LUSU want you to vote on massive changes this Thursday
But is it all good news?
LUSU, everyone’s favourite defenders of liberty and policemen of grammar, are hosting a General Meeting this Thursday. The big topic up for voting is a sweeping reform of the policymaking process, coupled with a scything of many officer positions. Because statistically somewhere between ‘fuck’ and ‘all’ of you care about the LUSU inner-workings, here’s a brief guide to why this is actually a bit important, and why/how you should vote.
The Tab: we read the Constitution so you don’t have to.
What is the system now?
You (or rather, a tiny percentage of you) elect a number of representatives each year – these include college JCR Officers, Cross-Campus Officers (CCOs), Full-Time Officers (FTOs) and LUSU Councillors. A bunch of these people go to LUSU Councils to both propose and vote on policies. Anyone can attend LUSU Council and have their say, but the votes are left to these Officers.
What is this new system they’re proposing?
In the new system, anyone could propose a policy. It would go to an elected SU Exec, and if they deemed it uncontroversial it would go through. If, however, they deemed it likely to cause division, it would go to a randomly-selected student jury (who would get a financial incentive to show up) who would have to make a consensus. If they do, it goes through. If they don’t, it gets put to all students as a referendum.
Along with this, there will be a mighty culling of officer positions after the LUSU Democratic Review survey suggested that the sheer number of them may have been a contributing factor in student disengagement.
So is it all good then?
Possibly not. A vocal Vote NO campaign has sprung up and are opposing the proposed changes, which they lambast as undemocratic. The leader of the campaign, second year Geography student and CCO: Social Inequality Jenni Dybell, claims the changes will lead to “less faculty representation” and “more power to the Trustee Board” (the people who control LUSU’s dolla). She also says the dramatic shedding of officer positions “will mean less representation from students and for students, and a bigger workload for the FTOs”.
Lancaster University’s staff-focused Private Eye wannabe subtext weighs in against the proposals, saying “the rationale behind the new structure is fascinating. Apparently, officers ought to be responsible for ‘scrutinising ideas submitted by students’ (which they already are), rather than to lead the generation of policy (which they also do). Is there a reason we can’t have both? […] The abolition of LUSU Council, as we say above, will remove one of the most open forums that the union has outside of a general meeting, and making sure that people actually promote it as such is a far easier way than this new convoluted and undemocratic method.”
This reporter is concerned that talk of ‘representational quotas’ for membership of the juries shows both a complete lack of understanding of the point juries (and the word ‘random’) and risks tainting a promising idea with LUSU identity malarkey. To paraphrase one student, “LUSU don’t seem to understand what stratified sampling is, which is weird because presumably they have all done degrees”.
What about the people in favour of the changes?
VP (Education) Ben Harper disagrees: “With this new proposed system, we’re moving away from a not fit-for-purpose Westminster model and bringing ‘democracy’ to every student. The democratic process should simply be a means to an ends with that ends being an enhanced student experience. We believe the best way to deliver that is through a more accessible student jury system”.
VP (Union Development) Tom Stapleton concurs: “Decision-making at Lancaster University Students’ union is bust and needs fixing. We’ve put a huge amount of time and effort, working with our members, into designing a new system that puts real students at the heart of decision making. […] Instead of a small number of students making decisions, it’ll be dozens, hundreds or even thousands.
“That’s how we plan to make sure that we reflect the authentic student voice – we’ve fundamentally rejected our current way of doing things. I’m voting yes because it’ll mean LESS power for me personally. I want officers of Lancaster University Students’ Union to fulfil their responsibilities to the students who elected them – our constitution will force them to put the interests of our students above their own. And that’s why you should vote yes this Thursday too”.
Voting confuses and scares me, what do I do?
First, listen to both sides. Make your own mind up. Then, either go to the General Meeting tomorrow linked above, or check your emails – you can register a proxy vote without ever leaving your room, and it takes about two minutes.
Alternatively, do as politics Masters student Darren Mason does and “stand in the I don’t give a shit camp“.