By Luke Power
University College’s Junior Common Room has disaffiliated from the Students’ Union after a vote yesterday, 15 April. With a turnout of 22.2%, 195 JCR members voted in favour of the motion, with 18 voting against it and eight abstaining.
The motion was proposed in light of last month’s announcement that the SU had disqualified RON from each election after a campaign led to 58% of first-preference votes being cast for RON.
Disaffiliation was also proposed due to the belief that some incumbent officers and trustees had endorsed particular candidates.
Castle JCR believes that this equates to “election rigging” and “provides sufficient evidence that the DSU is institutionally undemocratic”.
Disaffiliation means that Castle JCR “no longer respects the DSU’s authority to represent it in any matters.’
Disaffiliation also means that the college will no longer promote DSU events.
Disaffiliation does not cut off Castle JCR members from buildings, societies and services provided by the SU. Students at the college will still be able to use Nightline and participate in DUCK expeditions, for example.
On a political level, the college retains its vote in SU assembly meetings. The only way that this would be lost is if the college one day voted to go a step further and disassociate from the SU.
Part of the disaffiliation’s aim is to pressure the SU to change their standing orders to increase JCR voting representation in assembly meetings. Currently, JCRs hold 40% of the voting seats, while DSU representatives hold 60%.
Castle JCR has proposed that JCRs should hold at least 50% of seats. Theoretically, this would make JCR motions easier to pass and could lead to JCRs receiving more resources.
One Castle student said that: “The 88% support in the vote clearly shows that whether you voted RON or not, the SU has behaved outrageously in cancelling votes.
“Everything students know is done through the Castle Executive Committee, and we absolutely trust them to represent us to the University much more than those at the Students’ Union. After all, we elected our exec.”
On 13 March, the five successful Student Officer candidates published a joint statement to say that they, too, were “appalled” at how the SU had handled the elections and demanded a public apology.
Anna Marshall, who received 1709 votes for the role of Opportunities Officer, told Palatinate today: “The current format of democracy in Durham is not working: that is clear.
“Although I do not take up my role until August, I have already been talking to an independent advisor who specialises in student governance and am seeking a solution to the concerns which have led to Castle’s decision.
“I fully understand the decision from University College to abstain from the SU, but this only underlines the urgency of creating a better system.”
University College JCR are not the first Common Room to disaffiliate from the SU. On March 21, Hild Bede Student Representative Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of disaffiliation. Trevelyan College’s JCR President also mentioned plans to “investigate options and processes to disaffiliate” from the SU last month.
Image: Durham University