Societies and Clubs are one of the top reasons for student satisfaction, and have provided many with some of their highlights of their time at university. The University of Surrey Students’ Union helps to run these by suppling general and monetary support, but at the end of the day all societies and clubs are run by us, the students! Team Surrey and individual instructors often have a weighing with what happens to our clubs, but societies are mainly run entirely by their individual student committees. But who are these students, and what do we even do?? Read on to find out!
The size of a society’s committee is up to them, but often reflects the size of the society and the number of different aspects or events held by them e.g. a society with 30 members may only have a 3 – 5 student committee, but a society with 200 members could have 7-10! Whatever the society, there needs to be the 3 signatories – these are the main students running the society, and the ones that represent the society in Union decisions. They are the President, the Vice President and the Treasurer. Let’s look at their individual role descriptions…
As the President, you are the face of the society – you would be heading up the committee meetings, spearheading most plans into action and generally making sure the society is doing the right thing at the right time. You will receive mandatory training, learning about how to effectively run a society and maintain strong leadership and teamwork skills within the committee itself. Now onto the Vice President; this person is the President’s “right-hand man” or so to speak. You’re in charge of organisation and information, planning events and generally assisting in the smooth running of the society alongside the President. Your training will be similar to that of the President’s, also looking closely at the role the society has within the Union and the decisions being made there (a bit more on this later!). Finally, the Treasurer, the person primarily in control of finances. Each society is given a yearly budget and a restrictive list for what this money can be spent on, but each society will also have an Own Funds – mostly profits from events and/or donations made to the society by members. The Own Funds have no restrictions on what can be bought using them, and so is a lot easier to spend than the budget, but knowing what and where to spend all this money requires some thinking and basic strategic analysis. The training helps with this, making sure Treasurer’s know everything about the finances and how not to send their societies to bankruptcy.
These 3 students are known as the signatories as they are signed up to the Union directly, as well as have the power to sign off directly on actions both by the society and within the Union. For most actions, 2 out of the 3 signatories are required to sign off on them such as payments to external companies. However, as mentioned previously, being a signatory also means you have some say in the Union itself. Every month there is a Society Standing held where at least one representative (e.g. signatory) from each society must attend; this is where important changes and decisions are discussed directly relating to societies and the way in which the Union supports them. Whenever a decision is made, each society can either vote “For”, “Against” or “Abstain” which the majority finalising the decision. Ratifications also take place in these meetings; this is when students who want to start up a new society, or renew a previously dormant society, put forward their proposal to the Union and the existing societies, take part in a quick Q+A, before a vote takes place as to whether to ratify them as a new society. As signatories, this is really amazing and diplomatic position of responsibility to affect the decisions within the Union, as well as bettering the environment for you and your members.
But as I said before, committees are often made up of more than just signatories. We need students in other roles too, known as non-signatories, such as Social Secretary (organising socials and liaising with external speakers for events), Wellbeing Champions (ensuring the mental wellbeing of our members is supported as someone who they can come to if they need), Social Media Officer (looking after the social media and advertising for the society) and many more – if there’s a job that needs to be done within the society, there’s an ability to add another non-signatory to the committee! As hinted at by their name, these students are not signatories and so do not hold the same responsibility as the signatories, however their role is just as important in supporting the running of the society.
Now you might be thinking “This all sounds so amazing, how can I join a society in the committee?!” and the answer is simple – our AGMs or EGMs!! AGMs, or Annual General Meeting, is a yearly event where the committee is renewed; all positions, including the signatories, are up to be filled by new or the existing students by the means of a debate and anonymous vote by the members of the society, all officiated by a member of the Union. You let the society know in advance you’d like to run for a position, arrive at the AGM and give a short speech about why you want to be part of the committee/why you are best for the role, followed by a few questions by the members/current signatories of the society and then an anonymous vote. The existing signatories, whether they’re re-running for a position or not, and the candidates for each position cannot vote, and are often asked to leave the room while the vote is made. For each position, the vote is between each of the candidates as well as “RON”, “Re-Open Nominations”, should the members of the society not feel like the right person for the role is currently standing. EGMs, or Emergency General Meetings, are the same as AGMs except are held as and when required throughout the year, usually if someone steps down from a signatory position or is asked to leave. So long as the 3 signatory positions are filled, the society will continue and will not go dormant (i.e. no longer running for that year), and the remaining non-signatory positions can either be filled at the same time or throughout the year as appropriate.
Being a signatory or non-signatory within a society is a hugely rewarding and fun position to be whilst studying at University. It’s an amazing chance to gain a whole range of friends, get some great managerial experience and take part in some incredible events (as well as looking pretty good on any CVs for the future!). The University and Union always encourages students to join societies, but why not take it one step further and run the society for yourself and all the student body! Want to know what else you can do to make the most of your university experience? Why not take a look at another one of our blogs here!