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Union Red Tape Surrounds Club Membership

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Oct 25 2003 16:21

Clubs and Societies have begun to realise the implications of Union crackdown on society membership.

Click Here for the Full Article

Oct 25 2003 16:35

So boiling it all down to it's basic terms:

_The Union doesn't exist to provide cheap recreational facilities to the general public._

Seems entirely fair to me. It's not what the Union is supposed to be for. If it's to allow external memberships, yet stay within the law itself it must arrange corporation tax (and charge only the external members to fulfil this tax obligation), 3rd party liability insurance for all Club Committees and others organising activities and a whole host of other legal provisions. The demands on the Union to satisfy these would be huge, and involve more internal red tape, formfilling and the like, giving the Union less time to do what *is* within its aims, providing services for Students.

Now i know this has never been enforced before, but to characterise it as "new" red tape is false. The red tape has always existed, it's just everyone ignored it before.

This will bring up the whole "excellence vs. participation" argument again though. Is it better to have loads of clubs, some with only a few Student members, or should only the larger, more popular clubs be supported?

Oct 25 2003 17:11

I have had to tell quite a few people that they cannot join this year. In most cases it didn't bother me as they had no previous connection to the society so I felt no obligation to them.

What is annoying is the sudden nature of this. It wasn't explained over summer and the confusion that arose has led to me telling people they can't join when it would've been possible to join as a temporary member.

It isn't adequate to leave the only explanation of these important changes until the first CSC meeting, a few weeks _after_ freshers week.

Oct 25 2003 17:22

But there is an argument that in some cases the student members of a society benefit from the existance of members of the public also being members of the society. This could be through expertise (which doesn't always come in the form of a formal qualification) or more simply through the stability that long term members give any society.

Perhaps it might be a good idea to make some sort of provision for members of the public to be able to join clubs and societies under the vauge banner of 'people who support student activities through their involvement' (or something to that effect). As long as there were limitations to the number of people that may join a society in this way and each case is vetted in some way, then I think societies and student activities have much to gain from such provision.

Oct 25 2003 18:44

Just a thought -- anyone considered how this affects opted-out students?

The Constitution says that, of course, opted-out students cannot have any voice in the goverment of their Faculty Union or ICU, but "that any student exercising their right shall not be unfairly disadvantaged with regard to the provision of services by reason of having done so".

Surely this Union change of policy (from "written down but unenforced" to "written down and enforced") violates its own constitutional requirement?

Having been a student for the past 4 years (and a Full Member of the Union), and now being staff at IC, I'm one of the ones left in limbo. Attempting to get any comment or assistance from the DPCS has been futile so far, and the two clubs with which I have been involved don't quite know what to do either.

5. Simon   
Oct 25 2003 18:59

Before I started writing the article I had a very strong opinion against the new enforcement - however, after some investigation I have begun to appreciate how complicated the whole area is.

I just hope now that the Union can find some way of allowing these people left in limbo to participate, while not having a detrimental effect on the support on students and while staying within the insurance boundaries.

This SHOULDN'T be too hard to do.

I don't think ANYBODY has the full picture on ANY of the issues here - and I think a lot of investigation needs to be done. For example, doesn't our public liability insurance cover some of these insurance aspects?

I very much agree about the lack of consultation on this move though.

6. Sam   
Oct 25 2003 20:04

"The Constitution says that, of course, opted-out students cannot have any voice in the goverment of their Faculty Union or ICU"

Indeed, that is true. However that doesn't preclude them from joining clubs. "Opting Out" means that you are declaring that ICU does not represent you. By declaring this, you are abdicating your right to vote in it's elections. However you are not abdicating your right to use the Union's facilities, including it's clubs and societies. Opted Out members are to be treated as Full Members for the purposes of club membership.

However remarkably, i haven't seen an opted out student in my 6 years of ICU involvement - until there are some, this point is irrelevant. This may also go some way to explain why there is no seperate membership form for this case.

Oct 25 2003 22:28

College and Union staff can actually become life members of the Union:

"A person shall be entitled to become a Life Member of the Union upon payment of subscription if they have been:

A Full or Associate Member of the Union for at least one academic year,

A Research or Teaching Assistant for at least two academic years,

A member of the full time Union staff for at least two years, or

A member of the Imperial College staff for at least two years."

Of course, for them this adds a two-year wait, as well as the ?50 fee applied to ex-students, but this could at least cover the College staff mentioned as long-term members of clubs such as the choir- the damage is longer-term, as new staff members cannot join for two years and so are less likely to do so at all once they have had to look elsewhere for two years...

Oct 26 2003 09:55

Well -- I received a prompt response from Mustafa.

The short version... thou shalt become a Life Member if you are now IC Staff and so eligible, either through the two year term of service provision or as a student alumnus.

Oct 26 2003 13:16

So what if staff (non life members) wish to come and drink at the union on a Wednesday and Friday night? Will they be allowed to, even though they are not members of the union? Will they be insured if they hurt themselves while quaffing ale in the union bar? Come to think of it, what about full time staff of ICU? Where do they fit in on all this?

So many questions! Maybe we need an open meeting chaired by Mustafa and Rich Walker to answer any questions which clubs and socs might have.

