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Students’ Union democracy to undergo radical changes

Written by: on November 21, 2010

Warwick Students’ Union is planning a radical overhaul of its democratic system, following its failed Annual Members’ Meeting. Low turnout meant the meeting could not proceed.

The town-hall style Annual Members’ Meetings (AMMs) are held every year in order to debate and vote on the Union’s stance on students’ most pressing political issues. This year’s was held in MS.01, on Monday 1st November. The agenda included increased tuition fees and higher education cuts, the Life Sciences merger, whether to allow societies to choose their own sponsors, and whether to give a platform to fascist or racist groups.

227 people, 1% of the student population, are required to attend and vote before any motions can be passed. However, only 134 attended the meeting.

Several AMMs have failed to meet even lower quorums in recent years, marking a stark contrast with popular weekly meetings held by the Union until the 1990s.

As the Government imposes unprecedented University funding cuts and tuition fee increases, the Union’s Democracy and Communications Officer, Chris Luck, is desperately trying to re-engage students in Union democracy. Luck believes “something is fundamentally wrong if the Union lacks political involvement when major issues arise that will genuinely effect all of its members”.

Changes being considered by Luck include using online voting polls more frequently and shifting the focus of the Union’s policies towards everyday issues, with which many students can relate.

Luck is still canvassing student opinion on why engagement in AMMs, and Union democracy generally, is so low and how it might be increased. He is discussing the topic on his blog and has set up an online poll to find out whether students would prefer to elect representatives to take decisions on their behalf or give their views directly.

The _Boar_ interviewed several students and found many to be uninformed about or disillusioned with Union democracy.

Students also expressed discontent with the Union’s political pull. Robbie Fisher, a second year biology student, said: “the University will make small concessions to the SU but, ultimately, if it really wants to do something, then it will”.

Many students claimed they were unaware an AMM had even taken place. Some proposed increased publicity of meetings, through expanding kitchen tours and separating social and political events in the Union’s weekly e-mails to its members.

Others, meanwhile, suggested that online voting would be more preferable. Joe Whalen, a first year engineering student, who attended the failed AMM, claimed that, “the meeting was full of radicals who are not representative of the student population and often won’t come to decisions that most of us approve of”.

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The Boar is the University of Warwick’s editorially independent
student newspaper produced entirely by and for students.
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