Democracy Officer wants lower turnout threshold for union meetings

On 11 October, at the most recent general assembly of SU UCL (not, under any circumstances, to be called ‘suckle’ -ed.), Democracy, Operations and Community officer Mahmud Rahman unveiled a package of proposed reforms to the way the Union operates. One of these in particular, the lowering of quoracy requirements for general assemblies, has caught the attention of The Cheese Grater.

Quoracy has long been a thorn in the side of Union busybodies. Of the approximately 37,000 SU members, at least 2% (slightly fewer than 800) must be present for a General Assembly where binding votes may take place. This is one of the highest figures required for quoracy of any British students’ union.

But, this is only because of a typo. In an early draft of the Union’s Articles of Association, written in 2011, quoracy was set at 2%. Meant to be changed to 0.5%, the Articles were inadvertently approved before the number could be altered.

Keen observers of SU meetings over the last seven years (looking at you Ben Towse xoxo) will be aware that the minutes from the 2011 General Meeting are yet to be approved, as no meeting since then has been quorate. The new proposal would reduce the required number to only 1% of members, or 200 (whichever figure is greater). Manchester University SU, with its student population of 40,000, permits an AGM with only 50 voting members.

The arguments for lowering the requirement for quoracy are clear: increasing the efficiency of meetings, getting things done, and being able to start a general assembly without referring to the minutes of a meeting held almost a decade ago.

But the move would carry serious drawbacks. For one, a significant reduction in the number of people required to make a meeting quorate would enable larger societies to stack a meeting with their members, and force through motions.

As one might imagine, there were too few people present at the meeting on the 11th for these measures to be debated. Instead, they were forwarded for discussion at a meeting of the Union Council on 30 October.

The changes would place the onus for safeguarding Union democracy on eager, independent-minded students, interested in the intricacies of SU UCL’s democratic processes (what, only us?).

However, given the turnout of the last attempted general meeting (which hovered stubbornly around the mid-twenties), the potential impact of a change like this is clear.

Peter Daniels and Peter FitzSimons

This article appeared in CG Issue 63.