Oct 26 2003 23:01

Just a quick contribution: I have life membership and I believe it only costs me ?7 a year on direct debit. Has this also changed since I left?

I still play in Imperial Sinfonietta and love it. Our alumni members mean that we continue to have complete trombone, oboe, clarinet and bassoon sections, and also some excellent string players who help build up the confidence of new players. Long live alumni involvement!

Oct 27 2003 09:51

I'm probably wrong but isn't part of the point of being able to opt out that some religious groups prohibit membership of organisations like unions. However so as not to disadvantage such students ICU still make their resources available to them. Under current rules, to join a club or society you need a union card, i.e. you have to be a member. So how does that work?

Oct 27 2003 10:06

To re-iterate Balance's point of view, yes there are several clubs that benefit from the participation of the general public involvement, one such example are all the Martial Arts clubs, where the senior belts and instructors in the club have enough knowledge and qualifications to train students, this expertise is always maintained in the club as these senior people stay in the college club for years and in the process train several generations of students.

13. sporty   
Oct 27 2003 11:35

Matthew: as someone pointed out earlier, when you opt out of the union, you're stating that they do not represent your views to college, government, etc- you only lose the right to vote in Union elections. This voting is done with a college swipecard, not a union card. You can still get a union card when opted out of the union.

I personally think it's a tricky situation. On the one hand, if someone, or a group of people who weren't official union members but who were doing an activity with a union club were injured or killed, then the union would be in a difficult position.

On the one hand, the club or society which signed them up would assume that its members were covered (either under the union's compulsory insurance, or under any additional insurance the club would have to take out [eg. rugby must take compulsory RFU insurance]). The union would not have them covered, as the policy presumably only covers students, not members of the general public except for liability claims against union members.

The bar situation is where it gets complicated. I believe if you look closely behind the bar, there is a sign (as in southside) stating 'Alcohol may only be served in this bar to person's over 18, and to members of the IC Refectory Club'. Although this may seem like an arcane hangover, I believe I was once told (in Southside) that it was indeed necessary to display it for legal reasons. Potentially related? Given what I normally get up to in s/side, take this with a grain of salt, however :)

Given how much people like I bitch about budget cuts, I imagine that we'd bitch a whole lot more if there was a massive claim against the union which either hiked insurance premiums, or depleted contingency funds due to non-student members. Pessimistic? Perhaps :)

14. Lifer   
Oct 27 2003 12:13

Still In Sinfonietta:

Have you actually checked if the payment has been debited recently? Because as far as i know, the ?7 per year scheme has been discontinued in favour of ?50 one off payment... Life members who have paid the ?7 a year tax are eligible to a reduction in this ?50, but i think you should contact the Union and see if you are still considered a Life Member.

15. si   
Oct 28 2003 15:42

i'm not sure how (or if) this is written in the constitution but unlike many of our contemporaries ie: Kings, LISU.

We are not a Student Union, but a union.

Implying that we are open to staff and students alike.

So there seems to be some grey area were IC staff are sometimes members, sometimes not.

Oct 28 2003 15:59

ICU is a Students' Union - this is made quite clear in the constitution.

On further contemplation I think the life membership thing would seem to cover most cases. Most people who are involved in icu c&s are likely to be alumni or staff and if they're seriously interested in being part of the society then ?50 for life isn't that much to pay for the priviledge (one could quite easily pay that much for an annual subscription of an ameteur choir outside of the union).

Oct 28 2003 23:17

That's ridiculous! I disagree with both of those statements:

1. That most "outsiders" wanting to join clubs and socs are former members of college is NOT true in the case of every club and society.

2. That ?50 is a reasonable charge for simply being allowed join a club or society is proposterous. ICU is cashing in big time.

The REAL story is that ICU is not prepared to investigate possible ways in which these people can be members and satisfy all of the problem areas like insurance and legality.

18. Ant   
Oct 29 2003 00:39

Sorry, but a one off ?50 payment to be allowed to join/stay member of a union club for life is not all that much if these people are staying around for at least several years as most posts seem to infer.

As for ICU 'cashing in big time' through this i have absolutely no trouble, after all around May won't we all be complaining about the budget cuts we have all recieved, any additional way of bring money into the union without it being sourced by us students should be taken advantage of.

Oct 29 2003 09:22

I was very priveledged to sing in one of the best amateur choirs in the world for three years, singing big pieces at big places with big orchestras and audiences and with the best conductors and soloists in the world, including recordings and tours all over the world. And I didn't have to pay a penny to do it! But they were subsidised by the arts council and made a lot of their income from the orchestras that were engaging them for the concerts. Now, ICU Choir funds its own events. They do receive subsidy from the union a donation from college (or at least they used to, not sure just now) but its not quite the same as getting an arts council grant or being paid by an orchestra. I think on balance a one off ?50 for life membership is not out of the question and fair in comparison to ?250 a year (which some amateur choirs in london that do the same concert circuit I was describing charge their members.) But this is only for the particular case of choir, but on balance, I think it is fair across the board too!

Oct 29 2003 09:29

To Yeah right,

What it really boils down to is why should the union use the money given to it by college to subsidise activites of non students. Not really fair is it, as that money is specifically for the activities of Imperial students - full members of ICU (unless they chose otherwise)!

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