The Guild’s Trustee Board and the University have overridden the democratic decisions of students on a number of occasions this year. They are not apolitical or hands off but actively intervene in the politics of the Guild. The influence of both needs rejecting. The system that we have at the moment in the Guild is completely undemocratic and needs reform so that these abuses of power will no longer happen. If you want to start this process you should vote yes to the resolutions being tabled at the general meeting on the 4th of June (more info see http://on.fb.me/13hLvGd). The article is split into three parts, how the university intervenes in guild governance, how the trustee board kills any kind of resistance against this, and how the trustee board intervenes of its own accord.
The university started this year by blocking all of the bye-law changes from last year going through until after the beginning of this year, meaning that the many decisions taken democratically by students about ‘their union’ were delayed, some until next year. They then blocked a motion changing the role description of the president and one changing the editor-in-chief of redbrick. This means that students are not allowed to choose the roles of their own officers.
Most outrageously however they blocked a motion changing the composition of the scrutiny committee. While this may sound insignificant the scrutiny committee has the power to effectively stop officers from ever being held to account. Last year a motion was passed to change the composition of the committee from 2 un-elected trustees and one university representative to be made up mostly of elected guild councillors however this was blocked by the university meaning that an entirely un-elected, majority non student board can block students holding their officers to account.
Lack of a response
If this information had been communicated to guild council there would have been outrage and a plan would have been taken to do something about this. However in my opinion the trustee board, particularly one with such a terrible composition as the guild’s, saps any kind of passion, energy, or will to change things. The non-student chair of the board, the 50% of non-students, the lack of elected people, the lack of anyone elected specifically to
the role, and most important a real inducement to see yourselves as a corporate style director, all combine to suck the trustee board of any kind of life or passion. Any show of passion, emotion or anger during a trustee board meeting is looked down upon, and seen as in some way biased; you are repeatedly told to be reasonable and to accept things as they are. The presence of a university trustee and other rabidly pro-university elements inhibits any kind of sensible opposition to an organisation that is actively harming the guild’s democratic character.
Many students are likely to be surrounded by a stifling corporate atmosphere for the rest of our lives, but students unions should be different they should be about passion and trying to chang
e things, not just accepting the way things are. If we have to have a trustee board we should give it some vigour and some life. That means elections for all positions, as many students as possible, an elected student chair, and getting rid of the university trustee.
Trustee Board Interference
The trustee board does not merely sap energy to challenge the decisions of the university; it also interferes with democracy itself. Last year a motion was passed so that petitions of no confidence in officers would not have to go through the scrutiny committee however this has now been completely reversed with the new system being possibly less democratic and transparent then the old one. The new ODP was created by the trustee board without input from students, and is not on the website; I have uploaded a version with the most recent tracked changes (though from an earlier version not what the original motion said). It states that when a petition of no confidence has been received, the scrutiny committee(remember the one that the university stopped any elected people going on to), can decide whether to accept that the petition goes to Guild Council, whether it is put through an un-transparent backroom disciplinary process, or whether it is rejected altogether.
This kind of power in an unaccountable detached committee like the scrutiny committee is the exact thing that motions in last year’s guild council were designed to prevent, and the trustee board has simply gone and overturned them. It puts in the exact same position we were in last year where students cannot hold their officers to account without encountering a vast wall of impenetrable bureaucracy.
We need a union that is responsive, democratic, and embodies and encourages passion to achieve change. The world is full of stultifying, corporate, bureaucratic organisations; students unions should be trying as hard as they can to be something different not trying to be more of the same. In order to achieve this we need to be really controlling our union, not appointed external trustees and not the university.