Officer Trustees 2016/17

Chippy's Goals

In August 2017, I went on a two-day residential workshop with the rest of the Officer Trustees, Imperial College Union's senior managers, and members of its Board of Trustees. There, each Officer Trustee used our manifestos, experience and the views of our peers to generate our own individual goals for the year, as well as a set of shared goals we would work towards as a team.

My goals for 2017/18

Goal #1: A more democratic Union

Imperial College Union is rightly proud of having the highest turnout in our Leadership Elections of any students' union in the UK. However, we need to be honest with ourselves that outside of our election cycles, we are well behind other students' unions in maintaining an ongoing connection with our diverse membership. We could have more and better discussions at Union Council; we could have more student-generated discussions and papers; we could engage more with national issues that affect students as well as those that only affect Imperial.

Additionally, 2017/18 is the year our Constitution turns five years old, meaning we need to review it to make sure it's still relevant, useful and functional. Combining those two factors together, I've decided to make it one of my priorities to improve our democracy and governance for the foreseeable future through a fresh and effective new Constitution & Bye-laws.

Progress I've made:
  • November
    • Established a Governance Steering Group involving Officer Trustees, Constituent Union leaders and Liberation Officers
    • Began work on making our Officer Trustee and Liberation Officer role descriptions accurate and reflective of the best students' unions in the sector
    • Set a scope for consultation and discussion
  • December
    • Workstreams allocated to each Officer Trustee and new role descriptions well underway
  • January
    • New Officer Trustee and Liberation *& Community!* Officer role descriptions approved by Union Council
    • Newly-defined roles open for nominations in the Leadership Elections 2018
  • Next steps
    • Consultation with Constituent Unions on their own strategies, funding and development
    • Working with College on how we handle discipline & misconduct procedures
    • Consultation with all students on how Postgraduates should be represented and what a modern Union Council should look like
    • Draft Constitution to be circulated by mid-March 2018
Status: Good progress

Goal #2: Developing our key volunteers

Shared goal with Tom, Deputy President (Clubs & Societies)

There are over 3,000 student volunteers at Imperial College Union, and our activities, campaigning and services would cease to function without them. Our Strategy also commits us to offering excellent development and training opportunities to our volunteers, helping them to excel in their roles and accelerate their personal and professional development.

Tom and I are working together on this priority; this is what we have achieved so far this year:

Progress we've made:
  • August - September
    • For the first time, Constituent Union Presidents were invited to the first two days of Officer Trustee induction, which was very well received and has helped establish good working relationships much earlier than usual.
  • October - November
    • A new Constituent Union Forum was trialled, bringing together our most senior non-sabbatical student officers to work in partnership on projects such as their strategies, budgeting and communications.
    • Our Liberation & Community Officers have been given more support than in previous years due to the expansion of the Education & Welfare Team; they have also been involved in the Liberation & Governance Reviews. This has resulted in more Liberation activity than ever before!
  • December
    • These senior student leaders have been building relationships with the senior permanent staff in the Union
  • January
    • The Liberation & Community Officers have helped us create an Action Plan with over 60 specific tasks and challenges for Imperial College Union, marking a good example of partnership between staff and student officers to change our culture for the better.
  • Next steps
    • The new Student Experience directorate will lead the creation of a renewed training programme for the winners of the Leadership Elections 2018, making sure the successful candidates have a high-quality induction to their new roles.
Status: Good progress

Goal #3: Wellbeing strategy

Shared goal with Fintan, Deputy President (Welfare)

I think that every single student at Imperial would agree that this is a high-pressure environment. Fintan and I think that this isn't how Imperial has to be; too many academics and students have been tricked into thinking that being at a STEM institution somehow makes excessive stress and mental health difficulties inevitable.

It simply isn't true. And for too long, College has failed to recognise that the student mental health crisis - as demonstrated by Mentality a couple of years ago - is at least in part caused by factors here in South Kensington. It's the way courses are timetabled in a way that causes deadlines to clash, the unreliable personal tutor system, the waiting lists for student counselling, and even the pressure students place on themselves to perform highly all the time.

We are committed to making College generate and implement a far-reaching Wellbeing Strategy, that genuinely changes staff behaviour, funding decisions and wellbeing outcomes for all of our members. 

