New report puts OUSU under scrutiny

On Wednesday Night, the OUSU Scrutiny Committee submitted a report to OUSU Council that found officers are “really working on OUSU’s image problem.”

The committee, established in Hilary 2010, aims to provide oversight over the work of the OUSU Executive. The report was written by Scrutiny Committee Chair Danny Waldman, as well as Rachel Jeal and Will Obeney. It was compiled after attempted interviews of all OUSU Sabbatical Officers, Part-Time Executive Officers and Divisional Board Representatives, with Sabbatical Officers being interviewed twice.

The committee concluded that OUSU President Louis Trup has so far done “a good job” and that this year’s sabbatical officers “have settled in well”, though the report noted that “teamwork” amongst the sabbatical could be improved.

Trup had earlier been asked by the Committee to provide a formal manifesto, by which the Committee could accurately assess Trup’s term as President. These manifesto pledges were summarised as focusing upon Clubs & Societies, Communications, Governance, the General Election, and Innovation.

It was noted that Trup had spent a lot of time “fighting fires” during his time in office. Examples of fires include the dismissal of Amelia Hamer, former Oxstu editor, the suspension of VP for Welfare Chris Pike, and NUS’ withdrawal of support for the Free Education demonstration. The report stated, “So far [Trup] has performed well in coping with the fires.”

The report also suggested that Vice-President for Graduates Yasser Bhatti’s different approach to the rest of the sabbatical team “has occasionally caused friction between officers used to working in different ways” though “other sabbatical officers appreciate Yasser’s insights, given he comes from a different background and has a different perspective to the rest of the team.”

Speaking to Cherwell, Bhatti commented, “I appreciate the sabbs agree I bring value through a different perspective. As the Android motto says: ‘Be together. Not the same!’” 

Another issue highlighted was the number of University committees that some sabbatical officers sit on, with Vice-President for Access and Academic Affairs James Blythe sitting on 30 different committees. In addition, it was found that sabbatical officers could more often delegate to the Part-Time Executive (PTE), with concerns raised that some PTE roles were in need of more “definition.”

It was found that the Part-Time Executive, elected in Michaelmas 2013, had been “incredibly successful”, with the committee applauding their work over the past three terms. The report also commented that “the changeover between last year’s and this year’s sabbatical officers has been handled well by the PTE.”

The report did, however, find “in places effort has started to flag a little.” Graduate Academic Affairs Officer Jena Meinecke was criticised for not appearing for her interview, and the report suggested “she consider her position”. In response, Meinecke subsequently attended 7th Week OUSU Council to provide a report on her activities.

Black & Minority Ethnic Students’ & Anti-Racism Officer Alba Kapoor’s contribution was also described as “low-key”, with the suggestion that “other members of the Executive are not aware of her existence”. In particular, the fact that no events were organised for Black History Month in October was noted, though Kapoor told the committee that she was looking to put on a speech or film before term ends.

Kapoor could not be reached for comment.

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Assessing the performance of Divisional Board Representatives, the committee reached the judgement that “all settled in very well to their roles”. Some board representatives told the committee that they found there to be a “lack of transparency within the system”, which made their roles more difficult.

OUSU President Louis Trup told Cherwell, “I think the scrutiny report shows that OUSU’s officers are doing some pretty good things. Whilst it is clear that there are some members of the part-time executive who have not been pulling their weight, overall, the part-time executive team have been successful in improving OUSU and the University.”