Image Credit: Dan Powell
YES - Patrick Walker
The York sabb system is broken. Three years after former Nouse Editor Finn Judge argued that YUSU’s top positions were dominated by relentless “careerists”, York’s full-time officers are still hampered by a system that leaves little time to learn how to do the job or to build relationships before YUSU elections inevitably roll around again.
Forcing sabbs to run for a two-year period would be an excellent change for two reasons: firstly, it would give officers far more time to learn how to do their job. Part of the story on inaction at the Students’ Union is related to the amount of time that elected officers inevitably spend learning skills and commitments, and forging new relationships with University representatives. Considering that the primary role of a sabb is that of a glorified lobbyist to York’s management, this is quite a pressing issue.
Under a two-year term, relationships would carry over into the new year, and sabbs could use the valuable quiet time over the summer to implement manifestos, rather than engaging in bizarre team-building exercises that do little to actually help students.
The results achieved by two-term sabbs speak for themselves. This edition, we’ll be breaking the story of the half a million pound funding increase for mental healthcare across the University. This is evidence that spending longer working in the YUSU offices gets results for students, especially when it’s combined with passion and purpose.
Management expertise and relationship-building takes time.
I don’t buy the burnout argument: the idea that sabbs who get tired after a year need an ‘out’ in the form of another election in order to protect their wellbeing.
Under a new system, it would be perfectly acceptable to step down, but the pressure on officers should be that they should be staying for two years, if they can. The idea that elected officers would also lose touch with students is particularly odd too. The survey on whether to support the contentious UCU strikes shows that YUSU is at least trying to make an effort to back student views above all else.
If YUSU sabbs want to be taken seriously, they need to run for election in the knowledge that their terms will be two years, understanding the commitment, hardship, and nauseating publicity obligations that come with the job.
The terms won’t be the end of fixing the problem of sabb effectiveness, but they’ll be a start to restoring the credibility of York’s most prevalent student voices.
NO - Jonathan Wellington
It’s very easy to complain and suggest reform for the YUSU system without fully thinking through the consequences. We all naturally want sabbs to be able to achieve more during their terms, but extending terms to mandatory two-year periods is problematic and not a thought through idea. The reasons against it are endless. Accountability would inevitably reduce drastically alongside the appeal of the role.
Interest in sabb positions are in decline with only 14 running this year as opposed to 24 last year. A situation where a candidate runs unopposed, scrapes in against a RON vote and then is in a huge position of power for two years is one of particular concern.
Even Steph Hayle, whose success is the most convincing argument for two-year terms has said that they shouldn’t be extended because the one year system allows people that burn out an ‘out’. I am positive that under a two-year term system it would not be long until we saw one of the sabbs dropping out halfway through their term. Just the thought of a one sabb by-election is enough to cause a YUSU logistical headache and an even bigger headache for the remaining sabbs.
Not only do the people change within the year but the needs of a university also change. For example, this year an important issue for the Activities Officer is the future of York’s clubs and the future of the Union’s relationship with York Parties. This was not as much of an important issue last year and if such change happened during a two-year term, the student population would not have the option to adapt their preferences to a better suited candidate. Instead, pressure would be placed on the sabbatical officer to change their manifesto to something they might not be suited to do.
Another issue is that the opportunity to run for a position would be incredibly limited based on what year you happened to start in. The opportunity to run for sabb is open to second years but the majority of applicants are still final years and two-year terms would make running in your second year even less appealing. If you were a second year and were elected for a two-year term, everyone who you studied with in your first two years would’ve already graduated when you returned to your studies. You’d be sharing seminars with people you welcomed to the University as a sabb during their freshers week.
Extending terms will not restore sabb credibility but will reduce it by removing accountability and decreasing already feigning interest in holding the roles.