Societies have reacted negatively to YUSU plans to streamline elections. The proposals discussed, last week, at the Student Development Assembly have been heavily criticised and were branded “unrealistic” by one society chair.
The proposals mean societies must have a chair, secretary and treasurer elected annually. This has brought criticism because of the proposal to have a three to four week window for elections that would take place in all societies. It has yet to be decided when this window will be but weeks six to nine of the Spring term have been suggested.
The new format could work in a similar way to JCRC elections, but numerous societies and some members of the Assembly have concerns. Critics of the proposal argue that JCRCs all have similar roles compared to societies which can vary greatly.
It is hoped that the new proposals would allow a more structured handover period with guidance and support from the Student Activities Officer and the Societies Development Coordinator. This would also enable a structured process for development meetings.
A handover template is to be produced and distributed to all societies at the same time.Not all societies agree with the proposals, particularly the University media and drama societies.
Jamie Riley, the York University Media Chair, outlined the view in the Assembly that all of the media societies elect at different times and are well managed.
Several drama societies have also expressed concerns over the proposals which they believe could seriously interfere with their purposes as societies.
“We think that societies should be allowed to hold elections whenever they like – as long as an elected committee only holds office for approximately a 12 month period.”
Bex Hiscoks, Fusion
John Askew, Dramasoc Chair, is against the idea, commenting: “There are so many unwritten rules, traditions, and daily problems that handovers are simply not enough, you need experience on the committee as well as fresh faces.”
He added: “You can’t run a venue and produce a show every week of the term as well as develop the society when you hardly know what you are doing having just taken over your position. It’s just unrealistic. DramaSoc is particularly vulnerable to this action because of the heavy scheduling, constant development and the amount of unwritten rules which you only learn by being part of a committee with some experience at least.”
For sports clubs, the new proposals are less of an issue as they already elect at the same time making it easier for clubs to deal with issues such as sponsorship. After the elections the new committees then have a training day so they are prepared for the work that comes with their positions.
YUSU believes streamlining elections could be beneficial for all societies for similar reasons. YUSU are seeking society wide agreement rather than a constitutional change so societies do not have to comply with the proposals.
Other members of the development assembly suggested more training sessions instead of the current proposals but logistically YUSU believe this isn’t possible.
James Croydon, Students Activities Officer, stated: “The proposal is a suggestion that it would be beneficial for societies to move their elections to a similar period of the year. This was not a constitutional amendment, so will not be forced but it is hoped that societies will see the benefit of the system and move to it themselves. It will mean staff time [is] better utilised for you.”
Within the development meetings re-ratification will take place and there will therefore be no need for the re-ratification period and admin that societies had to go through during last summer to complete this.
The proposals also aim to introduce a better and more structured training programme. This training is to be relevant to all societies.
Among the benefits for YUSU administration are that it would be easier as all of the elections would be over a short time period. This could avoid lost forms and ensure signatories are all in place as well as general admin being completed and processed early. This means ratification would be faster and “pointless” admin would no longer be needed.
Under the proposals there would be a transition period facilitated by YUSU. These measures could help save time meaning staff could put themselves to better use according to Croydon, who is putting forward the changes.
Croydon adds that this idea has been discussed in NUS meetings and has been successfully implemented by seventeen other universities including: Bath and Birmingham.
Croydon argues that another benefit would be that all societies would move through the process together and this would get the University community more involved.
As well as aiming to improve handovers and give out more detailed information on what societies are allowed to do, Tim Ellis, YUSU President, believes the changes will be beneficial because of the sheer number of societies – 160.
There are many societies that believe this is not beneficial and even those who support the proposal have concerns over the timing of elections.
Kris McGee, Law Society President, said: “While I think it’s a good idea, I’m concerned as to when the election dates might be fixed.”
Others are more sceptical of the changes. Bex Hiscoks, Fusion Chair, complained: “We think that societies should be allowed to hold elections whenever they like – as long as an elected committee only holds office for approximately a 12 month period.
“I know I can’t speak for all societies, but I believe the consensus is pretty strong among the performance ones, that this suggestion from YUSU wouldn’t work for us.”