Democracy Zone (21st May 2015)


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Name of Committee Democracy Zone
Date and time 21st May 2015, 14:30
Place The Board Room
Present Members
Union President David Mendoza-Wolfson
Vice President Democracy and Creative Industries Megan Downing
Union Council Representative (Union Councillor) Ed Baird
Union Council Representative (Union Councillor) Frazer Delves
In Attendance
(non-voting officers and staff)
Union Council Chair Ben Morton
Democracy Assistant Katie Ng
Democracy Coordinator Guy Drury
Policy & Volunteer Manager Christopher Small
Absent without Apologies Clubs and Societies Officer Chris McGeehan
Vice President Sports Katie Lightowler
Non-members Isabella Camilleri

Actions and Decisions

Decision Voluntary Employability Officer position was approved.
Action Write up a paper outlining the specific functions of the elections working group. Megan Downing
Action Write up guidelines for Zone representative reports and send out to Council members Megan Downing
1. Apologies and attendance

Megan welcomed everyone to the meeting. No apologies were received and Katie Lightowler and Chris McGeehan were absent without apologies. Jade Head was also present. It was decided that the Committee would provisionally accept votes from Ed Baird and Frazer Delves on the basis that the minutes of Union Council were due to be ratified the next day. 

2. Minutes from the last meeting

Megan noted that the actions from the last meeting are ongoing. The Committee approved the minutes. 

Student Groups
3. Student Groups update

In the absence of Chris, Megan presented this paper on his behalf. it was noted that some of the budget figures reflect the September rather than January budgets. It is expected that once the disaffiliated groups have been finalised at the end of the academic year, there will be appoximately 310 affiliated student groups. 

4. Elections Committee & Returning/Deputy Returning Officers

Megan presented this paper. There were no formal complaints made during this year's elections and so there was no need for the working group to meet. However, as the paper outlines, there are some issues with having an elections working group as there is often low interest in them and, as in the case of this year, lack of work for them to do. Megan asked the group to discuss what the function of the working group or elections committee should ideally be.

There was debate over how much decision making power the working group should have. Frazer explained that the group should be involved in the promotion of elections e.g. going out into halls and speaking to students. Jade suggested that they should be involved in the setting of the dates of the elections, setting word limits for manifestos, what type of campaigning is allowed as well as setting budgets for candidates. Ben suggested having a similar process that is in place for the disciplinary pool; ask people to opt out at the beginning of the year and draw random groups of people when needed. Megan explained that this may not be possible as most issues that arise during elections need answering within 12 hours, meetings held at short notice may not be well attended or productive. 

The general consensus of the Committee was that a standing committee was a good idea, and better than the current system. The meetings of the committee could be open and publicised to begin with, and then become closed closer to the elections. Megan will write up a paper with more detail, outlining the functions of this group and the timeline that it would work to. The Committee were happy to wait until the start of the new academic year and bring a paper to the first Union Council in October.

Megan then presented the second half of the paper to the group. The rule amendments clarify the roles of the Returning Officer and Deputy Returning Officer. Guy noted that there was a mistake in the paper; the reference to the Democracy Zone Committee in section 3.3 should be removed and instead it should say 'the appointing body'.

The Committee moved to a vote on the amended rule amendments; 4 voted for. The amendments were approved.

Action Write up a paper outlining the specific functions of the elections working group. (Megan Downing)
5. Student Leader support (1:1s)

Megan and Ed have been working together on improving Student Leader support. She asked the committee to send her any ideas or thoughts they have on this subject so that it can be included in this work. Guy noted that the results of the Volunteer survey will also feed into this piece of work. Megan explained that she will be bringing this up at the Student Leader Conference in June for discussion.   

6. Conduct of meeting/committee business online/by email

Megan explained that currently there are no rules or guidelines that outline when electronic meetings (usually via email) can happen. Megan asked for thoughts on conducting business online.

  • The general consensus was that online meetings remove the ability to debate and discuss and, by their nature, they are not advertised and so closed to non-members of that committee, and that although this was generally undesirable, it would sometimes be necessary.
  • It was suggested that the following criteria be adopted for electronic business: that the item had already been largely debated and only required final approval, that the item was only a ratififcation of an inquirate meeting, or that the item was particularly urgent. It was further suggested that members be given the oppurtunity to vote to "debate" (in addition to "yes" or "no"), and that a certain number of votes to "debate" would mean a physical meeting would be held to discuss the item.
  • Regarding timelines for email voting, it was suggested that members be given 72 hours to reply.
  • It was suggested that the body could be updated via Facebook when a vote was required, as well as an Agenda being added to the SUSU website.
  • The Committee were in favour of publishing results of such votes at the following physical meeting, and also informing those who responded of the outcome.  

This discussion would now feed into next year's democracy review.

7. Freshers' and "every day democracy"

Guy explained to the group that they have been thinking of ways to engage the freshers in September and make them more aware of the importance of democracy at SUSU. As part of the Freshers' Week events, there will be activities where students can vote on special offers at comercial venues. This will hopefully make freshers' aware of the democratic nature of a Students' Union earlier on and build up their engagement throughout the year. The committee were firmly in favour of these ideas.   

8. Options available following an ideas session at Union Council

This item was withdrawn.

9. Employability Officer

Beckie Thomas presented this paper and briefly explained that, after consultation with the University's Careers Destination, she reccomends that we create a voluntary officer who will sit on the Sustainability Zone Committee. This position will be created with a view to potentially establish it as a Student Leader role in the future, if it shows to be important. Ed asked if this position could also sit on Education Zone as there is a shared interest; it was noted that this role has crossover with many of the other Zones as well, however, as employablity comes under the remit of the Sustainability Zone, which is a policy Zone.

A mistake was identified in the presented paper; where it mentions the Student Llife Zone, it should read Sustainability Zone. The committee moved to a vote; 3 voted for, 1 abstained. 

Decision Voluntary Employability Officer position was approved.
10. Amendments to the Complaints Procedure (Rule 8)

David presented this paper and explained that this addition to Rule 8 just adds some information about appealing decisions and the involvement of the University. The committee moved to a vote; 3 voted for and 1 abstained. The amendments were passed.

Any other business
11. Date of the next meeting

AOB: Frazer asked how the Union Council representatives on Zones should go about writing up a report to present to Union Council. Megan said she will write up some guidelines and send them out to council members. 

The date of the next meeting has not been decided; staff will send out a Doodle poll with possible dates.

Action Write up guidelines for Zone representative reports and send out to Council members (Megan Downing)

Key: P (Papers Provided), PF (Papers to Follow)