“Many of the dossiers handled by the University Council span multiple years. It’s crucial to effectively transfer information, in other words.”
Many of the dossiers handled by the University Council span multiple years. It’s crucial to effectively transfer information, in other words. Our solution was to collect all the key information in a handover book, as well as share a large volume of digital documents with the new council. To shed light on this rather dry subject matter, the student contingent has organised several transfer days. During these days, we will try to let the new council members benefit from our experience and prepare them as effectively as possible for the upcoming year.
I would like to take the opportunity to share one personal experience – not just with the incoming council members, but with anyone joining a council, committee or board at some point in their lives: it helps when you try to enjoy the job! This may sound a bit ‘soft’’, unprofessional or self-evident. But whatever you make of it, when I look back on the past year, I believe our greatest strength as a council has been our ability to mix work and pleasure.
One example would be the time when we were sitting with a group of council members in a smoky bar in Cracow. In the background, Cuban music; on the table in front of us, stacks of minutes and paperwork about the institutional test and the framework memorandum. What were we doing there? A year on the council is more than just holding meetings and reading documents, it’s also a year in which a group of students put in a very intensive team effort. And it is precisely by combining hard work and fun that you can grow as a team. I am 100% convinced that our work as council members has only benefited from this mix.
A new group with fresh perspectives has major advantages. But it can also be incredibly frustrating, when people who are immersed in a process need to retire ‘half-way through’. A whole year long we consult as a council with the Executive Board. During these meetings, the participants often decide on a particular course. If a new council suddenly decides to move in a different direction, this can create complicated situations for both the council and the Executive Board.
One example we encountered concerned a change in the grant schemes for board members. The previous council had already endorsed the new scheme. We merely received the documents for information purposes. In other words, we had no formal rights authorising us to contribute any changes. The fact that the council had changed since this decision was reached was irrelevant.
However, in our view the proposed scheme was at odds with the policy spearheads we stand for as a council: equal opportunities and promoting effective participation in decision-making. Under the new scheme, students with less favourable financial circumstances would be worse off than before. While for these students the grant amount actually plays a crucial part in their decision to sit on a board or participation body.
Standing our ground
When we told the Executive Board that we disagreed with the decision, they initially were somewhat surprised. Surely, the council had already endorsed these changes? By standing our ground and consulting closely with the Executive Board and the policy staff involved, everything turned out OK in the end, and it became clear that we could repeal the decision.
There are also situations in which this isn’t feasible or desirable – many of the Executive Board’s policies are made for the longer term. You don’t want to keep changing course, even if a new council holds a different opinion. But if these different viewpoints stem from a lack of background information, you can do something about it: organise a solid transfer.
In that sense, the University Council is like a relay race: you keep running until you have to pass the baton. And like a relay race, it all comes down to this transfer moment. One advantage for the new student contingent is that two of our current members will be staying on next year. Considering our thorough transfer, combined with experienced council members and a sizeable influx of new energy and ideas, I feel completely confident in passing the baton.