James Coldwell comments on a difficult week of stalled reforms and commotion as the SU election results are called into question
It has been a chaotic week for York Students’ Union. The commotion over the new SU Constitution, problems with the online voting system resulting in a remarkably high percentage of spoiled ballots for the presidential election. These are indicative of the general pandemonium which seems to be dominating the SU at the present time. I dare say that Union President Mickey Armstrong is relieved that the end of the road is within site.
Of all the troubles which have beset the SU in recent weeks, the saga over the new constitution stands out for its sheer ludicrousness. Having failed to inspire enough students to back their new proposals for the union, the SU Executive Committee “re-interpreted” the voting rules regarding abstentions, thus ensuring the two-thirds majority needed to ratify the new constitution. As justification for what has been regarded as an essentially an arbitrary act, Services Officer Nat Thwaites-McGowan cites the approval of ‘parliamentary experts at the California State Department.’ Quite who these experts are, and under just what circumstances they contacted the SU to offer support for the Committee’s decision, remain unclear.
As a History student, I have come to hold dear the practice of good referencing – stating specifically from which source/s a particular argument comes is a fundamental obligation on the part of any historian worth his salt.
The same reasoning should hold true for this instance of what appears to be an entirely arbitrary decision to change election rules in order to ensure the passing of the motion. Such vague – not to mention downright bizarre – rationalization as has been offered cannot be taken seriously, and important questions remain over the authority of the new constitution.
Not to be outdone by the chaos surrounding its dubious implementation, the constitution itself wasted no time at all in adding to the disorder of student politics at York. The new ruling – supposedly buoyed by its backing from accross the Atlantic – meant that the elections for several Students’ Union posts were to be cancelled.
Not only, therefore, does this mean that several candidates wasted hours of their time, and that of their campaign teams, which should really have been spent working towards meeting end of term deadlines, but also that we – the student body – will have to wait until after the Easter break before we know who will comprise the new Students’ Union.
After having my kitchen walls covered with dozens of garish posters, all containing indistinguishable promises of ‘reform’ and ‘rejuvenation’ to the way the SU is run, the news came as a crushing blow. The Students’ Union aims – according to the documentation – to ‘constantly improve the services to its membership.’ Save the unlikely – although by no means inconceivable – abandonment of this goal, Rich Croker, newly elected as President of the SU (in an election in which a large percentage of the votes submitted turned out to be spoiled ballots, incidentally), well and truly has his work cut out. For at the present time, the SU appears to be contributing to the very problems of university life it attempts to solve. The perception of the student body is that the Students Union is seen as unproductive and inefficient, to the extent that the invaluable good work it does to better the lives of all students at York goes ignored.
We can hope, if the promises of the newly elected SU are to be believed, however, that the forthcoming change of personnel will result in the creation of a Students’ Union with a sense of purpose tied more closely to an ability to get things done. Then the organisation can really make the a difference to student life.