News YUSU Elections 2018

YUSU Officers propose major overhaul of democratic structure

Camilla Apcar looks at the proposed future of YUSU's Democratic Structure, which will be put to a cross-campus vote after tomorrow's Union General Meeting (Thumbnail credit Walker: last Democracy Sabb?)

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The proposed overhaul of YUSU's democratic system will be put to vote this week in a Union General Meeting (UGM) this Wednesday.

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'"
Simon Kent
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:





Union Aims

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.


  • Union Assembly.
    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

    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.


  • Campaign Networks.
    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.


  • Democracy Committee.
    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.


  • Strategy Groups.
    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.


  • Co-ordination Committees.
    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.


  • Referenda.
    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

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Matt Bailey Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

I am not convinced by this... I quite like the idea of the UGM open forum.

What would happen if say a Sabb did something seriously wrong, and faced a vote of no confidence... would this be decided by their friends in YUSU, rather than the student body as a whole?

I am also not convinced by how decisions would be made by 50-60 people, rather than the potential 12,000 across campus.

Students don't vote in UGMs because they're badly advertised, often tedious and are generally apathetic towards YUSU. A better approach would be to increase engagement between YUSU and the student body, and not become introvert.


Lloyd Sparkes Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

I agree with Matt,

but another valid point is that there is jsut far too many UGM's 2 a term is too many, why not just 1 at the end of every term?

But the advertising it issue, is very important, no one will take part if no one knows about them, unless they are in the YUSU circles


grammar police Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

The changes that the new constitution puts forward are great.

But can someone PLEASE both proofread and edit the document to make it look at least semi professional, and correct the grammar and spelling?

A Union doesn't have OBJECTS, it has OBJECTIVES.


Somebody call Tom Langrish. Pronto.


LB Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

Er, actually.for the purposes of complying with charity comission guidance, a union does have 'objects' rather than 'objectives'.

You can call Tom Langrish if you like, but he would probably say can you 'PLEASE' do a modicum of research by reading websites like this one before spouting off.




in the know Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

It's tom langrish's mistakes and outdated ideas that have made this whole process necessary...


Stanley Keyworth Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

One again...'in the know' demonstrates why its clear to everyone they're missing a 'not' from their name.


Greg Sumerhayes Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

Stanley Keyworth? Really? Such a bad storyline


Hazbeen Ahmed Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

I'm not convinced that a group of 50-60 people is the ideal size for decision making. A small group <20 allows for a diverse set of voices to be heard and decisions to be taken without some of the problems you get with a larger group. Once you've got a group that large you get too many loudmouths who like the sound of their own voice, and too many people who really aren't interested in whatever issue is being discussed, and will just vote to get the debate over with. Minority views get lost in the crowd rather than listened to by all parties. IMHO, if you're going to have a decision making body with that many members, you may as well go to UGM.


Really? Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

Stanley Keyworth - everyone knows who you are - you've turned into that "ex-student" who always posts that you always hated...


Michael Svenson Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

I don't know who Stanley Keyworth is. If you are going to bitch about the identity of other commenters at least out them so we can all enjoy it.


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