Current Policy Coordinator, Josh Mackenzie, is planning on submitting a proposal to overhaul the policy process in YUSU in an attempt to solve perceived issues with the current process. The proposal is to create a Union Council that would meet two to three times per term publicly and have the power to submit and pass any motion they like. The membership of the council would include the sabbatical and part-time officers, college chairs, perhaps faculty
reps and the policy coordinator.
Mackenzie argues that the current policy process is not fit for purpose. Responses to feedback for the process have been low: there were 36 responses last term, 52 responses the term before, and the two terms prior received nine and 11 responses. “It’s ridiculous to suggest that we can accurately determine the will of the student body from 50 responses, let alone from nine, which heavily calls into question the legitimacy of the policy that’s passed. How can the PRG stand up and say “this is what the students want, you have to do it” to YUSU if we have a sample size of nine?”.
Mackenzie has also reported problems with YUSU following through on policy, because within the current system, the PRG have no power of enforcement. “It’s an achingly slow process, meaning responding to current events is practically impossible, and it’s not nearly high-profile enough, meaning most students have no idea what policy is or isn’t passed. This doesn’t mesh well with the ideal of a students’ union as representing the views of students, and is something that clearly needs to change.”
“If any student wants YUSU to do or change anything, there’s no formal structure for making that happen. Short of the trustee board (who are far from accessible, and not nearly as transparent as they should be), there’s nobody to which students can submit a motion to, neither can there be an open debate on its merits, and then a group of well-known, accountable representatives publicly decide either “yes, the union will do this” or “no, the union will not do this”. My hope with a council is that it’ll provide a forum for exactly that. If students want YUSU to change, there’ll be a clear procedure by which they can get it to, and the decisions will be made openly and in public by their fellow students, rather than in a private meeting room somewhere.”
At the moment, the Policy & Review Group (PRG) is a body of five students, headed by the Policy Coordinator who can consult representatives from the Liberation Networks. The YUSU websites states that “[The PRG] ensures that students have the ability to submit ideas and that policy is generated both transparently, accountably and fairly.”
According to Mackenzie, feedback for the Union Council has been positive from the officers and college chairs who would be involved with the council. He is currently gathering feedback over the rest of this term with the plans to submit a formal proposal with the backing on YUSU officers and college chairs during the summer term: “If it’s well received, I can see the council being up and running in time for the start of the next academic year.”
Union President, James Durcan, commented: “It’s great to see students putting forward proposals for a new policy process, as this is an area that YUSU really wants to prioritise over the next term. We’ve spoken as a Sabb Team about the need to provide new opportunities for our students, to put forward ideas, to help shape the direction of our Union and the idea of a Council is one which we’re interested in working with a range of students to explore further.
“As Officers, we are already in the process of commissioning external expertise to look at how we consider students’ views and ideas for policy. We are also putting plans in place to take the concept of a Union Council and other suggestions to various groups can have their say on a new way forward.”