Photo: Warwick SU

Democracy Review set in motion

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Olly Rice, Democracy and Development Officer, is setting into motion a democracy review, to end before he leaves office. Here are some of his top policies to reform.

Part-Time Officers

As part of his Democracy Review, Olly Rice is looking into the role of Part-Time Officers and reviewing their efficacy.

The main concern is that because part-time officers also act as full-time students within Warwick, they cannot dedicate themselves entirely to the role.

This review comes after the previous Women’s Officer, Josie Throup, stood down a term into her role to focus on her degree.

She has commented: “I completely believe that part-time roles are too challenging for full-time students.

“I felt like I had to dedicate my life to the women’s officer role in order to do it justice, and I was only able to do this because I didn’t have to work to support myself during my degree.

“At the end of the day these roles are voluntary work, but that isn’t reflected in the expectations of them.”

I completely believe that part-time roles are too challenging for full-time students.

Josie Thorup, previous Women’s Officer

Olly Rice also commented: “When it comes to Part-Time Officers there are questions to be asked over how effectively the positions enable the office holder to act on their manifestos”.

Crucially Olly Rice is looking into whether these students are given adequate support during their time as officer holders.

He added: “For many students their education is their most important priority at Warwick so it is certainly worth investing the time and effort in evaluating our Faculty Reps in particular to make sure the positions best support and enable the office holders.”

There also may be slight changes to the roles of Part-Time Officers in the coming years. Olly Rice has commented on the “significant asymmetry” of the role; the Social Sciences UG Rep represents around 10,000 students while the Arts UG Rep represents 3,000 students.

He continued: “It means an unfair ask on Faculty Reps and potentially un-affective representation for students in those faculties no matter how good the person holding the position.”

Katherine Sorab

 

ASM Quorum

Proposals for quorum on Students’ Union (SU) motions to be raised will form the centre-piece of a wider democracy review this term.

Olly Rice and Remy Osman, on the Democracy Executive, will submit a motion aiming to raise the required quorum from 1% to 5% at All Students’ Meeting (ASMs) – the legislative stage at which all students may vote on motions before they become policy.

This follows an average student turnout of 2-3% at recent ASMs which, Olly Rice told the Boar, “Is simply not good enough, we must aim higher than this, and to engage more students.”

If the 5% quorum requirement had already been applied, approximately 85% of motions previously passed would have failed to do so.

This includes motions such as the decision to support a second library as part of a wider study space campaign and the decision to support free access to sanitary products in campus accommodation.

Incidentally, the only Student Union motion to achieve 5% quorum this academic year was the only motion to be rejected at an ASM: a motion to boycott, divest and implement sanctions on the Israeli government and companies.

If the 5% quorum requirement had already been applied, approximately 85% of motions previously passed would have failed to do so.

Olly Rice insisted, however, that there was no threat of drastically fewer motions passing in future, saying “The very fact that 5% of the student populous would have to be persuaded of a policy means that motions would be properly campaigned for, and we would enjoy truer democracy in our SU.”

A raise in quorum could mean, however, that policies which benefit very little of the student populous – policy relating to liberation campaigns, for example – could fail to pass. Of this, Mr Rice confirmed that “all options are being considered, including a “super-council” which can vote on specifically liberation-related motions.

“Overall, though, I think it’s incredibly healthy, and not unreasonable, to have a quorum of 5%. If a policy is truly necessary then I expect that those campaigning for it will do more than just see it through council and rely on passing at an ASM; I hope to see them persuade at least 5% of students that it’s worthwhile.”

Lewis Hutchinson

 

Student Execs

The rehauling of student assemblies and democratic bodies will form a major part of the democracy review.

Each of the (SU) Sabbatical Officer roles has an executive group alongside it. These are Democracy, Funding, Postgraduate, Education Welfare, Liberation & Diversity, Societies and Sport.

Whilst the new SU executive groups have generally been a success, some change is needed, as there is disparity between the successes of the different execs.

For example, the Education exec have met regularly and provided clear minutes, while other execs struggle to do both.

The execs’ overall success comes from their more tightened focus on the separate areas the SU oversees. However, this also partially counts for the lack of success in other wider bodies, such as the newly created student assembly.

Luckily it was incorporated in such a way we could by-pass it if absolutely necessary and that’s what we’ve effectively had no choice but to do each term this year.

Olly Rice

On the matter, Olly Rice said: “It has utterly failed. The only time we’ve got enough people to partake, they just were not representative so we had to call it off.

“Luckily it was incorporated in such a way we could by-pass it if absolutely necessary and that’s what we’ve effectively had no choice but to do each term this year.”

As well as these changes, consideration is being given to the ASM’s marketing and transparency.

Currently, there is confusion as to how the ASM fits into the overall voting scheme and the ASM’s future, while still acknowledging that debate is a vital part of democracy.

Finally, there is some discussion over the use of the student council, who often feel wary over making large decisions whilst being a small body. Rice has suggested that the way forward is perhaps a “super council,” comprising of the student council and all the execs together.

Mike Wrench

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Comments (2)

  • James Anderson

    “If the 5% quorum requirement had already been applied, approximately 85% of motions previously passed would have failed to do so.

    This includes motions such as the decision to support a second library as part of a wider study space campaign and the decision to support free access to sanitary products in campus accommodation.”

    In 2015 there were approx 23,570 students, which means that a 5% quorum for motions would be about 1186 – the total turnout for the Second Library motion was 1246, so this would have been quorate if the new 5% quorum was applied. You are correct about the sanitary products motion however as only 1023 individuals voted on that motion.

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