While the Students’ Union’s attempts to be seen as a fully democratic and representative body is commendable, I can’t help but feel as though the Union is misdirecting its energy on trying to push through these particular reforms.
The democratic shortcomings of the Students’ Union will not be solved by changing the titles we give to our six Full-time Officers, but with the implementation of serious, well-thought-out and considered reform.
The speed at which these current proposals are being put to the vote will only confuse the situation and will ‘muddy the waters’ even further in regard to the roles of the Full-time Officers (roles which students find very difficult to define as it is!).
The current part-time positions, under the proposed system, would be replaced by ‘liberation’ officers.
Although well intended, this reform is made completely redundant by the fact that minorities are already fully represented within the Students’ Union through the Student Rep scheme.
This ‘promotion’ of some minorities to Part-time Officer positions (i.e. LGBTQ students’, women students’, BME students’ and disabled students’ representatives), and not others (such as international students’, mature students’ and part-time students’ representatives) gives some minority groups an unfair priority over others in terms of representation.
With regard to the title of President, this too is a hollow reform. This proposal is an echo of other universities’ arguments that the title of ‘Union Affairs’ would encourage more female students to apply for the position.
However, this argument is lacking in evidence and is not relevant to Sussex, as recently we have had a number of female candidates run for the role (indeed, at least two female students have already contacted the SU expressing interest in running for President in March).