subtext spent a large amount of the 15/16 academic year remonstrating with the Students’ Union and advising it not to implement its ‘democratic review’, an initiative which involved LUSU reviewing democracy and deciding it wasn’t very good. LUSU subsequently abolished its council, and handed all of its power to two bodies. First, its executive committee, whose membership is unknown and whose minutes have not been published in two years. Second, a ‘student jury’, which had its deliberations published once about eighteen months ago and may well have met every day since then for all we know. The new model has been effective – the SU seems not to have taken a discernible stance on any politically charged issue since the new system came into being (if it has, it certainly hasn’t been rushing to tell us). A stark contrast to the old system, in which the SU had a large representative council consisting of officers representing a diverse range of students which met every two weeks, voted on policy, and routinely uploaded its minutes, agendas, and copies of policies it had both passed and rejected.
It was not hard to predict (and we did) that the new democratic system would be the unmitigated failure it has proven to be, and would drastically reduce transparency, but we were somewhat heartened by the creation of a ‘Scrutiny Panel’ (see subtext 155) – a truly independent body which would hold LUSU to account. Its members were to be appointed by LUSU officers rather than elected by the student body. Yes – LUSU officers hand picked who would scrutinise them, and no we aren’t making this up! So, surely the robustly critical Scrutiny Panel has by now taken LUSU to task over its complete lack of transparency, right?
You’d think so, but according to SCAN, the Scrutiny Panel has yet to meet this academic year! One former member of the panel, who resigned in disgust, fumed to SCAN that they had been ‘appointed to, rather than elected to’ the body. ‘Nobody has heard of it and it produces a report that nobody reads. It is a scandal that the Full Time Officers are allowed to do nothing at our expense with no scrutiny,’ they went on to say.
In the same report, LUSU defended itself: ‘getting a group of students in the room at the same time can prove difficult.’ It can? Seminar tutors may sympathise, but if LUSU hasn’t been able to get eight people into a room in five months, then no wonder it’s having such difficulty taking a stance on anything. LUSU goes on: ‘at the Annual General Meeting […] students will have the opportunity to hold all officers accountable.’ This is the same AGM that the 15/16 LUSU officers denounced as unfit for purpose, and that subtext pointed out was never going to reach quoracy if its agenda was focused on tedious bureaucracy. No doubt a robust discussion on a Scrutiny Panel that ‘nobody has heard of’ producing ‘a report that nobody reads’ is sure to have LUSU’s next AGM bursting at the seams.
Even when the Scrutiny Panel was actually meeting, the ‘scrutiny’ was somewhat less than comprehensive. subtext has learned that a typical meeting involved LUSU officers submitting a questionnaire (written by LUSU staff) to the Scrutiny Panel, who would rate their answers on a scale of ‘Needs Improvement’ to ‘Outstanding’, along with supporting comments which were largely positive due to the majority of the panel being friends with and appointed by the LUSU Officers. No wonder a meeting hasn’t been held all year, if this is the sort of ruthless pillorying that officers have to live in fear of.
Readers may agree that LUSU should be held to a high standard. That it failed to meet such a standard only affirms our belief that its democratic review has proven to be a disaster not only for the SU, but for the interests of students at this University as a whole.