President's Update: Democracy Review

What is Royal Holloway Students' Union? Put simply, you are! The Students' Union is the formalised version of the Royal Holloway student body, and the amazing student movement on our campuses.

You are the heartbeat and the lifeblood of our Union as students, driving us to collective action and propelling us forward as we forge our vision for the future of Royal Holloway.

You are at the heart of the Students' Union, or at least you should be.

We've made big improvements over the last five years as your representative body - from revamping the academic rep system to holding elections online, to giving Medicine a complete refurb and facelift; from influencing the College's ethical investment policy, to securing equal printing credits for all students. Last week, we also saw a record breaking 28.4% voting in our annual SU Elections, where you had a say on who became your next student leaders, representatives and campaigners - but herein our problem starts to reveal itself.



What needs improvement?

28.4% of students engaging in who they want to entrust to be their representatives and lead the student body's agenda is an amazing, record-breaking turnout for a fifth consecutive year at RHSU, and is a strong turnout compared to the Students' Union sector. However, as the leader of the representative body of students, I obviously want as many, if not all, of our students involved in setting the direction of our Union.

The other mechanisms we have in place to help set the direction of the Union, are similarly not accessible to as many students as we'd like, with the existence of Councils, All Student Meetings and All Student Votes being largely historic - they are copied from other Students' Unions and there's nothing innovative about them. The current system of motions, AGMs and referenda on complex contemporary issues tends to polarise individuals to opposite sides of the debate, and only a small amount of students feel able to get involved in it and the ensuing campaigns.

What solutions are taking place?

Those responsible for presiding over the SU's democracy have been aware of this problem for some time now, with my predecessor Natasha Barrett collating the evidence and laying the groundwork for the independent, external review of our democracy, which I've been overseeing this year. Back in term one, we appointed Jim Dickinson as our external consultant to hold 1-2-1 interviews and focus groups with students, reps, committee members, Union staff and even the College Executive to get your views on our current setup, including opening up an online survey to all students.

Jim has analysed all of your comments, and we now have his final report. Check out the headline findings and the recommendations for improving our democracy below, and let us know what you think about the proposed big ideas for change. We’ll be out an about on campus from Monday 18 March to Wednesday 20 March in our bright yellow SU on Tour t-shirts to chat through the proposals with you and hear what you think about them. You can also let me know your thoughts by emailing me before 4pm on Wednesday 20 March. Myself and a steering group of SU staff and officers overseeing the democracy review will take them on board, as we prepare to hold a referendum in term three on whether to adopt a new SU constitution, which enacts these proposed changes.


Find out more about the Democracy Review

Clem Jones // President