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We’ve had a democracy review in order to make things easier to understand for everyone and to ensure that more people engage with democracy at the Union.

Here’s some of our frequently asked questions on the review.

The Bye-Laws are still quite long, can you summarise what’s changed?

We’ve cut the Bye-Laws down by 30+ pages but understand the document is still quite lengthy. To summarise, the main changes are:

  1. Policy Zones: We have replaced Union Council with more relevant Zones: Education, Activities and Welfare & Community.

  2. Union Executive: We have set up a Union Executive Committee, which will ratify proposals from the Zones, monitor policy implementation, and oversee democratic processes and officer accountability. They will also refer some decisions to a referendum.

  3. Referenda: Referenda voting will take place after an open meeting which will encourage debate and allow amendments. Union Exec or a petition of .5% student membership will trigger a referendum.

  4. Members’ Meetings: All student meetings will only take place once per year, which will be a communicative meeting, mainly focused on accountability. If you’re looking for policy debates, come along to any zone meeting or to the Referenda open meeting.

  5. Officer Accountability: Non-sabbatical officers can be no-confidenced with a quoracy matching their total votes received in their election. We’ve also allowed for non-sabbatical officers to be removed from post who have not attended relevant meetings. We’re increasing the access and frequency of question time for all officers.

  6. Elections: We’ve removed restrictions on supporting candidates, added restrictions for sabbatical officers who are re-running in their election and clarified the role of an External Returning Officer.

  7. Committee of the Board of Trustees: We’ve opened up membership of sub-committees of the Board of Trustees for students to join. They’re no longer restricted to student officers.

Why do we need these changes?

Last year, 60% of policies passed at Council were proposed by two people. And, in a survey of Councillors, only 40% of respondents agreed that Council was an effective policymaking body. Many officers did not find that a general Union Council was relevant to them. We knew we needed to replace Council with more relevant and effective bodies that would focus on student issues.

We’ve changed General Assemblies/All-student meetings because we know that students care about issues but often can’t make the time to come to an in-person meeting due to work, extracurricular or caring responsibilities.

We also know that debates can lead to new clarity and so want students to be able to amend referenda questions/proposals in debates. We also don’t want to have duplicative decision-making processes.

So, has officer accountability changed at all?

We’re restricted by the Articles of Association to some extent so are unable to change no-confidence processes for sabbatical officers. We’ll take a look at this next year but we have amended the no-confidence procedures for non-sabbatical officers and are embedding officer reports and question time into meetings.

What happened to RUMS? SSEES?

These groups of students formed as Academic Societies this year and will continue to operate as such. We’ve not included them in the Bye-Laws as they’ll exist within Club and Society structures and can access Zones as any society or student can.   

What about liberation groups?

There is a separate proposal being taken by some of our liberation officers which outlines a desire to split the community building function of liberation from the representative function of liberation officers. You can read more about the proposal here.

What’s next for the Democracy Review?

We want to look at officer portfolios and how the Board of Trustees works with the other democratic structures. We will also be reviewing sabbatical officer no-confidence procedures.

How do you know this is the right change for the Union?

We’re 100% sure it’s better than what we had. We knew our old structure wasn’t working and we did a lot of research into best practice and talked to a lot of students to understand what the issues are.

We worked closely with UCL students studying MSc Democracy and with the lead academic for their course, Dr Sherrill Stroschein.

We were informed by conversations with other London Students’ Unions and with UCL students via focus groups and interviews.

We will continue to evaluate our structures and processes to see if we’ve got this right.