The necessity of a YUM seat

The burden in the debate on YUM’s membership of the Union Council is to prove why YUM is principally different to other societies, such that it can’t be represented by the Student Activities Officer. There are two good reasons for this.

The first is that the member-societies of YUM provide accountability and legitimacy to the Union. The media serves as an essential transmission of information between the electorate and the elected. Every comment piece, editorial, website comment and article in the student media holds the Union to account for its actions. YUSU thus gains a legitimacy which extends beyond the mere aggregation of votes in the summer term.

The second is that this accountability function is guaranteed only by autonomy. The media is not financially autonomous, thus it is even more crucial that they have the right to defend their freedoms and operations independently. Where the Union Council deals with issues of media freedom and operation, it is democratically insufficient for a member of the Union to represent those that hold the Union to account. What of the objections? “YUM already receives preferential treatment in Union budgets”. This is irrelevant. If you have to allocate more resources in order to provide an award-winning media that provides accountability to the Union, then so be it. Just because YUM member-societies receive more money than the Caving and Potholing Society does not negate that.

“YUM provides no formal representation or accountability, and should be treated as such”. So what? Even if it is informal, what matters is that it is effective. The hundreds of contributors and commenters to the media, more still the million hits to media websites such as Nouse every year, bear evidence to the fact that these bodies are effective. I haven’t argued that YUM is more effective than formal representation, purely that its effectiveness should be preserved and recognised by a seat on the Council.

“Most motions passed by the Union Council do not affect YUM”. This is also irrelevant. The same could be said of most sitting members, each represents a body of students – some will be affected, some will not. What’s needed is a democratic check to make sure the media have their say when needed.

“It took four months before the media became interested in this”. A fair objection. Even if it is true, it does not increase the validity of the decision. If there is a defensible position for why YUM should not have a seat on the Union Council, I am, regrettably, yet to hear it.

3 comments

  1. As someone who helped create YUM in around 2004, I was recently asked this very question. My response was as follows:

    > My initial thoughts are mixed: why should yum, essentially a group of four societies, have a special voice on council – why don’t other societies have this voice? YUM is a powerful and unique section of societies on campus. It is separate from the union in the sense that they can go out and criticise publicly the body that funds them. There is a need for a media voice to be on council so that any concerns other people on the council have with what the media has said about them can be raised. <

    The reason the media societies require YUM, and YUM to be represented at Exec/Council, is not to do with power or even what they are capable of doing in terms of their output – it is to do with their unique requirements as societies. Because the media societies require greater advice on legal issues, greater funding to stay operational, have greater liabilities and face greater risks than other types of society, they need to be better represented in their interactions with YUSU in order to survive.

    As an example: if a typical society that mainly holds social functions and occasionally holds some kind of rally/seminar/trip receives less funding in one particular year, it will simply scale down its activities. The following year it will dust itself off, carry on where it left off and scale them back up again. There is little requirement for the retention of corporate knowledge involved in generating a few posters, booking a minibus and buying some confectionary (a bit flippant perhaps, but I hope you see my point).

    Conversely, highly technical societies like URY, YSTV and to some extent BandSoc, suffer immensely from significant dips in funding or skills. As they have lots of non-scalable costs, such as licencing, a 10% funding cut may prevent the society operating in some way; e.g. having to drop its webstream. Not only does this hurt the society in the short term, but if the funding is later restored the society is unlikely to simply be able to pick up where it left off – skills fade, and perhaps equipment deterioration/obscelecence, will most likely mean it takes a while for the society to get back on track. It's also easy for fiananciers within YUSU to see the media societies' equipment purchases as enhancements to their existing capabilities (perhaps even frivolous ones); whereas quite often such line items on a media society's budget is simply to replace something that has already broken, or is on the way out.

    In summary: there are a few other types of society that have large requirements like the media societies, but the main thing that got YUM created in the first place was the idea of parity with the AU. The AU has lots of active, involved members, who commit lots of hours to their respective clubs, quite often use expensive equipment provided by YUSU, require heavy insurance, involve considerable health and safety considerations, and who often do so well that they win national recognition. So does YUM. Therefore if the AU is an internal affiliate of YUSU with a President with a vote on YUSU Exec, and a Treasurer with a vote on Finance Committee, then so must YUM.

    I would ask the Union that if they intend to remove YUM from Exec, then why don't they also remove the AU? I think they would be hard-pressed to answer. The number of members vs hours committed by those members discussion may negate any argument to the effect that the AU's total membership is larger.

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  2. Tim – some of what you say is very interesting, but it’s all so out of date it’s untrue.

    The AU President is now York Sport President and is a full time sabb, as opposed to YUM CHAIR which isn’t an officer…

    AUs total membership is in the thousands, as opposed to YUM which is scraping into the hundreds.

    There also hasn’t been a finance committee for at least half a dozen years…

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  3. 13 Nov ’10 at 6:27 pm

    Also Out of Date

    Also – the whole concept of an ‘internal affiliate’ was removed years ago.

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