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Another set of LUSU Full Time Officer elections has passed, in which all full members of LUSU have the right to vote to determine the future path along which LUSU will travel. However, although Democracy is a key part in the running of a students union, there is one group of students who have no say in these elections, despite having an interest in the way that it is run – Associate Members.
Associate Membership in LUSU is given to students who aren’t studying full-time or part-time at the University, but are still affiliated in some way – be they students on short courses, students undertaking work placements or years abroad, or students at associated institutions approved by the Lancaster University Senate. Despite some of these students having a vested interest in LUSU, they are barred from voting in LUSU elections or running for positions in these elections.
I must admit that I have a personal connection with this issue. As a Modern Languages student, I spent last year studying in various Universities abroad, and therefore only held associate membership. It made me angry that, despite having a vested interest in the way that the University was run on my return, I had no way of influencing the result of the elections, as I had no vote. While I understand that there may difficulties with allowing associate members to run for positions in LUSU, the fact that associate members aren’t allowed a vote is unacceptable. In particular, students on placements are directly affected by the results of these elections, as they return after their placements to find a new set of Full Time Officers representing them, despite them not having had the chance to vote.
On Thursday February 9th of last year a motion was proposed by Aaron Spence that would have led to a referendum on the rights of associate members. However, despite the fact that the motion was voted in favour of, it did not meet quoracy and, therefore, didn’t pass. It is here that we can see the issue – Associate Members themselves cannot attend General Meetings, and cannot vote on LUSU issues. Therefore, any decision concerning their rights is made without their input. They cannot vote on the issues that concern them, and have no say in the running of the Students Union, who are at complete liberty to ignore them as a part of the student population. This is completely unacceptable.
It is completely false to argue that Associate Members have no interest in the running of LUSU. Although development needs to be made at institutions associated with Lancaster, a large number of Associate Students know no other university than Lancaster. If LUSU doesn’t give them the right to be represented, then it fails as a democratic organisation. The representation of students is the express purpose of LUSU, so why does it ignore this large group of concerned students?