SU backs down on proposal to appoint trustees

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The Board of Trustees of Durham SU has announced that its student trustees will be elected in February 2021, after facing criticism for proposing to replace them with appointed “student leaders”.

All four student trustees resigned last year following SU elections, in which 58% of votes were cast for Re-Open Nominations (RON), and later disqualified amidst alleged campaign rule violations by “a member of the campaign team” for the RON option.

Early last month, the SU proposed to fill the vacant positions by a panel of the Board inviting certain student leaders to join as voting members on Committees. However, in a report on behalf of the Board of Trustees to Assembly, the SU’s forum for student representatives, Opportunities Officer revealed that elections for student trustees would be held in February 2021, with no replacement measures in the interim period.

Asked why the elections could not be held this term, Marshall said: “Because this term we don’t have the capacity to be running elections without significant sacrifices in other key areas and next term we are working to a tight timeline to make sure we can run the elections in as fair as possible a process”.

In a post on the website in October, the SU had written that “It will be very difficult to hold another election in autumn 2020/2021 to fill these vacancies and we want to respond to the call from students to review the election process, including providing better information on the election process and role of a trustee.

“We will be working hard this term to get the election process right this year, and make sure that students have the best representation possible on the Durham SU Board.”

The post also argued that there was a precedent for its proposal, given that the Chair of Durham University Charities Committee (DUCK) was invited to serve on the Board’s fundraising committee last year.

A wide student consultation was launched, both with student leaders and in open meetings, to discuss the proposals before moving forward. The Board then decided not to move ahead with the plan, following a discussion and the outcome of student consultation.

One former trustee, who resigned after the RON controversy, told Palatinate: “I’m pretty happy with the decision and look forward to fulfilling my promise of rerunning”.

Image: Eloc Nehpets via Flickr

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