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Regular version of the site

HSE to Have Student Ombudsman and an All-HSE Student Council

HSE is holding elections for the Student Council and for the post of Student Ombudsman or  rights defender. Grant allocations and student expulsions, financing student projects and renewing degree courses are just a few of the things student self-governing bodies are involved in but it’s enough to show why every student should vote.

Why have a student council

If Russians have even heard of such a thing, they tend to think the Student Council is there just to help you sort out problems in the dorm.  HSE wants to break the stereotype. The Student Council has the potential to become a properly functioning, representative, executive organ which can take part in running the university. But it can’t be created by decree from above so students and graduates should get involved in the upcoming elections.

Who will be elected?

In November - December HSE will set up an Association of International Students, with a registration procedure. Registered members will elect three people to chair it.  The chairmen will take part in the work of the general HSE Student Council. The working language of the Council is Russian, so international student representatives will need to speak Russian in order to effectively participate in the meetings.

At the same time as the local Student Council elections, there will be elections throughout the university for a Student Ombudsman. In a state structure, different branches of power are called upon to counterbalance one another. Similarly, the Student Ombudsman will serve as a counterweight to the Student Council. If for some reason the Student Council doesn’t give a student the help she is looking for, she can go to the Student Ombudsman.   

Elections for an ombudsman need to be universal so all students and postgrads recognize his or her legitimacy and impartiality. There will be proper election campaigns in several faculties and buildings at HSE which, along with the voting process, will be conducted in Russian.

What will the Student Ombudsman do?

His/her most important job is to be a direct link with students and to deal with their appeals and complaints.  For examples, the signals which are currently sent anonymously using the ‘red button’, can now be sent directly to the ombudsman who guarantees to defend them. The ombudsman will chair the student tribunal. He will make sure the Student Council don’t neglect their duties or abuse their power.  

The responsibilities of the All-HSE Student Council

Some people think that the Student Council is just there to sort out problems in the dorm and organize festivals like HSE Day. In fact that’s only a tiny part of the matters they have to deal with. They will be engaged with the following:

1. Grants

The All-HSE Student Council will draw up rules and mechanisms for distributing increased government academic grants and organise checking applications for them. They will also be involved in allocating material help to poorer students.

2. Admonishments and expulsions

The Student Council will support or challenge disciplinary action, against students by the HSE administration, for plagiarism for example. This is a serious matter as it could lead to a student being expelled from the university. The Student Council can help students argue their cases to prove that the admonition was unfair.

3. Adjustments to the syllabus

The Student council makes recommendations to improve various degree courses and education processes at the university in general. The quality of teaching, timetables, LMS work all need constant improvement and student comments and suggestions must be taken into account. How many students know that their representatives have the right to be on academic councils for degree programmes?

4. Fundraising

Is one of the major tasks of the Student Council. The members will have to finalise a concept of the council’s financial independence. In American universities student councils (through subscriptions and donations) sometimes raise enough money to build sports stadiums.

HSE Student Council will have two mechanisms available. First they can create a transparent crowdfunding platform to collect money for specific projects. Secondly, they can enter competitions for grants to develop student self-governance. These are run by the  Ministry of Science and Education and other organizations and the competition budgets are tens of millions of roubles. The application needs to be very carefully formulated and the large Student Council is better equipped to deal with the bureaucracy than an individual activist. 

5. Creating online and offline environments for student creativity and interaction

The Student Council is expected to initiate projects for students as well as reacting to everyday situations in university life. That’s the job of the Student Council executive committee. It is effectively a project office which any students, graduates or alumni can be brought into if they want to be involved and have good ideas.

The IT resources the Student Council has been developing with the Faculty of Computer Science is a good example. Preparing the design project Open Space for student coworking, exhibitions etc, is in the pipeline. The Student Council is proposing ideas for developing the corridor spaces in HSE buildings . With the help of the Faculty of Communications, Media and Design, there are plans to create student media holdings.

6. Conflict resolution for students, graduates or student organizations

The Student Council will have a conflict committee (student tribunal) to resolve arguments between students and the administration and student organizations. It’s a kind of mediation court which has to give reasons for its decision and the decision must be supported by the Student Council.

Contact the Student Council for more information on its activity (studsovet@hse.ru or sovet.hse@gmail.com)

October 23, 2015