Monday saw the Union thank its volunteers at the annual Union Awards.
During the event, which is meant to showcase the best of Imperial College Union and its membership, 69 (wink) students were awarded colours, a further 19 were awarded outstanding service and a final five students were given fellowship. The awards are nominated, decided and awarded by students.
“From campaigning to innovation, sporting success to academic representation, community volunteering to live events, there is an unmatched depth and breadth of activities at Imperial College Union,” said Union Managing director Jarlath O‘Hara.
O’Hara, who came to Imperial from LSE last year, said he was excited to see the breadth of activities Imperial students were involved in. “A world leading student experience is about more than just academic achievement, it’s about a broader balance education in which students have the opportunities to enjoy their free time, develop skills, preserve their well being and understand their learning in the wider context of society.
“Universities, employers and graduates all recognise that students with leadership experience gained through extra-curricular activities, are more desirable and more valuable than students who solely focused on their academic work and didn’t’ take a chance to develop themselves as fully rounded people.”
Students were also recognised across nine categories. Campaign of the year was awarded to Medics of Imperial, a facebook page that highlights confessionals and tries to erase the stigma surrounding mental health. Community connections volunteer of the year was awarded to Antonia Evans for her outreach, bringing coding to schools, and her involvement with Amnesty International’s Write for Rights campaign.
Project of the year was awarded to Paediatrics Play team, which supports children at Saint Mary’s Hospital. Contribution to College was awarded to Islamic Society for their Shake Break initiative, which offered students a time and place to chill, socialise and enjoy some free milkshakes. Mechanical Engineering and The Centre for Environmental Policy were recognised for their undergraduate and postgraduate representation respectively, and Abhijay Sood was awarded network rep of the year. The newly established City Varsity was crowned event of the year, and Dramsoc was crowned club of the year.
Last but not least, Iris Drone technologies were awarded for their innovation and enterprise. “Imperial is a catalyst for taking students’ amazing ideas, and helping to support and nurture these life and sometimes world changing projects,” said DPFS Rachel Blythe. Founders Tristan Dell and Debesh Mandal, who had earlier this year been invited to speak at the Union’s social entrepreneurship scheme, ACT Now , thanked the Union for the help they provided over the last two years and stressed the importance of support. “If you know anyone who does any enterprise social or otherwise I ask you to support them, because any little bit of support that you give them will help them on their way,” said Mandal.
Notably absent were several RCSU committee members who received outstanding service awards. RCSU president Lloyd James told felix he boycotted the event. “I don’t believe they were conducted in a fair and open manner and I believe Council was unfairly denied the opportunity to scrutinise the Awards process.” James clarified that this was not an RCSU boycott and that other members were tied up in other obligations.
Union policy was updated earlier this year to allow nominations from the floor during the Awards committee session. James told us he and other Council members were concerned that “this unfairly biased the awards process towards those ‘known to’ / friends of members of the committee, and it went against the spirit of an open, level playing field provided by an awards system with a nominations process equally accessible by all students”
Tessa Davey, who’s been at Imperial for almost a decade and was also honoured with an outstanding service award (again), and sat on the awards committee, disagreed. “The awards were conducted in the same way as it’s my understanding they’re done every year. No students were missed out because the out-of-date student union policy wasn’t followed. It simply means that more students were able to be recognised for their hard work and dedication to the Union. ” It should be noted that these awards are purely symbolic (with the exception of fellowship which comes with honorary life membership to the Union and is generally given out rarely). They aren’t even accompanied by a Nando’s voucher or curly-fries.
Council Chair Abigail de Bruin also disagreed. “I’m honestly disappointed that someone would take expired policy and use it to try and deny recognition for student volunteers. After all, that’s primarily what the Union Awards are – a chance to say thank you and formally recognise the work of the most outstanding student volunteers. Personally I think what would have been much worse for the committee would be to have not awarded someone that they had noticed was missed.”
Union President, Nas Andriopoulos, acknowledged that finding Union policies isn’t the easiest thing, but he maintained that all procedures were done in accordance with policy. “If Lloyd has concerns with the way these few [the awards tabled in the meeting] were handled, he must also have a problem with how all Union Awards were deliberated on.
“If he has a problem with the committee’s judgement, the Council Chair’s, or my own actions I encourage him to pursue a formal complaint through this channel. Finally, if I were a student of Natural Sciences I would be frustrated to hear that my RCSU President has voted against awarding deserving members of our community, or attending the celebration of their achievements, without consulting his members first.” James told felix he does not intend to pursue this issue further this year, but he does intend to propose a revised Union Awards Policy next year that will prevent this from happening again.