It's time to re-think how we do democracy - reforming the Union's democratic structures (1415P22)

Status: Lapsed | Zone: Decision Making

Passed: 16/02/2016 | Lapsed: 13/05/2015

This policy was discussed at the following meetings:

  • Union Council last underwent review in 2011, when a number of changes were made to the structure and composition of Council.
  • The Articles of Association are due to be reviewed in academic year 2015-16, in compliance with the requirements of the Education Act 1994.
  • The recently-introduced practice of proxy voting at the Annual General Meeting, which has this year evolved into the Change One Thing campaign.
  • Students’ unions must always be forward-thinking, and open to constructive review of their processes and procedures, in order to ensure they remain relevant to their students.
  • The Union and the student body has changed significantly since the last review of Council in 2011.
  • Council, as it currently exists, is an unengaging body, ill-suited to its various roles of membership matters, financial matters, policy-making and accountability.
  • Council struggles to engage the tiny proportion of the student body elected to it, let alone the ~22,940 who aren’t.
  • Council focuses too much on SUSU-specific issues, and too little on “unlocking the potential and enriching the lives” of every student.
  • Despite the widespread use of the internet in students’ daily lives, and the ease with which students can be engaged, the structure of six Council meetings per year can prevent student from having any meaningful involvement in the decision-making processes of the Union.
  • Following the 2010 and 2012 NUS referendums, the word “referendum” has become something of a dirty word amongst the student body, and within the Union, despite the fact that referenda are the most effective forms of direct student involvement in decision-making that we have.
  • The Change One Thing campaign received praise from “involved” and “uninvolved” students alike, but the process by which Proposals are debated and voted on is unsatisfactory and could be significantly improved.
  •  Reform of our democratic processes, to include Referenda, the Annual General Meeting and Open Council and Union Council, should be a priority for the Union during the 2015/16 academic year.
  • Any reform of democratic process must, by definition, ensure that students – whether regularly involved in SUSU or not – are consulted with and their views given full and proper consideration.
  • The Union President and Vice-President Democracy and Creative Industries, through Democracy Zone Committee, to bring, to the last Council of the 2014/15 academic year, a timeline and plan for a thorough review of our democratic processes.
  • This timeline to include provision for:
    a.       Research into alternative structures at students’ unions and other membership organisations,
    b.      Full and proper student consultation,
    c.       Trialling of alternative structures alongside Council to be conducted before a decision is made,
    d.      The consideration of several options throughout the consultation process.
  • The timeline to result in:
    a.       changes being agreed, in principal, by the December 2015 meeting of Council, and
    b.      any necessary amendments to the Articles being proposed at the Annual General Meeting in 2016.