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3rd March 2014

Exec ignore voters, nix paid Mancunion editor

Sixty-eight per cent of students vote for Mancunion editor to be full-time paid job – but Exec ignore result and remove role as part of cuts to make up for £0.5m deficit

The full-time Editor position of The Mancunion has been indefinitely postponed – despite the fact the position was passed into policy by an All-Student Vote.

Mancunion staff were not informed, even though discussions about the change were held by the Exec Team as early as November last year.

The change was also omitted from a rationale document outlining Union cuts – due to the Union’s £0.5 million budget deficit – forwarded to The Mancunion.

General Secretary Grace Skelton defended the oversight.

“As the salaried editor role does not exist, it does not constitute as a cut [sic],” she said.

Mention of the decision was also absent from all Exec Committee meeting minutes, despite the fact that The Mancunion was specifically discussed at length in a meeting on Monday 18th November regarding a separate issue.

The editor of The Mancunion was to become a full-time paid position after 68 per cent of students who voted were in favour. The motion was passed into policy on the 17th May last year, and remains policy for three years.

The editor of The Mancunion was a paid, sabbatical position – similar to the Exec Team roles – until September 2012. The current editor, as his predecessor was, is a student volunteer juggling the demands of a third year degree and editor duties.

This will now continue to next year and potentially beyond.

“We are committed to implementing the wishes of our students and with the budget changes that the Students’ Union has made, I wholeheartedly believe that next year we should be in a position to implement the policy,” said Grace.

The Students’ Union has been forced to make cuts after it was revealed they have a budget deficit of over half a million pounds.

“Due to the current financial difficulties faced by the Students’ Union, the Trustee Board, with assistance from the senior staff team, have had to make serious budget cuts,” said Grace.

“We have done this as fairly as possible and have made savings across the entire Union, including reducing departmental budgets and voluntary staff redundancies.”

Richard Crook, last year’s Mancunion editor, said that he was “not remotely surprised” at the Exec’s ruling.

“This was voted in, plain and simple,” he said.

“There’s a great irony that a group of students campaign against national cuts to reduce a deficit, and then do the exact same thing at their institution.”

Other Mancunion alumni, some of whom have gone to work at some of the world’s leading media institutions, expressed their shock at the Union’s decision.

Ian King, The Times Business & City Editor, said “It was disappointing to learn that the Students’ Union has decided against having a paid editor for The Mancunion. No other post communicates with the student body or the wider populace to the same extent. It is of immense value not just to the Union but to the University itself.”

Jennie Agg, commissioning editor at the Daily Mail and Mancunion editor 2009/10, said that the decision to take away the paid editor role “sounds like a mistake”.

“Why would anyone make the case for less student opportunity and activity? Not making it a paid position also risks excluding students who have to work part-time to fund their degree,” she said.

“A union is supposed to be about representation. You wouldn’t get rid of the general secretary or president because a permanent staff member was more efficient – the same applies for a paid student editor.”

Girish Gupta, one of Ms Agg’s News Editors in 2009/10 and now a celebrated New York Times and Reuters foreign correspondent, echoed her sentiments on the importance of the position being full-time.

“I struggle to see how the paper can continue to be both that springboard into journalism and, more importantly, a worthwhile read for students without an editor able to dedicate themselves to it full time,” he said.

Even Withington Councillor Chris Paul, who worked on the paper during his time at the University, was shocked at the Union’s decision.

“I was a member of the Mancunion collective for four years, with the team winning Guardian NUS paper of the year twice. We couldn’t have done that without a full time editor,” he said.

“In these days of huge fees and small or non existent grants it is a lot to ask anyone to sacrifice their studies and, in effect, pay to be editor.

“I know it’s tough because we’ve had to make big savings at the Town Hall. But I hope the Union will have a re-think and change that.”

The General Secretary, however, placed less importance on a full-time role.

“I am disappointed that there will not be a paid editor in role [sic] in September 2014 to maintain the high journalistic standards of The Mancunion,” she said.

“However, I am confident that the current system of voluntary editorship will ensure the quality of the publication continues.”

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