Image Credit: YUSU
The University of York Student’s Union (YUSU) have unveiled an ambitious new update to their policies on accountability and communication in regards to the general student populace at York. Following an extensive review, the full report, of which can be found on the YUSU website for the curious, the Union and its staff have stated a need to change as the participation and engagement with the Union was being restricted partly due to complex and unwieldy nature of the entrenched systems YUSU have had in place for years.
In order to combat the lack of interaction and engagement from the student body, YUSU is implementing an overhaul of many of those systems in order to generate more democratic participation in the Union and make it easier for any student at the university to hold our elected representatives accountable while also providing forums for students to help generate ideas and alter policy that YUSU enact through direct communication. YUSU President Patrick O’Donnell has said he is “delighted” to announce the new measures and make it “easier than ever before to ask questions, make suggestions and work with the elected officer team across our Union.”
The new policies, enacted through two new By-Laws, will introduce a number of brand new communication avenues to the Union. Firstly, YUSUggestions, an online digital platform that can allow individual students to send in, through a single submission point, an idea they have for change that can be considered by the YUSU sabbatical officers and staff. The online suggestion box will allow other students to discuss and vote on each other’s ideas, with sabbatical officers openly contributing to said discussions making a transparent and open discussion forum that could directly influence future Union policy. The forum is already live and can be accessed here or directly through the YUSU website.
Secondly, decisions relating to the YUSUggestions will be handled by a new internal YUSU committee which will be known as the Ideas Forum. The Forum consists of the Sabbatical officers and other part time YUSU officers making up the officer group of the Union alongside key members of societies, colleges and sports teams in order to ensure that the breadth of student interest is represented in making fundamental decisions about our own wellbeing. Decisions can be made and enacted within the ideas forum on a small scale, but for larger scale changes if they should be needed, the Ideas Forum members will lead on broader student consultation and debate to properly process large-scale policy changes. The Ideas Forum will be replacing the former Policy Review Group which YUSU used to operate and will incorporate all of its functions with the new policy of student-led participation in mind.
Finally, to further enhance the alterations to policy allowing for public scrutiny and accountability, YUSU has created a new role in the union leadership. The Accountability and Scrutiny Chair will incorporate the public accountability roles that the YUSU Policy Co-ordinator used to fulfill as the policy side of that role will be filled by the Ideas Forum. In separating accountability from policy decision making, a greater focus can be provided on ensuring the transparency and honesty of the new decision making processes. The duties of the new role will include chairing a committee of randomly selected students to oversee any matter of accountability that may require additional scrutiny, for example, a vote of no confidence in a Sabbatical officer. The Accountability and Scrutiny chair will also be responsible for chairing the annual general meeting (AGM), approving the rules and systems for YUSU elections and hosting a meeting each term with members of the officer group to ensure their work is continuing according to the new By-Laws and accountability measures. O’Donnell said that the new accountability measures “ensure that we can have full confidence in the activities of our elected officers”.
Nominations for the Accountability and Scrutiny Chair opened Wednesday 21st October alongside the rest of the announced changes and the role will be a student-elected position.