YUSU conducted their 'Democratic Review' after describing their present system as "fragmentary and in many cases out-dated". The last Review was conducted three years ago, but resulted in few changes made to YUSU's democratic system.
This Review has been made in conjunction with the need for a new Constitution to legally abide by the 2006 Charities Commission regulations for all Student Unions in England and Wales.
The most significant of the potential changes include the proposal to remove the Democracy and Services Sabbatical Officer, which would reduce the team to five. This particular proposal will be put into a seperate UGM, in order to make any necessary changes before the annual YUSU election nomination period which opens this term.
The workload of the role would be spread between remaining Sabbaticals, ENTs Officers and paid YUSU staff members.
In a bid to reduce bureaucracy, some students believe that by introducing more levels of Committees and Groups to engage with, YUSU's democratic system will become even more inaccessible. "We need democracy, not all these groups to give us more 'representation'," commented second year student Simon Kent.
"we need democracy, not all these groups to give us more 'representation'"
Second year English student
The current procedure of UGMs and the existence of Union Council will be scrapped if the proposals are passed. The representatives currently on Council are a ruling majority of YUSU Officers, constituting 80 per cent of Council's total body.
Instead, a group of 50 to 60 representatives - Union Assembly - would make decisions regarding Union Policy, and 'Ordinary' matters, where topics will be open to debate. In order for Assembly to hold Sabbaticals to account, the five Officers may attend but will not have a vote within those discussions.
The representatives will come from a variety of backgrounds, including one from each Academic Department; College; Sporting and Societies Group.
"I wouldn't be able to tell you much about YUSU democracy, I don't know what their website is..." - Mike, first year
"YUSU were students, they should publicise it more- everyone votes at YUSU elections because it's more engaging." - Beth, third-year History of Art student
"The idea of UGMs is better, but as long as individuals can put things forward, it's fine." - Alia Khalil, James Student Development Vice-Chair
The large size of Union Assembly has raised some concerns amongst students about whether a consensus could be easily reached on issues where the diverse range of groups will each have their own concerns to defend. This would mean that topics similar to those raised in UGMs would still reach a cross-campus vote through the proposed system to hold 'Referenda' on important or controversial issues.
"I suppose the way they do it now is fine, but I don't know about it to the point where I'd join in," commented first year Ruby Neale.
Democracy was overlooked in the Union's Impact Report, released last week. In the last UGM, the highest voting participation was 337, voting on the topical motion 'to oppose any increase in University tuition fees.' This is approximately only 2.2 per cent of York's total student population.
If the Review's proposals are passed, restrictions will be placed on YUSU's participation in some levels of their proposed structure. To ensure impartiality, co-Assembly Chair election candidates must not be members of any other YUSU Committee or Sub-Committee.
Voting will be open on the Review next week after Wednesday's UGM.
The full report is available at: www.yusu.org/docs/Proposed-Structure-of-the-Union.pdf
Increase impact: ensure Sabbaticals deliver on manifesto pledges.
Officers' accountability: make it clearer how decisions are reached and what progress Officers make.
Prioritise campaigning: make accessible by reducing focus on committees and processes.
Only ask members to vote on most important issues.
Breakdown & Analysis: What you need to know about the Democratic Review
Remove Democracy Sabbatical.
Sabbatical team would be reduced to five.
Remit would be taken over by remaining Sabbatical and ENTs Officers, and YUSU staff.
Current Sabbatical, Dan Walker, would finish his year in the role.
- Pro: a timely decision: Walker admitted to Nouse that his position is "not that representational".
- Con: as the role's workload will be distributed amongst many people, including non-students, it may prove difficult for students to identify who to contact.
50-60 representatives (academic, societies, College, sporting) "perceived to be people with understanding of that particular area"
hold YUSU to account and vote on issues - submitted through www.yusu.org.
YUSU Sabbaticals have no voting power.
Lead by two or three Co-Chairs chosen by cross-campus election.
- Pro: specific, inclusive representation for cross-campus interest groups.
- Con: half of Assembly must be present for a debate or vote to take place on any issue raised.
Disability, LGBT, Racial Equality, Mature Students', International, Environment and Ethics, Women's.
Meet at least twice per term to plan campaigns and discuss specific issues at 'Open Meetings': "grassroots activism".
Each led by an Organising Group.
- Pro: localised groups will be able to focus on successful campaigns, suggested by the any member of the student population.
- Con: it may be difficult to carry out hard-hitting campaigns if groups are too small.
Steering: approve the agenda for Union Assembly.
Disciplinary: judge rulings over Officer, Constitutional, and Media Charter misconduct.
Aided by Assembly Co-Chairs Assembly.
- Pro: this will help fill the gap if the Democracy Officer is removed after voting has taken place on tomorrow's UGM.
- Con: the student body will be responsible for major disciplinary decisions, and may be viewed as the addition of another level of bureaucratic scrutiny.
Officer Group, York Sport, Academic Affairs, Equality, Welfare and Diversity, Student Development.
Formally co-ordinate Officer's agendas and track election pledge progress.
Each chaired by a Sabbatical, open to all as observers.
- Pro: Sabbaticals' work made clearer to students, who are currently uncertain.
- Con: acting in accordance with Assembly, Co-ordination Committees and Campaign Networks, their purpose may prove unnecessary.
RAG, Volunteering, Entertainments, Campaigns.
Non-representational committees to organise projects and events.
Chaired by a YUSU Part-time Officer.
- Pro: York's often criticised standard of events such as Summer and Freshers' Balls may hope to improve under a committee designed to run them.
- Con: a student Committees may find it difficult to organise YUSU's largest events, and the remit of Campaign Co-ordination Committees may overlap with Campaign Networks.
All Union members vote on items which:
1) pass or fail a Union Assembly policy motion by less than 2/3
2) an online petition is signed by a certain percentage.
Voting open for at least 72 working hours. Results announced within 24 hours.
Unbiased wording i.e. 'Should YUSU renew NUS affiliation?'
- Pro: students can still raise any topic for cross-campus vote.
- Con: careful selections must be made on pre-elected representatives, who will vote on issues outside universal votes.
More statistics available at http://tiny.cc/3p8n8