In UCC, too often the students that complain are seen as trouble makers. We must address the ethos behind college mechanisms to ensure a student focus. We need to make sure that the new Faculty/College council systems are recognised as the voice of students. The SU must work to ensure that before new policies are introduced as wide a variety of students get the chance to have their views taken into account as possible.
Top down organisations generally have the effect of emasculating active membership. It is all too easy for the 4 sabbitical officers to think they are the Union. They are far from it. One of the best advances in recent years has been the ‘by-in’ from Class reps. Class Council needs to be involved in the achievements of its Union. They should sit at every possible level of the University administration to make sure student issues are heard. This is important to continue the sense of participation and involvement that has been created in recent years.
Linda Kelly has demonstrated the importance of a strong chair of Class Council. Solid foundations are in place for Class Council to develop its potential to be an even more effective student parliament for UCC. It should serve as the body which outlines the policies which the SU should then faithfully implement.
Class Council should be a body concentrating solely on the needs of students. There is a view that it is ineffective and inconsequential as a body. Class Council, in the past, has been hijacked by interest groups. Though their aims are often laudable, there focus is not the same as that of Class Council. Class Council is engaged in a battle of perception that can only be won in the long run if Class Council continues, as it has this year, to bat aside the distractions from the real battles that students face.
The ballot system is a good one. Fundamental problems like publicity, promotion and organisation did blight its implementation however. We are in a much improved position one year in – we know the problems and can address them.
Some of the most important work of a class rep is actually done during the summer when classes are being put together – moving elections to the second term (perhaps even during main SU election) to ensure that a rep is in place and contactable to make sure problems are averted
We need to make sure we get the best class reps. Some students stand for class rep for the status others stand to be the party organiser. This is a problem where they have no interest in student problems.
There are issues which remain to be addressed. I believe:
- Meetings be professional and streamlined with a fixed agenda – short and to the point
- With the change to the system that were implemented we need a review to make sure that classes arent left unrepresented (including postgrad students)
- Class rep announcments over allstudents are spam. Bring back the email accounts with their class mailing lists attatched to help class reps publice to their classes. This needs to be done early to ensure their effectiveness. At worst we need general Year/ Subject lists to better target messages which would have been allstudents.
- Social Secretaries – Large classes can pose too much work for some class reps. We should offer class reps a choice of electing a second class rep with sole responsibility for being the social/party organiser. The dual effect of this will be focusing class reps on the representative role and secondly increasing the class spirit.
- Focused mandates should be adopted and publicised after each meeting – these should be fulfilled by the SU.
- Similar to the new ‘Societies for Dummies’ handbook – it is important that all Class reps are fully prepared for acting out their new role. A reference guide should compliment expanded training sessions.
- Interest groups should not be entertained unless their issue is of relevance to students lives in UCC.
- Last year I was involved in resurrecting the Students Union AGM. A General meeting should be called. Not everyone has the time and commitment or enthusiasm to be a class rep. Open forums can used to take fresh ideas (and criticisms) on board.
- One off focus groups also students the opportunity to give their opinions without requiring them to give up too much time