Controversial Postgraduate VP approved in UEC vote
The Union Executive Committee (UEC) have voted to approve the change in the Full-Time Officer (FTO) roles. The Sports and Activities Vice-President roles will be merged into a Vice-President (Student Experience) and a new Vice-President (Postgraduate Experience).
The outcomes comes after a democracy review to improve student representation and to ‘make it easier for students to get involved in our democratic structures’.
At the start of the UEC meeting, the letter signed by postgraduates in favour of the new position was handed out. It was pointed out that the KGSA’s open letter against the proposal was not handed out.
Current Kent Union President, Aaron Thompson, opened the proposal, stating that it was ‘vital’ that the proposal passed.
Arguing against the proposal was president of the KGSA, Shelly Lorts, who felt as though postgraduates ‘weren’t consulted’ and Kent Union’s ‘research wasn’t sufficient’ to back the proposal. She also added that in a postgraduate panel ran by KGSA, 98.3% of the 50 (approx.) postgraduates (across faculties) in attendance were against the proposal.
In a surprising majority, the vote results were: 12 in favour, 1 abstention and no votes against the motion.
Kent Union told InQuire: ‘We are happy with the outcome, as we believe the new systems will encourage and empower our members to get involved in campaigns, participate in the union and have their voice heard.’
The results were met with many who were against the proposal feeling like their voice had not been heard.
In line with UEC voting by-laws, the five FTOs had confirmed voting rights along with five part time officers (one to be a post graduate rep and one to be a liberation position), a Societies Executive Committee Representative, a Team Kent Executive Representative and a Medway Volunteering or Kent Committee Action Executive Representative who were all randomly selected froma pool.
All five FTOs voted for the motion.
Notably, the Postgraduate representative randomly selected was Meidili Moothia (PGT Faculty Representative Social Sciences) along with Floris Claassens (PGR Faculty Representative Sciences) the creator of the petition for postgraduates in favour of the proposal. KGSA president Lorts, was not randomly selected.
Many postgraduates thought that the FTOs should they have abstained from voting as it was likely that the they would back their own proposal and they held a significant level of influence within the vote as the only people with guaranteed voting rights.
In response, Kent Union said: ‘As per the bye-laws, Full Time Officers hold the same rights as any other voting member of UEC. Any member of UEC can make proposals and be selected to have voting rights in the meeting.’
Due to the fact that the FTO’s are technically classed as Student Trustee’s, many thought that they should have been abstained to vote.
However, they clarified: ‘Kent Union’s constitution sets out that Full Time Officers are Officer Trustees, which is different to the Student Trustee role. Last year UEC voted to include elected Student Trustees in the UEC membership but did not give them voting rights.’
Later in Proposal 4, the UEC voted to change those that could vote to all members of the UEC in order to make future votes more democratic.
Additonally, 4 out of 5 FTO’s declared a conflict of interest for the vote on Proposal 1.
InQuire asked Kent Union: ‘Do you feel that these conflicts of interest should have been investigated prior to the vote in order to ensure that the FTO’s vote would not be effected by personal beliefs, especially as the FTO’s vote was hugely significant in the passing of the proposal?’
To which Kent Union replied: ‘All UEC members including the Full Time Officers were asked to declare conflicts of interests in advance and/or at the meeting in the interest of transparency. Those Full Time Officers that did so declared their interests as any other member of UEC. The conflicts which were noted were of varying degrees and in some cases the Full Time Officers shared the same conflicts as some of the other UEC members in the room and therefore should not have been treated differently. Full Time Officers are members of Kent Union and as such they are entitled to have personal and political views like any other members.’
The final vote will be put to the Board of Student Trustees next week.