At its first meeting of 2015, held on 22nd January, Union Council voted to start the process of turning the Union of UEA Students (UUEAS) into an officially structured legal entity.
The process, known as “incorporation”, aims to make UUEAS into an independent legal entity in its own right, as opposed to the present situation where it only exists because of the Trustee Board.
Once the process is completed, the student union as an organisation will be liable for any debts or decisions taken, rather than – as at present – those responsibilities falling to the members of the Trustee Board.
For the purposes of incorporation, two classes of members will be created: the Trustee Board, who will be the “company” members, and all other students, who will be the “student/democratic” members. This will have no effect upon students’ rights as members, as they will continue to have the power to elect union officers, set policy through Union Council and approve changes to the constitution. This setup is in line with that proposed by the National Union of Students.
Last Thursday’s vote was the second attempt in the last year to incorporate UUEAS; at the end of the 2014 spring term, an emergency Union Council meeting was held for the purpose of discussing the issue. However, not enough councillors turned up and the meeting was inquorate, meaning no decisions could be made.
The Trustee Board is the legal body of UUEAS, and has the right to prevent policies from being implemented if they pose a serious financial risk to UUEAS or are illegal. The Board previously also had the power to overrule policies if they presented a “reputational risk” to UUEAS, but this will be removed in the new constitution. The Trustee Board is composed of the five full-time union officers, two part-time union officers elected by the Student Officer Committee, three students elected by Union Council and three external Trustees appointed by the rest of the Board, including UEA’s Finance Manager, Stephen Donaldson.