By Paddy Henry (Deputy.firstname.lastname@example.org)
Proposals on the restructuring of roles within the Students’ Union have been rejected by the student body following a referendum on January 23rd.
Students were asked whether they agreed with a motion put forward by the SU Council on the 25th of November last year, which was to create a new part-time Equality Office to work on the SU Executive Council, in place of various other part-time positions which would have been abolished.
Among the part-time roles that would have fallen under the axe in the proposed merger were the Mature Students Officer, the SU Council Chairperson, the International Students Officer, Gender and LGBT Rights Officer, Disabilities Officer, and the ethnic Minorities Officer.
Also proposed was the renaming of the Students Union’s Club’s Captain to the Clubs Officer.
The proposal was rejected by 59% of the valid poll of 887. 525 voted against the motion, with 2 spoiled votes and 362 in favour.
Speaking to SIN, Students’ Union President Clare Austick, who was in favour of a yes vote in the referendum, welcomed the high voter turnout on the day, ”We’re pleased with the turnout, having over 800 people vote in the referendum was phenomenal”, she said. “We are, of course, disappointed with the result, but we are more happy with the strong turnout,” she continued.
The high turnout in the referendum was unprecedented, with the previous SU vote, the election for the part time position of Gender and LGBT Rights Officer, drawing a valid poll of just 48 votes.
Ms Austick highlighted historic low turnouts as the reason behind the positioning of just one ballot box on campus and pledged that on account of the high turnout, more ballot boxes will be positioned around campus for the next vote. Clare commented, “I suppose the reason was that in previous by-elections held, we had such a poor turnout and we didn’t expect turnout to be this high, we were trying to merge resources. In future elections, we will go back to having numerous ballot boxes on campus”, she stated.
The SU President also outlined the importance of increased awareness of the role of the part–time officers as crucial to increasing awareness of the work that they do, telling SIN: “Students are happy with the current structure and we need to make students more aware of the roles they do by holding election events, making sure people are interested and aware of the work that they do”.
SU Council Chairperson Scott Green campaigned for a no vote in the referendum and echoed the President’s sentiments on voter turnout, “It was good to see people get out to vote, especially considering the turnout in the recent by–elections” he stated.
Scott explained he has campaigned for a no vote in the referendum due to the fact that the creation of a part–time equality officer to replace five separate officers had failed previously and would have been “too much” on a part time officer, commenting, “A lot of my reasoning against the equality officer coming back was that it was a case that we have only had the Ethnic Minorities Officer, the Gender and LGBT Rights Officer and other similar roles for only about a year and a half in total. They haven’t been given a chance to develop as officers and establish themselves as representatives in the Union”, he argued. “I didn’t think it worked before, where we found it was too much work for one person”, he added.
The SU President dismissed rumours that the proposed merger of the part-time roles was due to funding problems within the Union, stating the referendum was called purely on the advice of Council and the Constitutional reform Working Group and was “by no means a budgetary requirement”. However, sources have suggested to SIN that the multitude of by–elections and referenda held in the college have proven costly, but not to the point where student services are impacted.
The Students’ Union have also announced that nominations for full-time Officer roles will open on Wednesday 19th February, while nominations for Part-Time positions and for the position of SU Council Chairperson will open on the 26th of February and the 5th of March respectively.