosphere you work in as the way they organise your staff team, the building and the Union’s relationship with the University can make a massive difference to an officer’s ability to achieve. I am more than confident that Andrea Strachan who we appointed is going to do some great things for the students of Manchester. In many ways my involvement on the interview panel for this appointment is one of the most important long term decisions I have and will make in my time as an officer. I feel content that whoever our successors are they will enter a well supported and strong Union whose resources can be fully exploited to the benefit of Manchester students. It was pretty strange as a 22 year old whose only interview has been for a waitressing position to be interviewing people twice your age for a job which pays more than I am ever likely to earn!

After making the appointment there was a sense of relief, but of course lots of practicalities which needed to be sorted the following week and lots of emails which needed catching up on.

The best part of this second week was probably, rather shockingly a University meeting called ‘Planning and Resources Committee’. This is a sub committee of the Board of Governors and in some ways has the potential to be rather dull, it’s a large meeting with a wide agenda. However, half way through the meeting one of the Vice Chancellor’s secretaries burst into the room and went straight to Nancy, whispered something quickly to which Nancy stood immediately said, “Albert, continue chairing the meeting”, and rushed out. Just before the door closed behind her I heard “are you serious” coming from her in an incredulous voice. Ten minutes later she popped her head round the door, while we were discussing Manchester’s place in the league tables, stating “I’m just nipping out to talk to the press; we’ve won the Nobel Prize for Physics”. Everyone turned to the statistician and asked “How many places will that put us up” to many chortles and good feelings. Of course, it’s been one of the few good pieces of news in the build up to the Browne Review and CSR.


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