Durham SU scraps referendum on democracy

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Durham Students’ Union has scrapped plans to hold a campus-wide referendum in Easter Term on a new model of democracy, “until a time when more radical changes are wanted by Durham students”.

The referendum would have asked students to accept or reject proposals to change the SU’s democratic makeup based on the findings of the ‘Democracy Review’, carried out by Durham SU and consultancy firm MiraGold.

Durham SU Opportunities Officer told Palatinate: “The democracy review is going to continue into next year. So far none of the solutions which the democracy review research has suggested necessitate a referendum. 

“Until a time when more radical changes are wanted by Durham students, it would be a waste of resources to hold a referendum.”.

The Democracy Review, which cost £7,000, was carried out to “inform the co-creation by students and the Students’ Union of new democratic structures, and the removal of old ones that aren’t fit for purpose” and to rebuild “trust and partnership with the student body”. It involved extensive student consultation, such as a survey of 1,000 Durham students. This followed a ‘democracy health check’, which cost £2,000. 

The subsequent report issued a series of recommendations, including a “complete overhaul of the communications strategy”, a “direct democracy model” and radical changes to Assembly.

Several proposals have since passed the SU Assembly, including the creation of several subcommittees to replace the existing Governance and Grants Committee, and the process by which motions are presented to Assembly. 

The Democracy Review came after SU elections last February, in which 58% of total votes cast were for Re-Open Nominations (RON). The SU subsequently decided to disqualify RON for campaign rules violations, with all RON votes deleted, including second and third preferences.

A third Democracy Review motion, which proposes a different composition for Assembly elections, has been delayed for two weeks.

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