On Monday evening, at a ‘Special Meeting’ of the QUB Student Union Council, QUB Councillors discussed and voted on 11 proposals relating to potential reductions in next years SU budget.
The budget for the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) has been reduced and this will have a knock-on effect on the amount of money that Queen’s University will receive and, subsequently, be able to give to the Students’ Union. Last week The Scoop revealed that QUBSU receives an average of £1 million per year from QUB. Due to the size of the University subvention, any reduction in Student Union funding from QUB is likely to have harsh impacts.
Currently students at QUB elect seven student officers who are paid a salary of £17,000 each. The 11 options which Council faced on Monday night were each aimed at Sabbatical Officers; for example electing seven full time Officers but reducing their pay to £12,500, or making one or two of the Student Officer positions unpaid. You can read more about the eleven options that Student Councillors were faced with here.
At the beginning of Monday’s emergency meeting, President of the Students’ Union, Ciaran Gallagher explained that any decision made by the Council would ‘hopefully’ not be enforced, but would rather act as a ‘Plan B’ if money could not be found to fully fund seven Student Officer positions.
After much debate and voting, Councillors were left with four options:
- Elect seven full time Student Officers, each paid £12.5K
- Elect six full time Student Officers, each paid £14,584 and make the position of Clubs & Societies Officer voluntary;
- Elect five full time Student Officers, each paid £17,500 and make the positions of both Equality and Diversity, and Community voluntary;
- Elect six full time Student Officers and make the position of Community voluntary.
As the debate continued, many Councillors expressed their surprise and disgust that the position of Equality and Diversity could potentially be made an unpaid post. In particular, the current Vice President for Equality and Diversity, Caoimhe McNeill, made more than one passionate speech highlighting the extent of how important she felt this Student Officer position is, and gave several examples of why it shouldn’t be turned into an unpaid post.
Student Councillor Brendan Corr also told The Scoop that he felt it was ‘cowardly’ that there were some Councillors voting to make the position of Equality and Diversity unpaid and part-time, but yet wouldn’t explain why.
Following hours of rigorous debate, a decision was eventually reached after 9pm.
Student Councillors voted on a ‘Plan B’ which would see six elected full time Student Officers, each paid £14,584, and the position of Community VP merely part-time, and voluntary.
The tone of the debate on Monday evening highlighted the extent to which tensions are growing between the Students’ Union and the University, with many Student Councillors expressing their anger that the Vice-Chancellor is paid a salary of £250,000, whilst they are faced with tough decisions regarding their own representation.
Last night, in another twist of the ever elaborate budget cut tale, President of the Students’ Union, Ciaran Gallagher, revealed that “after discussions with the university and excellent work from staff and officers, all seven student officers will be elected on a £17.5k stipend”. Therefore ‘Plan B’, as voted by QUBSU Council, will not be implemented.