OUSU council to vet motions

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Students may no longer be able to propose motions directly to OUSU Council if plans for radical reforms to the decision-making structure go ahead.

OUSU plans to ensure that all student motions are directed through a sub-committee which will be able to discuss and amend the proposal.

Currently, any two students can propose a motion directly to Council, which meets on alternate Fridays, where it will be discussed, amended, and voted on.

If the suggested changes are carried out, then all motions will have to go through the subcommittee unless they can gather 50 signatures.

The Review group states: “Experience in recent years shows that this has frequently led to incoherent and contradictory policies being passed that can be potentially damaging for the Student Union.”

OUSU President Martin McCluskey said that this will help give OUSU the “robust decision-making process” demanded by the government’s 2006 Charities Act.

He added that the current system of proposing a motion to a full council can be “terrifying” for students.  He added that the process of amendment by sub-committees would also mean that motions are “really well thought-out”, and that block voting in Council would be less likely.

He was keen to emphasise, “None [of the committees] are meeting behind closed doors.”

However James Dray, an ex-Returning Officer for OUSU, opposed the changes.  He said, “I do not think that it is in the interests of democracy to have apparatchiks deciding what can and cannot be voted on.”

He added, “These committees are likely to be dominated by hacks who are going to be even more intimidating in small meeting room in the bowels of OUSU towers than they are in Council.”

Worcester JCR President, Maanas Jain, reacted positively to the change, saying, “The time we have in council would be more effective.” He added that the democratic aspect was not being removed in any way.

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An OUSU rep, who asked to remain anonymous, also said he was fully in support of the changes. He added that it would help “stop OUSU being bickering amongst people who don’t agree.”

Stefan Baskerville, the JCR President of Univ, argued, “OUSU Council is currently inaccessible and seen as out of touch, ” and that the proposals would be “an improvement on the status quo.”

It is currently thought that while anyone can currently bring a motion direct to OUSU Council the vast majority of motions are brought by OUSU Sabbatical officers.

Joe Mullan, the JCR President at St Peter’s College, said, “Some change is definitely required – as the current Council system does not work. It’s almost certain that the proposed new system will substantially increase policy coherence, something which is really needed.

“The changes will encourage more people to become involved in thepolicy making process by bypassing the need for them to have to make their case to Council, which can be quite intimidating for first time speakers.”

OUSU Council will not, however, have the power to amend motions, though it can make recommendations.