Progress we've made:
  • August - October
    • We approached the new Head of Student Support in College - a position created partly thanks to Imperial College Union - and floated the idea of a partnership between us and the College on a Wellbeing Strategy.
    • This was well-received and we started a series of regular meetings to push this project forward, raising it up College's priority list.
  • November
    • We began early drafts of a project brief for a Wellbeing Strategy similar in form to College's Learning & Teaching Strategy
    • Chippy began attending College's new Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Steering Group, with the aim of generating ideas and support for the Wellbeing Strategy
  • December
    • We had brainstorming sessions to flesh out a vision and draft objectives, which we shared with the College - they were received very well and have been factored into their own early drafts
    • We identified risks to the creation of the Wellbeing Strategy, such as the idea being dropped between Officer Trustee teams, and put measures in place to mitigate them
    • We contributed to College's Outreach and Student Recruitment Strategy, using ideas from our Wellbeing Strategy discussions
  • January
    • We are now having regular meetings with senior College staff on the Wellbeing Strategy
    • We have challenged College on data that suggests a race attainment gap
  • Next steps
    • We hope to be part of a presentation to Provost's Board, one of the most senior College committees, explaining jointly with College staff the rationale for the Wellbeing Strategy and the risks that College is taking by not implementing one
    • We hope to achieve high-level support and buy-in, hopefully including financial backing, from the highest levels of College for the Wellbeing Strategy project
Status: Excellent progress

Goal #4: Understanding our membership

In Our Strategy 2017-20, we talk about 'understanding our membership'. The challenge is to move beyond the simple methods we currently use to segment our membership - Undergraduate or Postgraduate, age, campus, department, and so on - and develop a more sophisticated analysis of how our members engage with us. The aim is to develop a deeper understanding of why students engage with us in the way they do - why some join student grous, some volunteer, some use our bars and shops, some take part in our democracy, or a mix of all of those - and of course, to understand why some students don't engage with us at all.

Progress I've made:
  • August - October
    • Established that this analysis would be useful for Governance Review, Elections cycles, our social enterprises, and many other parts of Imperial College Union
  • November - December
    • A paper was brought to our Communications Committee, a subcommittee of our Board, outlining a project to recruit Data Science students and expertise from Imperial academics to carry out a scientific analysis of the datasets we hold on how our members have engaged with us over the past decade
    • Approval has been gained to spend money on this analysis, on student staff, software licenses and other necessary expenses
  • January
    • With the help of Paul Beaumont, former Union President and current member of the Board of Trustees (and an employee at data science company Quantum Black) among others, we are creating a detailed brief for this project 
  • Next steps
    • Finalise the technical brief
    • Recruit student staff to execute research project
    • Disseminate outcomes to staff and students to help them achieve their goals
Status: Adequate progress

Goal #5: Liberation review

Shared goal with Fintan, Deputy President (Welfare)

Have you ever wondered if Imperial College Union is really reflective of its diverse membership, in terms of ethnicity, gender, disability and sexuality? Well, Fintan & I have. While we have made good progress with Liberation & Community Officers in recent years, we look at other students' unions and see much higher levels of activity. The answer isn't "Imperial students aren't political" - that's just begging the question. We wanted to know what was actually happening. 

In 2017, Imperial College Union hired a consultant with expertise in the field of liberation and students' unions to review how we engaged diverse communities within our membership, and how we supported the officers elected to campaign on their behalf. After discussions with members, staff and officers, as well as research into how other students' unions operate, we received a Liberation Review that set out how Imperial College Union could radically improve its services in this area.

Progress we've made:
  • August - September
    • Got to know the Liberation & Community Officers, learning about their own priorities for the year ahead
    • Received the final Liberation Review Report in September
    • Liberation discussed at annual all-staff development day
  • October - November
    • Discussed the Report with Liberation Officers and staff to collectively create a detailed action plan
    • Started a Liberation Review Working Group to oversee the work created by this plan
  • December
    • Liberation Review promoted in Felix
    • Review recommendations factored into Education & Welfare Team planning
    • Liberation & Community Officers met Dean of Natural Sciences
  • January
    • Action plan condensed further from 100+ to 60+ actions
  • Next steps
    • Use the Working Group to execute the recommendations
    • Ensure that the recommendations are factored into staff budgeting for 2018/19
Status: Good progress

My reports to Union Council

Each Officer Trustee is expected to send an update of their work and achievements to Union Council, the representative body made up of Imperial's student leaders.