Disillusioned with democracy

More specifically student democracy, but there are wider implications too. First of all the Dutch MP was banned. Then when Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church were supposed to be coming over, they got banned. I don’t agree with these people, but what the hell happened to free speech?

Anywho last week was the EUSA AGM. I always make sure I’m at these meetings and stay to the end, but this time I was in London for the AHS Launch, so instead I encouraged everyone I knew to go to kind of make up for it. Attendance is particularly important because in order for any decision to be binding, 300 people are required to vote in favour of it, or a 2/3 majority, whichever is higher ( 300 is always higher because we never get anything like 450 people). Since I’ve been here we’ve struggled to get those 300 people. And this particular AGM was really important because one of the motions was to allow referenda to take place over the internet, which would mean we’d never need the 300 people again. Out of something like 25,000 students, this should not be difficult. I got back from London and didn’t hear anything about it, so assumed that it went off without a hitch.

Then the Student paper came out and the headline was “Apathy mars General Meeting”. 180 people showed up to the meeting! Out of 25,000 students! So nothing whatsoever got passed with the numbers needed, instead it was just “the will of the students”, which effectively means nothing. I was thoroughly depressed. A few pages in was more bad news for democracy. The EUSA elections are coming up and a large number of the positions on the SRC have either not been applied for at all (!) or have only one candidate and will return uncontested. Ridiculous! What’s more, some of the sabbatical positions have only had 2 nominations! These are well paid positions which involve taking a year out of uni and vastly improving your job prospects upon graduation, there should be a queue to nominate.

And then, to cap things all off, the Christian Union tabled an amendment a week or so ago which would mean only people who could sign a declaration of faith would be able to join the society. The declaration reads:

In joining the Union I declare my faith in Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord, and I shall seek both in my life and in thought to be ruled by the teaching of the Bible.

This goes explicitly against EUSA rules which state that membership should be open to all students of the university. So I let them know my objection and in coordination with EUSA, they changed it so that anyone could join, but only people who sign the declaration can vote on governance issues. Obviously this is far from democratic, only certain people are allowed to vote? It’s blatant discrimination on religious grounds, surely? So I replied and complained again, this time also to Naomi Hunter, VPSA, saying that the new amendment may fit the wording of the EUSA constitution, but certainly not the spirit. ‘Sure, you can join the society and pay your membership, but you can’t have a say in what goes on, you’re not a Christian!’ Brilliant. What happened to one member one vote? Redefining what a member is in order to slide around the EUSA constitution is unacceptable, and EUSA say it’s fine. So I’m pissed off.

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4 Responses to Disillusioned with democracy

  1. Norman says:

    I feel your pain in this matter. At Leeds the CU have managed to continue their Christian (and their brand of Christianity only!) membership policy and the Islamic Society will let anyone join but only let those that sign the statement of faith vote or stand for committee.

  2. AlexMagd says:

    At Oxford not only do you have to sign a nifty little statement of faith to be in the CU, anyone coming to *speak* to them has to as well. I just think that’s insane, especially as it’s a particular evangelical form of Christianity that you have to sign up for, as I’m sure it is in Leeds

  3. Josiah says:

    In all fairness the few people who would not sign such a declaration do not want to be members of CU’s before there’s such a clause because their aims are openly evangelical and if you’re a member you’re tacitly supposed to have agreed with the society’s aims. The aims of the CU’s go further than even having to affirm belief in Jesus or the Bible’s teachings.

    It is legally accepted in this country for societies to have membership requirements, so only people who agree with the aims of the Labour Party can join and vote. The CU’s are merely asserting these rights they have, which is fair enough. They’re doing no harm, and there are better causes for us to fight surely?

  4. grammarking says:

    There are plenty of people who identify as Christians and would be unable to conscientiously sign this declaration.

    But that’s irrelevant! They shouldn’t be allowed to bend the rules and redefine what a member is. What else is a member if not someone who can vote at the society AGM? The amendment will make it so that someone can join, pay their membership and not get any of the associated benefits. It is deeply undemocratic to decide who can and can’t vote. Clearly it is also the beginning of a slippery slope.

    They are only being allowed to do this because of religious privilege. If the Geology Society decided you couldn’t vote unless you attained over 50% in the geosciences course, they wouldn’t be allowed.

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