YUSU democratic review: time to modernise our Union

, YUSU President, evaluates the changes our student union is to face in the upcoming democratic review and why he believes they are necessary

The Union needs to change. For too long YUSU has limped along with an outdated Constitution and a patchwork of Bye-laws that no longer serve the needs or interests of the student body. With the new legal changes to the charity status of students’ unions, it was clear that now was a chance to create an open, representative, campaigning Union. That is why we began a democratic review to look at every part of YUSU and ask a few simple questions: How can we be more relevant to our members? How can we be more responsive to their views? How can we help them to create positive change?

Improving ‘representation’ of students is a fundamental area we are examining and reviewing. We will be considering the possibility of replacing the current Union Council, made up of officers and college chairs and nominally open to all, with an assembly of student representatives elected from broad constituencies. With tuition fees likely to rise and funding being cut, we believe more than ever that academic representation needs to be at the heart of a campaigning Union, with departmental, college and society interests all being represented. This assembly would ensure that YUSU would have at its heart, a legitimate body of elected representatives who could scrutinise your officers, pass policies you care about and make sure you are always involved.

The second area we are evaluating is campaigning. The Union has a powerful role to play in the lives of students, and we are proposing that the Union refocus its efforts on campaigns – which means escaping the committee mentality. Yes, dedicated individuals who have stood for elected positions are the bedrock of a campaigning Union, but their job should be to connect interested parties, to develop networks of people and organizations that can deliver on the things they promise.

That’s why we think some of the current committees of the Union would be better as Campaigning Networks, spending less time talking to themselves or fighting bureaucracy in YUSU, and more time leading the push for change on issues from recycling facilities, to gender equality, to accessibility.

Finally, accountability is an important principle in any democracy and YUSU should be no different. We understand we should be bringing information to you in a way that you can engage with. Having direct representatives on a union assembly is one change that would dramatically open up YUSU’s activities: you would always know someone in your department, in your college or in your student group who could ask the questions you always wanted asking.

To increase transparency, meetings will be webcast and placed prominently on our website, bookmarked so that you can jump to the agenda item you’re interested in. We would also get committees to display a summary of decisions made at their meetings; that way you know at a glance what’s going on and you can view the full minutes if you need to.

As I’ve said, these are the initial thoughts that have arisen in response to the comments made by the hundreds of students who took our online survey. They are not the end of the dialogue between YUSU and its members, but they are an important next step as this democratic review is an ongoing process.

Our three workshops, to be held on Tuesday 14th December, offer another chance for members to get ‘hands on’ with the future direction of YUSU and discuss the key issues I have talked about here. We will be opening up the initial drafts of YUSU’s proposed reforms for you to comment on, debate about and contribute to, and thus allowing us to look at all aspects of Union business with a critical eye. The conversation is continuing this week and we hope you will be inspired to take part – it is, after all, your Union.

Students can come to just one of the sessions, or take part in all three.

The Democratic Review Workshops will take place in L/047 on Tuesday 14th December (Week 10) at the following times:
Representation: 14.00-14.45
Accountability: 15.00-15.45
Campaigning: 16.00-16.45


  1. That’s fantastic Tim.

    You have the potential, you have the power, you could be a great, great pop star.


  2. Nouse is fighting for its independence. Or at least that’s the impression I get. They don’t seem to want YUSU interference. I’m sure there’s a UGM about it. So why are they opening themselves up as the a megaphone for a defective student union? Ngwena should spend more time actually trying to fix problems – isn’t there some sort of vote in parliament now? – rather than writing propaganda for the newspaper.


  3. So its now ok for staff just to be putting out their opinion in news articles as long as sabb puts their name to it? There’s about as much chance that Tim wrote this as there is Brian Cantor leaping naked off the public gallery in the house of commons. The union is being taken over by unelected staff with no accountability and a definite self interest.


  4. Yeah, whatever happened to Nouse?


  5. good to see YUSU accepting that student media is more accessible and popular than its own form of publicising.

    comment pieces from politicians and party leaders are common in national publications, so I don’t see much of a problem with Nouse publishing this. Though it is strange to see them being so co-operative and helpful after the repugnant way YUSU has treat them so this term.


