An “Any Questions?” event was held last night on 23 January, where student questions were put to and answered by members of Warwick Students’ Union (SU) and the University of Warwick’s senior management team.
Vice-Chancellor (VC) Stuart Croft and Registrar Rachel Sandby-Thomas represented the University, whilst SU President Luke Pilot and Societies Officer Marissa Beatty attended on behalf of Warwick SU.
Questions were submitted by Warwick students before the event and voted on online, with the top ten being answered at the event itself. All questions will receive a written response online too.
Amongst the most popular questions submitted were why there isn’t a specific Diversity Officer role in the current Sabbatical Team, if enough accommodation will be provided on campus for the next academic year, and if the University would make a commitment that fees wouldn’t increase for current students.
Other questions addressed were if the SU and University were tackling the issues students have with Stagecoach, and what is being doing in regard to sexual violence on campus.
Generally, both the SU and University responded to the question, unless it was something specific to either – for example, the issue of no variety in SU events.
The event led to some interesting discussions around a variety of topics, which can be read up on in full by exploring #WarwickAnyQs on Twitter.
One such discussion was sparked by the question: “Why is Warwick SU not impartial?”
To this, Luke Pilot called it “disingenuous”, with Stuart Croft agreeing. Luke pointed out that Sabbatical Officers are elected on political mandates, with both Stuart Croft and Rachel Sandby-Thomas admitting to campaigning on political issues with their own SUs when they were students.
Another discussion was had over why only certain Faculties offer students free amenities such as printer credits, while others do not.
To this, the University said that it was against the “culture” of Warwick to take away Faculty autonomy over how they allocate money, but that there is potential for this to be raised with the Heads of the Departments, and for best practice to be shared across the disciplines.
The Any Questions? format was piloted by former SU President Isaac Leigh to try and increase transparency and discussion between students and the University. This was the second event where students could put forward questions to VC Croft.
Editor Analysis: How did the VC do?
Yesterday evening for the second time in his tenure as Vice-Chancellor, Stuart Croft would directly stand in the line of fire, taking student questions at the #AnyQuestions event held in Helen Martin Studio. Although not as well attended as Croft’s opening Vice-Chancellor’s “Question Time” event last February, the issues on the agenda were just as wide ranging.
A couple of things were most striking about the VC’s performance. The first was how in line he wanted to appear with the concerns of the current Sabbatical Team and wider thrust of student politics in general here at Warwick; a far cry from the aloofness of his Predecessor Sir Nigel Thrift. He voiced his concerns about the Higher Education Bill which he claimed himself and many of his peers in Higher Education Senior Management roles were deeply concerned about. He also noted better support for survivors of sexual violence was one of the “few things the University and the Union agreed on” mentioning a visit to CRASAC he made with Welfare Officer Chloe Wynne as proof of his personal involvement in the campaign.
Secondly, he came across well briefed and in touch with general student concerns without appearing too committal, noting Warwick would still be working with the NSS and TEF as well as steering clear of committing to a catch all change to the printer credits system amongst other things.
Arguments could be made as to whether Croft directly addressed key issues or simply towed the well trodden University line with the final question posed by the Women’s Officer on sexual violence as a case in point. His willingness to at the very least engage in dialogue with the concerns of students is to be commended. It’s still early days, but more consistent opportunities for students to check in on his progress on perhaps on a larger scale wouldn’t go amiss, and hopefully the #AnyQuestions format with a bigger publicity push behind it makes a return sooner rather than later. But for now, I think it’s safe to say he talks a good game at the very least.