Amy Fox

Writer. Editor. Feminist knitting designer.

Concrete: New Union constitution to improve student democracy

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Union Council has approved the first draft of the Union of UEA Students’ (UUEAS) new constitution, which will allow students more say in how the union is run.

The constitution must be reviewed every five years by the union. If approved by the university on 20 May, the most significant change will be the transferal of policies which were previously part of the constitution to by-laws, making them more easily changed and contested by students.

The by-laws which directly affect students include society constitutions and codes of conduct for socials, including the advice “Don’t get too carried away … If the police are speaking to you relating to your behaviour you have gone way too far”, and the rules “Do not urinate, defecate or vomit anywhere apart from in a toilet!” and “Do not carry out ‘initiation’ ceremonies”.

Policy dictating the procedure for complaints about union services, including societies and clubs will also be easier to change, as well as disciplinary procedures such as the ability to suspend clubs and societies.

The by-laws also include information regarding the union’s budget; equal opportunities policies and commitment to campaigns; the aims of commercial services such as the bar and Union shops; the job descriptions of union officers; the campaign and voting processes for union elections; and staff protocol rules.

These rules currently prevent student employees from raising issues relating to their employment in any union meetings, and restrict staff from being involved in the process of government, or discussing policy and employment issues with student media. Staff protocol also prevents student media such as Concrete, Livewire and UEA:TV from discussing the responsibilities, conditions of employment, performance or conduct of members of staff, other than the elected student officers.

The by-laws also contain information regarding the union’s strategic plan, which includes the aim “To be the best students’ union in the country”.

Previously, as these regulations were included in the constitution, any changes which students wished to make would require a two-thirds majority at union council, as well as the approval of the UUEAS board of trustees and the university council. As by-laws, students will be able to change these policies without involvement from the university.

If approved, UUEAS will also be the only student union with a gender-neutral constitution.

The union’s Communications officer Matthew Myles said: “The new changes are really exciting, as they give students the ability to run the Union. It will be a great boost to the level of input students can have in the democratic process.

“It has been months of hard work for the student officers, so we’re really pleased with the results. Hopefully the university will agree with the proposal on 20 May.”

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