The most recent Students’ Union Council saw the acceptance of a motion that will see huge reform in democratic procedure within the University. If passed by student referendum in the new academic year, the reforms will bring about a substantial number of changes to the way in which students engage with the SU.
Under the reform plans, SU Council will be renamed Union Assembly and will become a place where the SU Exec attend only to guide debates and to be ‘held to account’, rather than to vote. The voting members will include elected Union Representatives as well as randomly selected but representative Student Panelists, who will be given incentives to participate.
The plans also include the creation of three zones on the SU website dedicated to ‘Education’, ‘Personal Development’ and ‘Society and Citizenship’. Through this, students will be able to propose their ‘thoughts for change’ and vote on the importance of submitted ideas via electronic polling. The most popular ideas will then be taken to Union Assembly to be voted on. Assembly will also decide which motions should be taken to student Referenda.
Notably, Democracy and Communications Officer George Wright stated that Exec Officers would not be required to go through electronic polling for their motions to be brought to council, as “some motions need to passed even if they don’t have popular support”
The proposal itself is a response to long-standing criticism of council, which has only been quorate in 17% of meetings over the past decade. Wright admitted that the reform plans are “essentially a rebrand” of council and were not yet perfect, but maintained that they would represent “a massive leap in the right direction”.
This move comes after a consultation period was held with Representational Officers and students through a democracy survey earlier this year. The SU Exec also visited Unions at five universities around the country before shaping the reform plans. They are hoping that the new structure will be “signed off” by students in a Referendum next year, with the intention that the plans will be ready for implementation in the 2012/13 academic year.