Self-nominations open for Durham SU’s first ever part-time Officer roles

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Durham’s Students’ Union (SU) are hiring their first part-time Officers, as part of their plans to restructure the sabbatical Officer roles. 

There will be 12 part-time roles for students to apply for, with the jobs commencing in the 2024/25 academic year. The positions are now open for students to nominate themselves ahead of their respective elections.

Palatinate spoke to Dan Lonsdale, the current Durham SU President, about the changes to the SU officer structure, which came partly from his own manifesto priority to “[shift] power away from the main body of the SU.”

Earlier this year, Durham SU announced that findings of a review of its student leadership indicated that a restructure of the Officer model was needed. Alongside this came the announcement that the current five sabbatical roles – President, Welfare and Liberations Officer, Opportunities Officer, Undergraduate Academic Officer, and Postgraduate Academic Officer – will be replaced with three full-time roles and twelve part-time roles. 

“The restructure at its core is about empowering students to do great things in their own communities,” Mr Lonsdale said, “Many have historically argued that they don’t know what the SU does and that they don’t feel they have a voice within it. The restructure aims to address that to some extent by enabling direct representation at a more local level in key communities within the wider student body.”

Additionally, the review found that there should be better focus on academic representation and of certain student communities, and better contribution of Common Rooms.

“The restructure at its core is about empowering students to do great things in their own communities”

Dan Lonsdale

Elections for the three full-time roles were held during Epiphany term, with Dan Lonsdale being re-elected President, Catherine Howells elected Education Officer, and Moitreyo Ganguli elected Community Officer. They will commence their roles at the end of this academic year. 

The new part-time roles are: one Faculty President for each of Durham’s four faculties, an International Students Officer, a Postgraduate Research Students (PGR) Officer, a Sustainability Officer, a Societies Officer, a Welfare Officer, a Liberation Officer, one member of the JCR Presidents Committee, and one member of the MCR Presidents Committee.

Mr Lonsdale explained that the new roles hoped to bridge the “void” between society executive roles and full-time sabbatical Officer positions: “Students have talked about a desire to make change without spending a year of their lives doing sabbatical work which, of course, isn’t a commitment everyone can make.

“So, the restructure is trying to offer students the chance to make change on a non-sabbatical basis and get compensated for doing so.”

Students can also nominate themselves as Student Trustees, which are four voluntary roles that sit on the SU’s Board of Trustees alongside the full-time Student Officers and five external Trustees. 

Mr Lonsdale also hoped that the greater variety of roles presented would encourage students from different backgrounds to participate in the SU. He told Palatinate, “We know international students are a big part of both universities’ future plans and of our student body. It makes sense, therefore, to give them a representative platform to share their experiences and better direct our work, and that of the University, moving forward.”

Students can nominate themselves for the part-time roles until 25th April for Student Trustees, Faculty Officers, Societies Officer, and International Officer. The deadline for Welfare Officer, Sustainability Officer, and Postgraduate Research Officer is 2nd June. Students can currently express their interest for Liberation Officer, but the position will not be elected until the Assembly has approved an electorate for the role. 

Self-nominations for Faculty Officers, Sociey Officer, International Officer, and voluntary Student Trustees close on 25th April; the deadline for Welfare Officer, Sustainability Officer, and PGR Officer is 2nd June

Some positions are elected slightly differently: Faculty Officers are elected by those in their faculty, the International Students Officer by all non-UK fee paying students, and the Societies Officer by all those in a student group. However, the PGR Student Officer will be elected at a PGR conference, the Sustainability Officer at an event for sustainability activists, and the Welfare Officer at an event for welfare volunteers.

“Students have often said one of the major barriers to running as sabbatical officer is the cross-campus ballot,” Mr Lonsdale continued, “Not everyone wants to put themselves through what is quite an intense campaigning period, both mentally and physically, with a good deal of scrutiny and time in the public eye. Having run in three elections, I can more than understand why!

“Unlike full-time Officer elections, part-time elections aren’t legally required to be done via cross-campus ballot. This is helpful in terms of removing that barrier to participation, but also because it lends itself towards the representation and innovation that the restructure is all about.”

He explained that holding certain elections at conferences or events creates a dedicated space for student communities to come together and “decide what they want themselves and direct their representative to that end.”

Mr Lonsdale encouraged students to apply for these positions, saying, “The part-time Officers will have SU staff support, access to University decision makers, and will be paid for their time. More broadly though, the part-time Officer roles allow students to put their community on the map, to fight for them, and more effectively make tangible, real change at a local level.”

More information on each role and nomination forms can be found on Durham SU’s website

Image: Shadow Lau

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