By Lewis Hutchinson
Warwick SU’s Student Council have this week approved a motion to lower quorum, the proportion of the student population who must vote at an All Student Meeting (ASM) for a motion to pass, to 2%. This comes despite a democracy review forwarded by former Democracy and Development Officer Olly Rice only last term which raised quorum to 5%. At the time, Mr Rice told The Boar: ‘I think it’s incredibly healthy, and not unreasonable, to have a quorum of 5%. If a policy is truly necessary then I expect that those campaigning for it will do more than just see it through council and rely on passing at an ASM.’
Only a term on from this, however, an emergency motion – not on the original agenda for the Student Council meeting – was forwarded by Democracy Executive Chair Marie Dams, and passed by 8 votes to 2, with 2 abstentions. If precedent of last term’s quorum adjustment is followed, it now faces scrutiny from the Board of Trustees before becoming SU policy. Warwick’s student body will not be allowed a chance to vote on the matter at an ASM.
This comes ahead of the academic year’s first ASM, in which controversial motions such as a boycott of the National Student Survey (NSS) are to be debated and voted upon. Indeed, this motion has received the backing of Warwick for Free Education (WFFE), an organisation which has recently affiliated to the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts who are themselves committed to enacting this boycott nationwide.
It was believed that last term’s raise in quorum, if applied retrospectively, would have prevented around 85% of SU motions becoming policy, such was the sparsity of interest from the wider student body. With quorum now set to once again fall, motions such as the boycott of the NSS will likely be passed far easier. Interestingly, Marie Dams – the emergency motion’s proposer – is a supporter of Warwick for Free Education, who also enjoy the backing of other council members such as President Luke Pilot, Postgraduate Officer Nat Panda and Education Officer Hope Worsdale. WFFE remain a ‘separate’ entity to the SU despite a £400 grant this academic year.
Sam Carter, the University of Warwick Conservative Association’s Deputy Chairman Political has said: ‘This is a blatant conflict of interests case. Dams supports a motion unlikely to receive near 5% backing at an ASM, and has used her position as Democracy Executive Chair to alter SU policy to the organisation she support’s benefit.’ Alexandra Bevis, the Association’s Chairman, added: ‘It’s remarkable that the SU are acting with such contempt for democracy. I feel that the SU made strides forward raising quorum last year, and the hard, considered work of last year’s officers and executives is being quickly undone, to the detriment of the wider student populous.’
A petition has now been started in opposition to the lowering of quorum, it can be found here.
This article will be updated with the latest information and comments as they reach us.