The Students’ Union has organised for a series of referenda to take place in an attempt to reform the hierarchy of the Union.
These referenda, due to go live in a week’s time, are the result of a push to make the Sussex Students’ Union more democratic, more accountable and more representative of all students at the University.
Voting on the referenda will open on Tuesday 9th December and close on Friday 12th December.
Should the vote pass, the new Full-time and Part-time Officer potions would be up for election in late March. This is one month later than originally planned in order to allow time to put all of the changes in place.
The proposed changes come as a result of direct recommendations suggested by the NUS after they were asked to carry out a report on Union Officer roles, published last month.
The Full-time Officers of the Students’ Union have said from the outset that the findings and recommendations of this review would be put to students in the form of several referenda questions.
One of the referendum questions will ask students whether or not they would like to see a radical restructure to the full-time and part-time officer positions within the Union.
The implementation of the proposed model would see the roles of Communications and Operations officer scrapped, with the report finding that these positions are too administrative.
The move would also see the role of Education officers split in two, becoming Postgraduate Education Officer and Undergraduate Education Officer. The Welfare role will also be split, with most responsibilities staying the same but some of the remit moving to the Societies and Citizen- ship position, which will also include aspects of the Communications Officer role.
In addition, all current part-time roles would also be replaced with four new ‘Liberation Officers’, which would represent LGBTQ, disabled, women and black students.
The roles of the current Part-time Officers would be distributed among the newly created Full-time Officer positions.
Also to be put to students in a referendum is the question of whether or not the role of President should be renamed to ‘Union Affairs Officer’.
It is believed that this is a less gendered title compared to that of “President’ which statistics show discourages women students from applying. The SU also believes that the newly proposed title of ‘Union Affairs Officer’ would encourage a less hierarchical structure within the Full-time Officer team.
The full role review report recommended that it was for the Students’ Union to democratically decide whether the title of president was the best name of the role
However, it should be noted that the Union Executive voted to replace the role of President without holding a referendum. Michael Segalov, Communications Officer said , “There’s a strong sense of feeling amongst the Officers that the role of President is outdated, gendered and is detrimental to a non-heirarchal structure amongst officers. We are all elected by students with the same mandate, however we respect the decision of the Democracy Committee and will make the case to students.
The Democracy Committee intervened, stating that changes to the role must be put to a student vote, overruling the wishes of the Union Executive, which includes Part and Full-Time Officers.
Students, elected officers, Students’ Union staff, ex-officers, and University stakeholders were consulted as part of the role review.
On Thursday, the Students’ Union sent an email to all students informing them of the referendum and how they can register to campaign either for or against the proposals.
Included as a separate referendum question, students will at the same time be asked to vote on whether or not the Students’ Union should become an accredited Living Wage employer.
This vote was prompted by an online petition which attracted over 150 signatures.
Should the move be approved,the issue will be referred to the Union’s Trustees for their consideration.
Alex Ferguson & Daniel Green