YUSU is planning a wide program of consultation in the run to the governance review in the hope of avoiding a membership defeat like that suffered at the recent NUS annual conference.
“We are very keen to avoid the NUS syndrome” admitted YUSU Societies and Communications Officer Sam Bayley, before adding that he is keen to “avoid the problems of the past by speaking to everyone that is interested”.
The Union sabbatical team has already held an open session on the proposed governance changes in Week 3 and a number of focus group meetings with internal affiliates such as JCRCs, the Overseas Students Assocation, RAG and societies. Specific sessions have also been held with individual Union committees. However, turnouts at the open meeting and the societies meeting, the two most likely to involve typical students, were both poor.
“Basically, from day one we have started off with the aim of consulting people, from the top all the way down,” said Bayley, who wants students to fill in feedback forms and give their views on the changes. “We are keen for everyone to have their say, and feel that they have had their say,” he added.
Previous constitutional amendments are thought to have failed due to limited consultation and involvement of interested parties. Following the controversial move by the Union to pass constitutional amendments in 2006, Neil Barnes, then Academic and Welfare Officer, said: “It still makes me shudder to think about how seriously dodgy the process became.”
Already, JCRC chairs have spoken out with indignation due to not having been consulted with respect to the proposed constitutional changes. Bayley, however, claims the initial plan was to approach them when the constitution has reached a less formative state, stating: “[JCR chairs] have not been left out of the process and are coming into it later”
Bayley is hoping to avoid the events of the recent NUS National Conference in Blackpool that saw motions submitted for a reform of the NUS constitution defeated. The necessary two-thirds majority of representatives from Student Unions across the country had not been met by a margin of 25 votes.
The motions for reform followed a mandate for change to make the NUS more accessible and relevant in the light of recent disillusionment with the organisation.