This month, we will be electing our University Court’s next Senior Lay Member. It’s been my experience that not many students know what University Court is or does, let alone what the Senior Lay Member is.
As the Rector’s Assessor, I have sat on University Court for two years now, and I have seen how the decisions made by Court impact every single student at this University.
It is crucial that we all understand who is representing us and what they are deciding, and this month we have the opportunity to have a say in one of the most important roles on University Court. Before you close the tab on this article, please bear with me as I endeavour to explain the significance of Court and this election.
The simplest way of explaining University Court is to say that it has jurisdiction over all major decisions the University makes.
Court is more or less analogous to the board of trustees of an institution, and is responsible for developing the University strategy, financial planning and resource allocation, capital projects (including new academic and residential buildings), and accountability of University governance.
This may sound like a bunch of jargon, but all of these things impact all the things students care about. Do you think the University strategy should be more focused on sustainability? Court was tasked with approving the University strategy for 2018-2023 last year. Are you concerned about the rising costs of University accommodation? Court has to approve all capital projects and new builds. Would you like to see greater transparency and accountability for the top individuals in University governance? Court, and the Senior Lay Member in particular, is responsible for holding these individuals accountable.
Not convinced yet? Students have a role in choosing five of the 23 members of University Court. These include the three student representatives (the President of the Students’ Association, the Director of Education, and the Rector’s Assessor) as well as the Rector and the Senior Lay Member.
Even though that doesn’t seem like a huge amount of sway, the Rector and the Senior Lay Member are two of the most important and influential members of University Court.
While the Rector presides over Court and serves as a voice for students, the Senior Lay Member is responsible for a number of areas that are less student-centric but equally important, such as external representation and the allocation of the University’s resources.
It is essential that we, as students, make it clear that these issues matter to us. We have the chance to make our voices heard in the Senior Lay Member elections, and we cannot sit this one out.