SU motion proposing “substantial changes” to Assembly rejected

By Emily Lipscombe and Tiffany Chan

A motion proposed by the Durham Student Union’s (DSU) Opportunities Officer Jack Ballingham, to change how SU College representatives are elected, was rejected in last Thursday’s SU Assembly meeting.

Described by the Assembly’s own proposal document as “substantial changes” the proposals would have SU representatives be elected directly by colleges instead of selection through college room committees, such as JCRs and MCRs. Other changes tabled included the addition of student representatives from each of the University’s academic faculties, engagement in each of the student group areas and the introduction of student leaders from the University Enrichment Department.

After over an hour of discussion and debates about the motion, it was rejected by 17 votes to 7. A similar motion was proposed to an inquorate meeting last year with a different outcome; according to Ballingham it was passed “only by a narrow majority” but “generated some dissent”.

A was made by the Chair of the SU Reps Committee, Aalaina Khan, regarding the circulation of amendment papers only 24 hours before the Assembly was due to start. She felt this did not give the committee sufficient time to discuss the amendments. Khan thus proposed a procedural motion to discuss this motion during the next Assembly, but this was also rejected.

Ballingham accepted two ‘friendly amendments’ – which meant that they automatically became part of the motion. The first was to change the Chair of Assembly election from a cross-campus ballot to one among Assembly members. The second amendment removed the section of the motion referring to the election methods for different positions, including college reps.

Ballingham told Palatinate that he accepted the second amendment “to remove the issue of JCRs conducting elections to a future Assembly meeting so that it could be properly addressed and wouldn’t confuse discussion on the rest of the motion”. He stated that “I don’t have any control over that change”. Ballingham has clarified on social media and during Assembly that legal changes such as the election of Assembly reps are in the hands of the SU trustees.

The motion was meant to be the third and final part of the SU’s Democracy Review project, which was initiated in the 2020-21 academic year following calls for drastic reforms to the SU’s democratic structures. The first two parts of the Democracy Review have changed how the Assembly is run, and its subcommittees.

“I’ll take on board the criticisms made by Assembly and I’ll make the necessary consultations with students”


Speaking to Palatinate following the rejection of his proposed motion, Ballingham acknowledged that while the decision would “delay” the progress of the Democracy Review, “the Review will be implemented, it’s just a case of reaching a conclusion that everyone can agree with”.

Regarding the previous changes proposed in the Democracy Review already approved by the Assembly, Ballingham said “we’ll still be bringing new standing orders to Assembly to implement these, aiming for the redesigned Assembly to operate from the start of the next academic year”.

After Thursday’s feedback on the Democracy Review’s rejected motion, Ballingham told Palatinate that he was “grateful” to the members of Assembly, and that going forward he would “take on board the criticisms made” and “make the necessary consultations with students before drafting another model of membership for Assembly to be presented at a meeting in the near future”.

When asked to clarify confusion over the intended role of students in electing college representatives under the proposals, Ballingham emphasised that while there had been some claims that “students from one college would have a say on another’s representative”, this was not what the motion had proposed and “won’t be the case in any future model of Assembly”.

The DSU Opportunities Officer stressed the continued importance of every college having its own representative, with the same principle applying to academic representatives.

Ballingham also cleared the misunderstanding that the motion to make the election process independent of JCRs was his own “personal preference”. He told Palatinate, “That isn’t the case. As I’ve said elsewhere, it’s a legal and governance decision that’s out of my control”.

Image : Tom Page via Flickr and Creative Commmons

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