“All Vice Presidents in charge of Democracy at LSU will begin the year with the hope that Union Council will run consistently and effectively, proving the system to be a valuable part of the Union. We all want it to attract strong students with a passion for democratic representation, provide detailed and constructive student input into the Union, and ultimately behave as a responsible and well respected body working towards bettering student life.” Ali Cole, 2013.
Union Council is the highest representative student body at Loughborough Student’s Union and is well known for its hostile environment and failure to meet quorum. Despite being a highly criticised body, over 70 motions were bought to Council this year and the work of 20 or so Councillors that turn up on a regular basis is often forgotten. We’ve had some heated debates, discussed some controversial motions, asked some provocative questions and seen the aggressive side to some of the Exec. With the last meeting of the year done, I take a look back over the past year and catch up with our VP Democracy and Communication, Ali Cole.
First Council, First Impressions.
After the election of approximately 40 Councillors and a successful training session, this year was set to be a good year for Union Council. We kicked of this year with the ratification of Development Officer Tessa Glenn after complaints of her allegedly having an unfair advantage in the DO elections; an interesting but technically difficult motion. After a heated debated, on the back of a 10 page Procedures committee report which was virtually ignored by Councillors and shot down by the Exec, she was elected. First impressions count.
After a three and a half hour meeting, the true colours of some of the Exec became apparent with a handful being over defensive and arrogant, the tone of council was set for the year. Not surprising at all then that we struggled to elect a procedures committee or by the end of the year about half of Councillors have resigned (by choice or as a result of not attending meetings). Ironically there always seems to be a barrier between Councillors and Exec, despite all of us wanting the best for the students we represent.
For next year careful consideration needs to be made to the agenda and the way in which the Exec conduct themselves when a new council is elected; impressions are difficult to change. In my opinion, the downfall of council this year and the never ending battle to meet quorum each fortnight began at this point.
Council and The Board
Having greater power and evidently working as a more efficient body, over recent years The Board of Trustees have overtaken what council used to do; thus questioning its purpose to an extent.
One of the highlights of being a Union Councillor is being consulted on big projects and being able to have an input into the future of the Union. Disappointingly, Council failed to meet quorum before the LSU Strategic Communications Review was pitched to The Board and missed the opportunity to give their input into the project. After the Board initially having approved the project, there were high levels of anticipation to see the results. The best example of this was the LSU Strategic Communications Review, after the Board having approved the project, there were high levels of anticipation to see the results. Cole did not disappoint and he managed to stun both the Board and Council with his proposal; unanimously passed by all. Without a shadow of a doubt, considerable amounts of thought have been put into this and I sincerely hope the rebrand is successfully implemented by the incoming Exec.
This was the most controversial motion bought to council this year with the system desperately in need of some dramatic changes. It sparked debate on this publication and on twitter so it was no surprise when it was opposed at council. Majority of people agreeing with: the new name, fewer meeting per year and the new composition of council. However the main concern was over the new process of electing Councillors which was thought to be undemocratic; dare I say it would have passed if this was different.
“I came into the role this year with a manifesto promising dramatic change for Union Council. It has been a long time coming, as with the majority of the changes I have sought to implement this year. And, even though it was voted down, despite receiving 9 votes for and 8 against, these changes were successfully delivered as promised. I look forward to the day when accountability, actual representation, and reliable reporting are prevalent amongst those who stand up and claim they represent the views of 16,000 Loughborough students.”
With Ellie Read (Union President) strongly against it being referred to a subcommittee, the motion won’t come back to council the next year. It’ll be up to next year’s Governance Committee and Hannah Chrisp (VP Democracy and Communications Elect) to work on reforms if they wish to do so.
“I fear another year of lengthy discussions and heated debates about what exactly needs to change. I wouldn’t be surprised if this publication is asking the same questions in a years’ time.”
I’m tempted to agree, reforming council is going to take it’s time and I’m sure we will some minor tweaks next year.
Student Led Motions
These are somewhat rare and make a great change from just the Exec putting forward motions. My top 3 for this year are:
Workers’ Rights Affiliation, Living Wage Policy and Select Committees were the other key student led motions of the year.
Council has had its ups and downs this year and its future seems uncertain. A great marketing campaign can attract candidates to run but what can be done to retain interest? Next year some steps towards reforming council need to be taken in order to prevent it from finding itself on the risk register once again. Whether that be: breaking down barriers between Exec and Councillors, better organised meetings or making a simple constitutional change to reduce the number of meetings per year.