Structural reform is needed so the Union can operate efficiently and better serve the student body as a whole, says Adam Sloan
Next week the student body will have the opportunity to vote on proposals put forward by the SU for a new Union constitution. The new structure will result in a cull of executive positions and the introduction of a new Union ‘Senate’, the hope being more streamlined decision making and a more efficiently run Union.
Some of those opposed to the changes put forward have launched a campaign encouraging students to vote against the new structuring, claiming that the removal of liberation officers, such as women’s, LGBT, racial equality and access, from the executive will reduce representation.
It seems to me however as though they need not worry. Under the new system decision making processes will be far more streamlined and effective, allowing the Union to achieve more on a day-to-day basis, while not reducing student representation.
Currently, 54 members sit on the Union executive committee. When you consider that the UK cabinet, who have the job of proposing and executing policy on a national scale, has only 26 members, one can only imagine the difficulty of co-ordinating a body as large as the current SU executive. When you take this into consideration, there appears to me to be no point in having all of these positions on the executive committee if the decision making structure is so inefficient that nothing gets done.
Removed from the executive will be the seven college JCR chairs. I can see a number of reasons why they should not automatically have seats on the executive. Firstly, they are elected by only a small portion of the university student body and charged with the role of administering their college. Having JCR chairs serve on the executive committee would be like having the mayor of York serve in the cabinet at Downing Street. Secondly, we saw from the hilarity that was the JCR hustings that these positions aren’t always decided on a rational basis, are you sure you feel comfortable with every JCR chair being involved in the everyday running of the Students’ Union?
The Union Senate will comprise of the proposed 11 member executive, as well as the liberation officers, JCR chairs and numerous SU affiliates, as well as five ‘ordinary members’. The executive will thus be hugely outnumbered in the Senate, so there can thus be no accusations that they will be able to dominate the body. It will be the Senate that takes the decisions directing the actions of the executive. In days of such chronic student apathy, the Senate will act as an independent representative body providing a good, new means of holding officers to account.
A new sabbatical position will also be introduced with the role of looking after “societies and communications”. Considering the overwhelming number of student societies, a full-time co-ordinator has to be seen as a positive step. Permanent support for the societies will serve to increase the quality of activities that are offered and make the organisations run far more effectively.
Cynics might say that all this is merely an effort from the current administration to stamp their legacy into the university history books. Whether or not this is a motivation behind the timing of the proposed reforms, they seem to be clearly for the better, providing a far more efficient and effective management structure which will better serve all students of the university.