The new Tenant’s Union hosted its third meeting on March 18, outlining the first draft of their constitution and electing a ‘Membership Officer’ to oversee the union’s membership infrastructure.
Cian Ireland, a founder of the Tenant’s Union who was recently elected Housing Officer of the Student Union, opened the meeting in a positive tone describing a previous meeting with Accommodation Services that left him feeling “enthusiastic”, with talks of having a button available online that will allow students to sign up as a member of the union quickly and easily.
“Our meeting with Accommodation Services was really postive”– Cian Ireland
It was mentioned that one of the issues when it comes to improving housing is the amount of funding provided by the Funding Council. Accommodation Services want to help and make improvements stating that they want a “constructive relationship”, but they require more funding to accelerate progress.
Following this, a brief election was held to nominate the new union’s Membership Officer. Daniel Deery, another founding member, was elected to take the reigns, with his opening speech outlining his previous experience handling databases of around 300 people within another organisation legally and securely. He also expressed his desire to have the previously mentioned button made available to students, to increase awareness and to ensure that the new union would never charge for membership.
Deery was grilled on this final aspect, being asked how free membership could be achieved if the union had to cover costs such as room bookings. He responded by stating that there were alternatives to paying for rooms on university grounds and that meetings could be held elsewhere but that in the end, room bookings would be outside of the remit of a Membership Officer and would be the responsibility of any chairs of the union.
When asked about any costs that may arise in the future Deery responded:
“We’re able to operate fairly effectively as a free membership organisation, all of the stuff we’re going to do is voluntary, we all came together like this and if necessary we can spread minor costs.”
One of the reasons given for not being affiliated with the Student Union was that this would incur fees, however a recent ruling means that organisations can apply to waive these fees. Based on this, Deery was asked why the Tenant’s Union should remain independent from the Student Union:
“While yes, we could waive fees now, it’s better for us staying independent so we can guarantee that we never have to charge those fees, regardless of [student] union policy.”
After the Membership Officer was elected, the meeting moved on to working through the first draft of the union’s constitution. First up was the official name: Stirling Student Tenant’s Union – or SSTU for short.
This draft of the constitution laid out some of the fundamental pillars of the SSTU’s organisation. There were basic provisions, such as when an Annual General Meeting would take place, or when an Emergency General Meeting would happen. These meetings would be where members of the committee are elected, and it was noted that for these elections to be valid the quorum, or minimum number of members present, would be set at anything over 50% and that a system of single transferable vote would be used.
Some people present at the meeting expressed concerns with this: the SSTU is ambitious and wants to have a large number (memebership would also be open to Forth Valley College students) of members. How could over half of them be expected to be present? This would cause issues in getting people elected into the committee. Suggestions such as online voting, or voting over a period of time longer than a single meeting were put forth.
The draft outlined roles for seventeen committee members. This included two co-chairs, which would be ‘gender balanced’, and various equalities officers. There were concerns raised over the size of the committee and the effectiveness of having two chairs, however, some people present were of the opinion that two chairs would create unnecessary friction. There were also suggestions that some roles should be combined so as to consolidate some responsibilities and shrink the size of the committee.
The equilities officers roles also came under scrutiny from some members. Currently these officers consist of: BAME Officer, Disabilities Officer, LGBTQ+ Officer and a Women’s Officer. It was suggested that a role of ‘Men’s Officer’ should also be created in the interest of balance. This issue was debated at some length by those in the meeting, with some arguing that the equalities officers should be there for those traditionally underrepresented, but with that being countered by the need for someone to cover issues pertaining only to men and due to the fact that, in terms of student population, men are actually underrepresented.
There were also various ideas put forth concerning the partisanship of the SSTU. Their aim is to be as diverse as possible, and part of their constitution will include rules against any sort of discrimination based on political views or beliefs. Within the meeting itself there were already two amendments suggested and passed protecting against outside political organisations’ ability to assert influence over the union
The SSTU’s constitution is still very much under construction, and two groups have been created to try and help get the union up and running: a ‘steering’ group and a constitution working group.
Both groups consist of seven members each. The working group is made up of volunteering members, and the steering group includes two representatives of university accommodation and two representatives of private accommodation from within the SSTU, Student Union President Astrid Smollenbroek, VP Communities Jamie Grant and current housing officer Joshua Muirhead.
The SSTU has a deadline of April 1 to create a final draft of it’s constitution and have it ratified, at which point both groups will be dissolved and the budding union will be operational.
There was plenty of debate amongst those at the meeting, with people interrupting each other at times, but the meeting was constructive and it was evident that the people present are passionate about making the SSTU a success and improving the accommodation situation for all.