So the first week of “official” Sabbing is over and I can honestly say, the job is so much deeper than I ever expected, nothing like throwing me in at the “Deep End”! on my first day I have interviewed for a new community member of the Board of Trustees, met with our counterparts at Kent Union to build relationships and figure out where we can pull our collective resources and passions to achieve our combined goals and discussed how we can better improve the communication between the Union, Sabbs and students. Not to mention being whisked away for a leadership team (Sabbs and CEO/Deputy CEO) residential trip and hosting a team BBQ at the residential house.
The hardest thing to get my head around was definitely the structure of the Union and how Sabbs fit into that. It’s not like a typical job, in fact it’s about as far removed from the “norm” as you could find and that has its drawbacks and positives.
So I knew the basics, having been a President of a society in the year before I ran for office, however in practice it's a lot more complex than seems.
Firstly, we (the sabbs) don’t have a boss. You, the students, are our boss! Weird right? So that means that we are held accountable for what we do and don’t do by the students. This is facilitated by Union Council who make the decisions in regards to policies we want to enforce. Thi is great in one way as it means we aren’t managed in a typical way which gives us major ownership and autonomy over our campaigns and other work. Ultimately, we can work better for you! In another, it can be difficult to know where to start and without any clear guidelines, we are left to our own devices. Union Council does control for this, though, so if you think I’m doing a rubbish job- let me know!
Secondly, the Union is actually a charity (I had no idea) and we are Directors of that charity. This means it’s “run” by a Board of Trustees. This is a great forum for managing the Union and generally keeping tabs on everything (see definition of BoT below). It does come with great responsibility though as we are Directors and therefore liable should something go horribly wrong (no pressure there, then)!
The last thing I have struggled to wrap my head around, is the enormous platform we’ve been given as Sabbs when you elected us. We have such a responsibility to you, as students, but also the community that I feel it intensely and I really want to make it count.
It’s been a busy week, balancing a new job of this magnitude with the last two months of my degree and a toddler, but I can honestly say that I have learnt so much in such a short space of time and enjoyed it immensely. Not only have I learnt about the Union itself, the processes, policies and ways of working, but also in terms of the people.
“The only newbie on the team.. Well that’s tough”
Coming in as the only new Sabb in an existing team of incumbents was always going to be hard. I was prepared for the change in dynamic, what I wasn’t prepared for was the complete acceptance and welcoming environment they created for me. The only newbie on the team, well that was always going to be tough, but it was made so much easier by voicing these worries, telling them how exhausted I was and letting them support me in the way they could- mainly with sarcasm and laughter! I knew these first few weeks and months would be some of the hardest. I haven’t finished my degree yet and submit my dissertation in August, so I have the added pressure of that and my daughter, but I know these guys will have my back in the same way I have theirs.
There are so many things I want to achieve this year and none of them particularly small, either. From opening a nursery on campus (at least starting the process!) to forging a cohesive and supportive environment where both sports and societies are equal in the Union, I have big dreams and I really can’t do it alone. Being part of a team that supports and challenges each other is such an important part of any successful place of work, however, within a students union where the structure is so bizarre, it is imperative!
The main take-away point from my first ever week as a Sabbatical Officer in Christ Church Students Union was it’s harder than it looks but it’s much easier with a solid team around you. Staff and Sabbs alike, we are all striving for the same outcome- a better experience for students.
What is the board of trustees?
“Trustees have and must accept ultimate responsibility for directing the affairs of a charity, and ensuring it is solvent, well-run, and delivering the charitable outcomes for the benefit of the public for which it has been set up.” – Charities Commission
“In short, the Board of Trustees accept ultimate liability for the affairs and the operations of Christ Church Students’ Union and, as such, must ensure that their level of influence and control is appropriate and sufficient to ensure that this duty is discharged. The Board is made up of 4 different types of Trustee, up to 5 of which are not students at Christ Church”