A last-minute intervention by the Policy Review Group on Sunday night blocked YUSU from introducing campus-wide society endorsements in YUSU Elections, putting a stopper in changes that would have allowed every ratified organisation – including sports, media and politics societies – to put their weight behind candidates.
The new rules about society endorsements were announced in YUSU’s Weekly Societies email last week, with Activities Officer Chris Wall telling societies that they could now publicly endorse candidates, and suggesting a voting system wherein a society or society committee decides who to endorse.
Restrictions were specified for media societies, who were told that they may not endorse publicly, but only within their own memberships. The right to endorse candidates was also withheld from Colleges and JCRCs.
However the Policy Review Group – a mix of students and Officers appointed to oversee, and subsequently approve or disprove, YUSU policy – decided after much deliberation to vote against the society endorsements after an emergency meeting on Sunday night.
The PRG claims that it was not consulted before the new rules were made public, as YUSU protocol dictates.
The Group told Nouse that “the hurried nature through which these controversial changes would have been passed led us to the conclusion that a far more comprehensive consultation with the student body was needed before the PRG felt comfortable allowing society, sport and volunteering endorsements to occur.”
“We have a duty to ensure that the election rules are open, fair and maximise participation,” they went on. “Due to the many concerns that were raised, and the tight schedule of the rapidly approaching elections, we felt it would have been irresponsible to approve them in such a rushed manner.”
On the point of the lack of any consultation ahead of the endorsement changes being made public, the PRG said that they had no reason to believe the bypassing was deliberate. However they pointed out that “it is extremely worrying that the only body which is able to effectively scrutinise decisions made by YUSU was almost completely circumvented in this process.”
The PRG recommends that society endorsements are looked into further, and that “the wider student body is properly consulted.”
Chris Wall highlighted that society endorsements are “something other Unions use to great effect in promoting their elections.” He told Nouse that YUSU “saw this as another additional way for candidates to get their name out there.”
“We consulted with societies committee and other groups on the changes but an oversight meant that PRG were not consulted in the changes,” Wall said on the point of the Policy Review Group’s sidelining. “I’d like to see society endorsements become a thing in the future and hopefully next year these will be able to take place.”