By Jack Harvey
After two weeks of consultation and thousands of words of feedback, the Policy & Review Group has reached its decisions on the five proposals submitted this term.
The PRG chose to accept motions calling for liberation networks to be able to elect their own delegates and for more places in the annual YUSU delegation to the NUS National Conference to be reserved for student candidates.
The PRG elected to reject motions calling for the creation of an Interfaith Officer and for YUSU to state its support for the NUS Liber8 campaign.
When it came to the proposed creation of a Working Class & Social Mobility Officer, the PRG felt that there were very strong arguments both for and against the idea reflected in the feedback. Therefore, the PRG concluded that the best course of action would be to put the idea to the student body, holding a campus-wide referendum on the motion.
A referendum on whether YUSU should create a new Part-Time Officer to support working-class students will be held in the first term of the next academic year; a referendum motion on which students will vote either in favour or in opposition will be finalised closer to the time.
In comparison to the previous policy process, this term’s consultation was extremely thorough and brought a wide range of voices and responses to the five proposed policies. By midnight on the final night of consultation, the Coordinator had received over 12,000 words of feedback from networks, societies, campus JCRCs and individual students.
Notably, several students sent formal emails to the Coordinator, explaining their thoughts and reasoning in great detail. This provided the PRG with ample feedback to reach its decisions.
During this term’s policy process, concerns were raised over the accuracy of feedback provided by an officer. A student attending the PRG’s final meeting argued that the feedback gathered by a proper method of consultation and that it did not fully represent the views and concerns raised by the officer’s constituents.
After some consideration, the PRG elected not to launch a formal investigation into this matter. The PRG does not have the evidence to justify the start of a proper inquiry – we could not base an investigation on the student’s testimony alone, without hearing from the officer in question. Furthermore, the PRG did not want to presume that the officer had deliberately provided inaccurate feedback. Consequently, while providing bad feedback is not acceptable, the PRG does not have reason to start a major investigation so late in the policy process.
Though a formal investigation was deemed unnecessary, these concerns have been taken on board by the PRG and by staff at the union. We’d like to build on this to make positive change to our policy process. As YUSU reforms its governing documentation and the policy process, the Policy Coordinator will work with YUSU staff to produce guidelines on how consultation should take place and how to avoid conflicts of interest.