Home Comment Editorial: Using your fees fare-ly?

Editorial: Using your fees fare-ly?

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APOLOGIES for the lateness of our issue; the Uni didn’t like it much the first time. We personally think there was nothing wrong with our old front page (that’s our opinion, Mr Expensive University Lawyer) but we’ve reluctantly changed it just in case they did actually try to sue their own Students’ Guild.

Many will argue that forking out on expenses is necessary, others that we have sensationalised the issue or that it’s probably worse at other universities. There are, perhaps, elements of truth to each: clearly, staff need to travel to events, buy relevant equipment or food and maybe £3 million is a reasonable overall expenses figure for an institution employing so many staff.

Yet, such arguments fail to deal with the underlying issues. Is £12,600 worth of luxury travel, or £1,514 on “equipment” an essential part of the upkeep of our University’s reputation? Are you ok with someone on £283,936 a year taking the time to claim a petty mileage fee of 68p?

When asked for Sir Steve Smith’s expenses, the University claimed he didn’t make any because his diary is managed centrally – separate from normal employee procedures. We’ve subsequently asked for details from the mysterious central diaries. Hopefully, that eagerly awaited reply will arrive as quickly as the lightning response to our front page tweet on Monday, but somehow we expect normal (third-class) service to resume.

Meanwhile, Sir Steve’s total “emoluments” – to use the Uni’s obscure semantics – is clearly a sensitive topic, but what’s just as irritating as the exorbitant pay package is the facade of transparency. When asked about the VC’s total income this year, we were sent a link to last year’s financial statement where, buried on page 29, was the fact that he was given a further £52,000 in pension contributions and a £58,000 bonus, on top of his £290,000 salary.

Congratulations Steve, maybe we can throw you a party like Bath did, if you get a similar bonus this year. The nine other top earners’ would-be bonuses are unknown, but if they were anything like the VC’s, you could forgive ‘ordinary’ staff for being unimpressed.

Indeed, when you put the top 10’s earnings and expenses figures in the context of poorer members of staff having to strike for fairer pensions, next to students handing over £9,000 each year for an education and alongside the parts of the University which are begging for more resources (the Wellbeing Centre, perhaps) it seems that the term ‘culture of excess’ might be fairly applied to the University top dogs.

Surely they should be taking more time to deal with the real issues at the Uni instead of filing yet another petty expenses claim.

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One year on from our front page story, little seems to have changed  at the Wellbeing Centre (page 3). There’s some improvement, but in many respects, things have only worsened amid higher demand. Waiting times are too long, facilities are stretched and it’s having a hugely detrimental impact on student experience. This isn’t a problem unique to Exeter, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be investing all the resources possible into tackling this, one of the biggest issues on campus, effectively and quickly.

Campus is going Sabb crazy, so grab our pull out (pages 23 & 34) for a brief-but-comprehensive guide to all things Guild election. It’s fun, we promise. On the topic of fun, check out Ed Balls’ interview (page 15), more satire (page 17) our new agony aunt (page 19) and Peace (the band that is, pages 35 & 36).  For more serious content, this week’s news is packed with campus controversies. Staff bullying and harassment and Exeter’s Sugar Daddy ranking (pages 5 & 7) are particularly concerning.

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