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Low turnout for last Union Council of the year

The library, or ‘learning resource centre’, debate was attended by David Sweeney, vice principal for communications, enterprise and research, and two senior library officials, Matthew Brooke and Alaister Pattison. In what was essentially a question and answer session with David Sweeney taking the lead. In contrast to the other flagship debate the Union organized, on the back gate imbroglio, this was characterized by a cordial and effective exchange of information between the College and the students. And the noises from the College sound promising – a seven figure budget for consultation and research with the student body, a lead position within the raft of future College projects, and a keen appreciation of the link between library facilities and student satisfaction. It is no mistake, Sweeney stressed, that Glasgow Caledonia University has both an award winning library/I.T facility and the highest levels of student satisfaction in the country. In translating future strategic planning into truly representing student experience at Royal Holloway the effective and relevant provision of library facilities, in whatever form they take, is key. Putting down any rumours or gossip to the contrary Sweeney also categorically denied any plans for the closing or retasking of Founder’s library now or in the foreseeable future. Although agreeing that the foreseeable future only stretched three to five years he strongly intimated that the security of Founder’s lasted far beyond that. The future provision of 24hr library times was discussed, with the hardnosed view that it is simply not worth the cost, yet it is disproportionately high to student benefit. Matthew Brooke agreed that it was now part of the Bedford’s baseline and as such will be in place next year, but any growth or extension plans will have to wait for more study and experience over the next few years. The whole debate boiled down to the scarcity of space – during peak time there is not enough library space for the students at Royal Holloway. On this point everyone concurred, with a variety of solutions proposed including a more flexible use of wider academic space such as unused lecture and seminar rooms. What Sweeney did confess to was that the College did get it wrong this year, and as such the student experience was affected negatively. He promised the College would do better next year. For third year students that is possibly too little too late.

The second issue to be bought under the scrutiny of the tiny numbers present was the budget. After a painstaking process of formation and compromise with the Sabb team, the SU staff and the College Finance Committee, the budget was proposed to the final yay or nay vote – the Annual General Meeting. Thirty or so people weighed in on agreeing that this year’s budget had been used properly, and that next year’s one was a sound and relevant use of precious little capital. That both of these things were, and are, patently obvious [the SU has done a sterling job] is beside the point – there should have been more people there to decide that.

The major changes to the previous budget were brief, though hopefully will prove to be much more effective in practice. A new position, Marketing Operative with a salary of £30,000, has been introduced to implement and streamline the communications and services side of the SU. A Trustee Board Administration to act as advisors to the Sabb team on the changes in charitable status and other legal innovations that are approaching is accommodated, a board that will include student members whose only job will be to act as a trustee advisor. Welfare campaigns will be pushed up to £2k and a sustainability fund has been established for the SU to meet environmental targets with another £2k budget.

The three main capital expenditure projects, collectively taking up £61,300 of next year’s SU budget, are the conversion of Insanity radio to an FM station and so making it easier to access and thus increase listener numbers/relevance (£6300), an increase in the Membership Services Database, which coordinates the preferences and characteristics of students and so can help the SU tailor themselves to specific and group needs (£15,000), and an exciting sounding ‘Summerhouse Project’ that will build a wooden external venue for the SU, providing outside smoking shelter, an alternative leisure space for students, and a new arts, presentation and entertainment centre (£40,000).

In summary next year the SU hopes to spend £1,027,650 whilst taking in £1,047,609 and so making a surplus of £19,959.

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