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At the best of times, it’s a mind numbing box ticking exercise in which nothing of substance is discussed, or in which tempers get so raised that all attempt at discussion or resolution grinds to a painful halt. At the worst of times, it’s personality before policy, voting blocs, snide remarks and hours-long discussions about water fountains.
Council is supposed to be a place in which you, as a student, can go and see what your democratically elected representatives are doing, and where you, as a student, can question them and hold them to account.
Want to become a part of LUSU council? It’s easy. Make friends with some current councillors, smash out a two paragraph manifesto that commits you to do absolutely nothing, or promises the moon (don’t worry, you’ll never have to deliver). Don’t worry about how well you do in hustings, because the only people there will be the other people running for election. Heck, don’t even bother turning up to hustings if you fancy staying in bed. It won’t make any difference.
Elected yet? You should be, because half of the positions were uncontested. If the coin flip wasn’t kind to you though, just get coopted to one of the many positions nobody even bothered running for. Once you’re in, don’t worry too much about attending Union Council (you don’t need to) or about seeming even remotely accountable in the Officers Informations and Questions (nobody reads them). Just sit back, relax and pad your CV.
Now all of this comes with an obvious caveat. There have been and continue to be some absolutely amazing people on LUSU Council, who do great things on campus. Council isn’t helping most of them do it though, it’s just an irritating speedbump that they encounter along the way.
I’ve stood and sat all over LUSU, and I think I know where most of the gems are. First of all, the unelected, full time staff. They bend over backwards all year round to make LUSU the best they can be. Next on the list is you guys. People who don’t necessarily stand in big cross-campus elections, but still have big ideas. I’ve had the pleasure to see some of these big ideas come to fruition when organised by groups of dedicated students, society execs and JCR execs, and it’s great when that happens. But here’s the catch. Not all of these big ideas happen, because a lot of people have no idea how to navigate LUSU, who to speak to, or whether they need to ask somebody for permission or not.
The proposed changes in what LUSU has dubbed The Big Vote, or, rather confusingly, ‘Democracy Cats’ (swing and a miss guys) would rip out a lot of the rotten structures that have festered in LUSU for years, and replace them with something confusing, poorly defined, but undoubtedly different. A student jury system. Is the proposal clearly signposted or explained? No. It is run by LUSU after all. It’s a positive step though – If the vote passes, we would be the first ever UK university to adopt such a system. It’s not an easy path, and it involves risks, but I honestly don’t see how it could be any worse. So please, let’s try to fix it. Come to the AGM in George Fox Lecture Theatre 1 at 6pm on Thursday May 5. It’s the only AGM I’ll ever ask you to attend, and it’s sure as hell the only one I’ll bother with.