  6. 10 Dec ’10 at 1:49 pm

    Dominic Mantle

    I don’t see much problem with this piece, except perhaps that it could have done with an editorial descriptor at the top explaining who Tim is and what the piece was about. Not being funny, but it’s perfectly possible that there are first years who don’t know anything about YUSU, which could make this a bit confusing.


  7. Nice to see that there are calls for YUSU sabbatical officers to use the student media for their campaigns when David Levene came in for a lot of flak when he suggested the same thing during his presidential campaign.

    Just sayin’


  8. 10 Dec ’10 at 7:56 pm

    You're a joke

    “So its now ok for staff just to be putting out their opinion in news articles as long as sabb puts their name to it? There’s about as much chance that Tim wrote this as there is Brian Cantor leaping naked off the public gallery in the house of commons. The union is being taken over by unelected staff with no accountability and a definite self interest.”

    But, does any of this really matter. In 20-30 years time, which of the current crop of students will still give a damn about YUSU? Stop complaining, maybe read a book for your degree or something.


  9. 11 Dec ’10 at 11:30 pm

    Au contraire, you are the joker

    Nice bit of reasoning there. Nothing really matters because in a couple of decades nobody will remember what you did!

    On that bombshell, I’m going to commit a couple of attrocities!


  10. 12 Dec ’10 at 6:15 pm

    Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they

    No-one cares about YUSU. Honestly. We only voted for you for president because we liked you, you seem like a ‘nice guy’, who is acceptable to the masses at York, as you are a non-threatening, non-stereotypical black guy… and given the current calibre at York, we couldn’t risk electing a pirate again…

    Students are not represented by YUSU. YUSU is just there so that if students complain about lack of representation, the university can say… we have YUSU….


  11. I tell you what might be a good start…having limits set on presidential terms as opposed to running again for a position because you realise its a easy and comfortable way of avoiding work in the ‘real world’. This also goes for sab officers who stay around like some sort of disease by running for a different position when they’re own has ended. Full of useless, false leftists who see a future in the NUS or the Labour Party.

    And I thought more of Nouse. Stop peddling this corrupt unions propaganda!!!


  12. They do have limits. Two years in a sabbatical position.

    I’m also fairly confident that Tim will do well in the job market.


  13. Pat are you ok? You sound more grouchy than usual. Is Jess ok?


  14. Well two years is too long and I’m sure Tim will do well as long as he follows the usual path for such people…NUS and Labour Party. He wouldn’t be an asset anywhere else; just a danger.


  15. Pat, You’re trolling. But its christmas so why not enlighten us. In the past ooooh let’s say 10 years, how many YUSU Sabbs have gone onto take up or even run for an NUS position? For that matter, how many have gone on to be full time politicians (for Labour or any party)


  16. 16 Dec ’10 at 4:23 pm

    Media Charter

    I’m pretty sure the 3.05pm comment which Nouse allowed to be moderated is in breach of the Media Charter.

    Sort this trash out!


  17. 16 Dec ’10 at 5:08 pm

    Martin Luther King

    To the pretentiously named tool who described Tim as a “nice guy” due to being a “non-stereotypical black guy”, please, tell us, what is the stereotypical black guy?

    And after you’re done, dont forget we have an Arabic Sports Sabb and an Eastern European Welfare Sabb if you wanted to continue you’re racism.

    Im sorry if I’m not your standard York Student, being from a Working Class background (trouble!), not “belonging” to a political party (double-trouble) and being of Middle Eastern ethnicity (ARREST THE MAN!), but some of the comments above make me ashamed to be a York student.

    If people are going to attack any elected officer, do it constructively and through a proper argument; dont make it personal.

    And next time elections come around, maybe dont just vote for the black guy who isn’t your standard black guy, maybe (if I dare say it) ignore skin colour and vote on policies and abilities.


  18. 16 Dec ’10 at 7:11 pm

    Media Charter

    Could I ask why my comment which stated that you let through a racist remark at 3.05pm was removed when it was factually true?

    Do I smell censorship from the Nouse editorial team?


  19. @Media Charter, your comment was removed because the comment you referred to was also removed. Your previous comment has now been reinstated.