LSESU General Secretary Mahatir Pasha has released a statement announcing that weekly Union Geneeral Meetings (UGMs) will be suspended during a period of “democratic review.”
UGMs are expected to resume after the review process, and students have been encouraged in the meantime to continue submitting motions.
The announcement comes a week before Lent Term election nominations begin. The move was proposed by the Sabbatical Officers and approved by the Trustee Board after several motions consecutively failed to meet quorum, including one proposing a democratic review.
The process promises to review bye-laws to make the democratic system more engaging and better suited to students’ needs. The bye-laws include prescriptions on referenda, general meetings, elections, and democratic committees. A full list can be found on the Students’ Union website.
The Trustee Board holds “overall responsibility for the legal, strategic, and financial health of the Students’ Union.” It consists of the Sabbatical Officers, students, and a selected non-student.
Similar calls for greater democratic engagement by the student body were made last year as Lent Term electoral turnout peaked at 34%.
Pasha clarified to The Beaver, “The trustee board of LSESU agreed to suspend the LSESU bye-law which mandates a weekly UGM to be held. During term time UGMs will now be held less frequently, on a monthly basis, with the option of holding additional UGMs if motions are submitted.
“We hope to develop a democratic structure where our members can engage in the creation of policy and direct the union. Over the last 3 years we have seen a steady decrease in engagement with our structure: as a former member of Democracy Committee I know the importance of students taking part in our democratic processes.
“This process will reach further than just reviewing the weekly UGM, and will examine, for example the structure around club and society democratic representation as well. Our aim is to create a democratic structure that works with, and for, students.”
The next UGM to take place will be on Thursday of week 7 regarding whether the LSESU should officially boycott the National Student Survey, joining the likes of the student unions of Oxford, Cambridge, and SOAS.
The consistently low turnout at UGMs follows the national trend of disengagement in student democracy.
Motion submission has decreased annually and only two students were present at the first UGM of the year.