Lancaster students in bid to take back power from ‘unaccountable’ board of trustees

Lancaster University students’ trust in the institutions of their university and union is “at an all time low”, according to a motion due to be heard tonight, Monday October 28.

By Nick Lakin
Monday, 28th October 2019, 3:54 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th October 2019, 9:15 am
Lancaster University entrance
Lancaster University entrance

In a ‘Motion for Approval on Union Democratisation’ students and Lancaster City Councillors Oliver Robinson, and Jack O’Dwyer Henry, say that the management of Lancaster University has intentionally dismantled its internal structures of democratic representation and accountability.

The motion states that in 2019, the university “took steps to curb and almost eliminate the right to free assembly and the right to protest on campus” with the introduction of a revised Code of Conduct on Protests.

Lancaster University has been contacted for comment.

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It also outlines how Lancaster University Students’ Union (LUSU) abolished various positions including:

In 2016, this Union abolished its own Council;

In 2016, this Union abolished the positions of elected student trustees;

In 2018, the University abolished the University Court;

In 2018, the positions of non-academic staff representative, Lancaster City Council representative, and directly elected student representative were abolished from the University Council;

In 2019, the University took steps to curb and almost eliminate the right to free assembly and the right to protest on campus with the introduction of a revised Code of Conduct on Protests;

In 2019, the handover of power between FTO teams was done poorly such that major decisions of the previous FTO team were not fully elucidated to the current

FTO team (see: sponsorship of Aparto);

The motion states that many of these major constitutional changes have been implemented without the democratic consent of the student body.

The motion is due to be heard at LUSU’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the university at 6.30pm on October 28.

It instructs the trustee board and executive committee to agree that:

The management of the University has intentionally dismantled its internal structures of democratic representation and accountability;

Students’ trust in the institutions of their University and Students’ Union is at an all time low;

Consistently poor decision-making could have been averted in many cases by greater democratic oversight and engagement with the will of the student body;

The Board of Trustees has far too much power over the direction of the Union and is entirely unaccountable;

Our Full-time officers should be given greater executive power within the structures of the Union as the representatives of the Student Body, and in turn be held accountable for the decisions that they make, rather than being stuck within arcane bureaucratic procedures;

Trust in the institutions can only be re-established alongside a re-establishment of the recently dismantled democratic structures;

The Union’s Trustee Board should be completely elected;

This Union resolves to:

Demand the University re-establish the University Court;

Demand the University restores non-academic staff and Lancaster City Council representation on the University Council;

Demand the University restores the directly elected student position on University Council;

Mandate and empower the Full-Time Officers to convene a Company Law meeting of the Trustee Board to amend the Articles of Association to implement a fully elected Trustee Board (consisting solely of the six Full-Time Officers, and five student trustees, at least two of whom must be elected from, by and for post-graduate students);

Convene a constitutional convention to which any student can contribute, to review and propose amendments to the Union’s Articles of Association and byelaws, with the intent of radically democratising every aspect of the Union and its work, including the re-establishment of the Union Council and the introduction of participatory budgeting;

Instruct and empower its Full-Time Officers to focus on doing everything in their power to achieve the reforms of the University and Students’ Union as set out in this motion.

A spokeswoman for Lancaster University said: “Following a thorough review of the effectiveness of the Lancaster University Court meeting, University Council approved that the Court is replaced with an annual meeting of stakeholders in the form of an annual public meeting. The first of these, the Lancaster Exchange, took place in March 2019 with over 100 people attending from a broader range of stakeholders groups, including student groups, the general public, regional businesses, elected Councillors and local authorities, voluntary and community organisations, as well as external members of Court.

“The Lancaster Exchange provides an opportunity to widen the diversity of groups we have not traditionally reached through court membership and for attendees to engage more immediately in the development of the University and the contribution it can make to the renewal and growth of the local community and economy. Feedback from attendees was very positive.”