Vote yes in the EUSA referendum to improve student representation

As I write, EUSA is giving its members the opportunity to change how it functions. As the elected representative for a notoriously unengaged school (Physics), I’d like to give my opinion on the major and more controversial changes.

I immediately supported the addition of a new Vice President Welfare. Students at King’s Buildings have a heavy work load, which can often lead to high levels of stress. It would be nice to have a full-time officer that is fully focused on supporting our mental health and wellbeing perhaps by pushing for shorter waiting times at the Counselling Service or making Wednesday afternoons completely free for sport and relaxation.

Interestingly, the most controversial issues seem to be those that will affect Student Council. For those who don’t know, this is a monthly meeting where students submit and vote on actions for EUSA to take forward.

A surprisingly contentious point is that elected representatives (often representing thousands of students) will get a 1.5x weighted vote. In other words, pittance, especially when representatives at student council are often vastly outnumbered by select groups who come to vote for particular motions. As a school representative, I spoke against what has become known as the “arms motion”, whose ultimate aim was to ban arms companies from careers fairs. There was however, little understanding of how it would actually affect STEM students at this university. As a representative for such people, I had no power to do anything other than speak.

It’s all well and good to say “students could have come and voted”, but let’s be honest, they don’t and until the attitude to politics at King’s Buildings changes, they likely never will. Quite frankly, most people have work to do when student council is on, or are taking a well-deserved break. At the moment, decisions made on behalf of 35,000 students are too often swayed by the ability of select groups of politically motivated students to ‘pack the room’ on particular votes. This needs to change.

The weighted voting also makes a lot of sense in the context of the new system, where contentious issues that receive between 33% and 67% of the vote at Student Council will go to campus-wide online vote. This means that elected reps could push the more controversial issues to an online vote, making it easier for students from satellite campuses (like KB and Little France) to have their say.

The fear that there will be ‘too many referendums’ is also unfounded. This year, only two motions would have gone to online referendum – the “arms motion” and the approval of the Israel Engagement Society. Two important decisions that should have involved students who couldn’t make it to Student Council.

EUSA isn’t perfect, it still needs to involve more people from different campuses and more diverse socio-economic backgrounds. But this referendum presents a clear chance to make EUSA better and more representative of a majority of students, not just a select few. That’s why I will be voting ‘Yes’ to question 1.

Image: Jon Vrushi

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