“Constitutional crisis” at ULU

By Ben Wilson


Outrage has been sparked recently in a furore surrounding the upcoming University of London Union elections, with regards to the position of the Union’s Trustee Board.


A statement posted on the ULU website claims that “ULU Senate has passed constitutional changes to make ULU more democratic and accountable. We have restructured the Trustee Board to clarify the roles of externals and student trustees and relationship between Board and Senate. Externals have the right to attend all meetings of the Board to advise but cannot vote.”


It goes on to say that “student trustees will now be elected as 4 Officer roles, rather than as blank open roles, giving them increased seniority. General Meetings and Referenda are now easier to call and have a lower quorum”, and that “It should be noted however that any changes to the ULU Constitution need to be passed by the University of London Board of Trustees.”


Many are already questioning the move’s constitutional legitimacy, with a collective of students from several colleges sending an open letter to the University of London’s relevant authorities casting aspersions on the validity of the ULU elections.


The letter, signed by members of the KCL, UCL, LSE, Birkbeck and Royal Holloway student communities, argues that changes are unlawful for several key reasons.


Primarily it states that, according to the ULU code of practice, the Senate is a subordinate body to the Board of Trustees, that the constitution, regulations and code of practice have not been updated to reflect the changes, that the minutes of the ULU Senate meeting in which the resolution was passed remain unpublished, and that there has not been any form of consultation with a student body. It also draws attention to what has been perceived by its co-signees as “inappropriate haste” in pushing the measures through.


It goes on to call for “the eight unlawful positions to be cancelled, the constitutional structure of powers to be restored and for the Vice-Chancellor to put together a committee of senior administrators to report to the student body how this constitutional crisis arose, and how it can be prevented from happening again”, while also suggesting that “during 2013 the University commences a proper consultation on the effectiveness of ULU governance structures and services.”


While the elections are still scheduled to take place as expected, this issue has once again called into question just how democratic certain areas of student politics actually are. With only 26 attendees present at last November’s ULU Presidential By-Election hustings (less than 0.01% of the electoral body) and the Inanimate Carbon Rod quickly becoming a serious contender in the upcoming NUS presidential elections, it seems that student opinion is currently swinging between either apathy and outright antagonism. And can anyone blame them?

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