Proposed reforms to Students Representative Council (SRC) have provoked controversy.
The motion which will be debated by the SRC tomorrow (Tuesday 2 February) would remove nine student officers from the council.
Every officer who holds a “Member for…” position, who also sit on the Equal Opportunities Committee, would be removed from their position on the SRC. This includes the Association LGBT officer, Member for Gender Equality and Member for Racial Equality. The intention being that these officers would then be represented on the SRC by the Equal Opportunities Officer.
The officers will continue to be elected by the student body, sit on the Equal Opportunities committee and retain all of their other responsibilities.
The motion would also abolish the position of External Campaigns Officer, stating that its remit overlaps with that of the Association President.
The motion is intended to streamline SRC proceedings and debates, which have in the past been accused of being too bureaucratic and unproductive.
The motion was proposed by Charlotte Andrew, the Students Association Alumni Officer, alongside Annie Newman, the Rector’s Assessor, who were put in charge of ongoing student council reform by the Association Sabbatical officers.
Ms Andrew told The Saint, “The idea is to make councils more efficient, to make the people who sit on councils feel like they’re being more productive.”
She went on to add, “Currently, I think that people on and outside councils think that it can be a slightly laborious process sometimes.
“A lot of people leave meetings and don’t feel it was as productive as it could have been.
“The idea is to make sure that the representation that happens is consistently passionate and consistently by people who care, and not just the repetition of the same kind of thing by 30 different people”
Ms Newman also emphasised that “We tried really hard to make this a really collaborative process in deciding what we wanted to change,” telling The Saint that she had spoken to all of the members that would be affected while in the process of drawing up the reforms.
However the potential changes have faced opposition from members of the student body. Speaking to The Saint, Sigrid Jørgensen, the Association LGBT officer, expressed her opposition to removing the “Members for…” officers from the SRC.
“I feel like the motion has a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Equal Opportunities Committee actually does right now,” she said. “I think we should have this debate because it’s a central part of being a representative of the student body.”
However, Ms Jørgensen also stated that there were parts of the motion that she supported, such as provisions that would give more power and resources to the Equal Opportunities Committee.
“I think the parts that have been written where the information has been collected in the right way and the correct people have been talked to and their advice has been followed those are brilliant parts of the motion”
On the concerns of students, Ms Jørgensen said that “We are taking their representation very seriously, which is why we need to discuss it with the people who have proposed it and understand where they’re coming from so we can show them where we’re coming from.”
Opposition to the motion has also emerged in the form of a petition launched by Jo Boon, a former Member for Gender Equality on the SRC, condemning the motion and arguing that the nine officers should remain on the SRC.
The petition reads: “The Students Representative Council will be taking a vote tomorrow to remove all ‘member for’ positions from the SRC. This includes Member for Gender Equality, Racial Equality, students with disabilities, External Campaigns and removing the LGBT Officer from the SRC.
“Some positions are being removed completely while others will be demoted to only sit on the Equal Opportunities Committee, without any voting powers on the SRC or direct control over legislation.
“The whole point of the SRC is that it represents students, but without these positions they will be representing very few of us. Please sign this to ensure that the SRC retains its central positions and remains focused on representation.”
At the time of writing, the petition had 74 signatures with one signatory, Amy Seaman, stating that “A student council that doesn’t fully represent the diversity of its student body can never hope to fully serve its student body.”
Speaking to The Saint, Ms Boon said, “I think it’s important that the SRC remains focused on representation and I think these positions are the best way to do that.
“All the ‘member for’ positions are very important and should have voting powers so they’re best able to serve our student body.”
Ms Newman said that she accepted that some of criticisms those opposed to the motion had were valid, saying “One of their big issues, which I think is incredibly fair, is that it’s putting a lot of responsibility on the Equal Opportunities Officer to represent a lot of disparate groups, but that’s why in the motion we’ve tried to strengthen and clarify what that role is, to give them a bit wider of a remit and a bit higher of a ledge to stand on.”
In response to the petition, Ms Newman said that “I would encourage everyone who’s signed the petition and cares about the issue to come along on Tuesday. They’ll have the right to speak and they definitely should.”
The motion will be debated by the SRC tomorrow (2 February) at 6PM in the committee room of the Students Union. Any student will be able to observe proceedings and voice their opinions on the motion during the open forum section of the meeting.