Honi Soit gathered in the corridor outside the Cullen Room — our designated location to wait for the USU Board to finish their in camera session — for the second-last time this year. With secret Board Business apparently going overtime, the rest of the meeting was characterised by Board Directors taking their reports as read and pleas for brief updates from portfolio holders.
There were no motions on notice, so the Board discussed the publications policy, which has been endorsed by the Board and moved to the governance committee. The policy concerned the role of Directors of Student Publications who approve content PULP prior to publication. The policy aims to ensure that PULP does not bring the USU into disrepute or ridicule.
“While we respect editorial independence, they are also USU staff and they are subject to the same scrutiny. We need to ensure that what is published aligns with our values,” said President Naz Sharifi.
CEO Andrew Mills gave his report, referencing the publication of the Interim Universities Accord Report which came out at the end of July. He spoke to a slide of the quantitative results of the USU’s outlets, highlighting the increase in free and subsidised meals from 40,000 to 98,000 since the end of September. Mills noted the decrease in people accessing FoodHub from 500 to 300 people per day, which he noted was “more manageable”. Honi thinks students’ hunger, on the other hand, might be less easily manageable. When Honi asked about the ticketing system, Sharifi emphasised that it was a temporary system and the USU is attempting to get more volunteers to meet demand.
Sharifi attempted to speed up the report, saying “I think all of this information is already in our packs.” These packs are only available to Board Directors, not media observers nor USU members who wish to attend meetings.
Chief Finance Officer Michelle Tonge gave her report, noting the forecasted deficit due to the changed graduation schedule. Tonge said that USU is still predicting a surplus, with profits higher than expected for the second quarter of the 2023 financial year. Honorary Secretary Onor Nottle asked Tonge to request more long term information about the USU’s investments which currently provides a month-by-month overview. Tonge explained that they had already requested this from the organisation managing their investments.
Honorary Secretary Nottle took her report as read, emphasising the C&S awards, recent Debating Dinner and the upcoming release of Issue 11 of PULP. Nottle also noted the upcoming student safety conference.
Nick Dower, Honorary Treasurer, took his report as read and thanked Tonge for her work on the financial reporting.
Vice President Madhullikaa Singh reported back about a panel discussion on diversity and inclusion from the international students symposium. Singh discussed the result of the referendum and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Palestine, noting that “all students should be able to access support systems through the USU, SRC, and Supra.”
President Naz Sharifi gave a brief report, shouting out the management team for the Someday Soon festival and noting the full handover of the disabilities community room.
Sargun Saluja gave the International Students portfolio report, promoting the joint USU-SRC badminton tournament celebrating 50 years of international students on campus, saying that she “personally attended the badminton tournament.” Saluja said, “I don’t think I’ve seen an event that well attended.” This prompted Mills to ask “What event was that?”
Grace Wallman, Disabilities Portfolio holder, noted the recent opening of the new Disabilities Space, thanking everyone who has been involved with the campaign for such a room over the past nine years. Wallman also mentioned an application for additional Student Service and Amenities Fees.
Alexander Poirier gave an update as Queer Portfolio Holder, congratulating the three recently-elected SRC Queer Officers and the potential for collaboration after “already [having] had a few chats with them on how to best support queer students.” Poirier also mentioned their work collating a report into period products around the university. When Honi asked about this report, Mills said that Poirer was looking into other campuses, whilst the University was looking into whether this could be expanded beyond USU buildings.
The next board meeting will be on the final Friday of November.