Sabbatical Officer Radcliffe Camera
Credit: Cameron Samuel Keys

Oxford SU to close for “transformation period” amid “unsustainable situation”

In a statement to all students, the Student Union and the University have announced that following “increasing concerns”, the Oxford SU will close temporarily and undergo a transformation period to address key “challenges” in an “urgent turnaround plan.” The SU will be closed from 25 March 2024 until the 2nd of April.

The statement says that there have been “increasing concerns about the SU’s ability to operate and represent the student body effectively”. It added that “effective student representation” is “a standard that we have failed at in the past”.

The SU has been hit by numerous scandals this year, including the porn scandal surrounding SU President Danial Hussain, the chair of Student Council resigning in protest against the SU’s “disregard for democratic principles”, the SU blocking a motion of no confidence in the SU President, and questions over the efficiency of sabbatical officers more generally.

SU trustees have decided that the situation is unsustainable. They, along with the University, have decided to implement a turnaround plan where all but the most important SU operations will be ceased.

The SU has also stated that “[They] have also taken the decision to close Oxford SU […] and [students] may experience some delay in responses/disruption to normal service for that period and for a few weeks after. “

The main aim of this transformation period is to improve “clarity among students about the SU’s purpose”, create “a more responsive student representation system” and “a structure that better supports the Sabbatical Officers. The SU intends to consult closely with students over this period.

Operations that will continue include “key activities” such as the SU’s advice service, the Freshers’ Fair, and student campaigns for underrepresented groups, such as the LGBTQ+, CRAE, and Disability campaigns.

Student Council, which had recently been cut from 4 to 2 meetings per term, will be replaced by a “consultative system to allow student voices to be heard” throughout the transformation period.

The work in the transformation period will be led by a Transformation Committee, co-chaired by the SU and University, with a Change Director appointed by Oxford SU to drive the transition to a new model.

It will build on work done in an independent review of the Oxford SU, chaired by Baroness Janet Royall, Principal of Somerville College. Baroness Royall previously chaired an investigation into allegations of antisemitism in Oxford University Labour Club (now Oxford Labour Club). 

It is not clear how The Oxford Student will be affected as a result of this decision, as the publication is administratively part of the Oxford SU with complete editorial independence. The Oxford Student has broken stories about many of the recent scandals.

Image Credit: Cameron Samuel Keys

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