Want to end the infighting? Embrace a more consensual system in the guild of students.

Earlier today a secret Facebook group called the “silent majority” was exposed publically. The group was organizational forum, for those opposing the “left” on campus. The content has revealed just how polarized student politics on campus has become and will continue to be, unless a more consensual system is embraced.

During my time at university the guild has become increasing based less on the politics of consensus and more on the politics of domination. We have developed a very blunt system of governance. We shouldn’t forget that politics of majority rule, which we now use, are not very different from different sides lining up on two sides of room to see who would win in a fight.

Generating consensus

large democratic forums, which everyone can attend are not just for the sake of democracy but because regular meetings like guild council will help us educate each other over time. Many student unions still meet as regularly as weekly or fortnightly for large general meetings like guild council. Unless we return to these large regular meetings we will continue with the development of polarized cliques battling each other for majority control. If guild council stays as irregular as it is, it will simply become the home of a rare opportunity for our groups to score political points.

Build a healthy balanced politics in the guild

The guild has lost a body that provides a practical power balance between groups. Guild officer group which now has no powers and meets twice a term used to be this forum. Guild officer group contains, the sabbatical and non-sabbatical officers. Essentially it contains representatives from all the distinct political groups in the guild. This group used to be the highest executive body, now it was replaced by the sabbatical officer group, which has all of its former powers and meets weekly in its place.

The sabbatical officer group cannot give the same practical balance to guild politics as its seven positions are elected in blunt majority wins elections. It is far too easy for one faction to simply take control of a majority on sabbatical officer group. Unless we return to having a more diverse and inclusive executive that is better balanced, we will see groups continuing to pursue strategies of domination, as domination is achievable. Bring back the guild officer group would mean that decisions require a wider consensus, than a simple majority of sabbaticals, only four people.

Officer disciplinary policy, don’t bring a gun to the peace talks.

 The officer disciplinary policy has formed the core of the complete breakdown and total polarization this year. This year for the first time, just as I started office this policy gave the power to one person, the president, to suspend any officer they wished. The current proposal that went to guild council last week proposes that a simple majority on the sabbatical officer team is enough to suspend someone.

The problem is here is that we have created a guild with power vested into a small executive, the sabbatical officer team. Wider groups have all their “power” vested therefore almost entirely the in sabbatical officer team, when you suspend an officer it is going to be enormously contentious as you attack not just the officer but the entire faction they represent. Just the notion that one faction can expel the other side from the executive by a simple majority vote is enormously destructive to mutual trust and understanding being built up. Further it is not just enormously destructive between the officer team but also for wider groups as discussions on its use involve the wider groups, who are building up increasing distrust of each overs maneuvers.

We need an officer disciplinary policy that operates on a wider consensus and is not so easy to press the “red button” of suspension. If we don’t do this it is going to be enormously hard to generate a less polarized politics with a gun remaining on table.

 What we need to end polarization

 Return of general meetings and return to regular guild councils. So we again can have a wider forum from which we can build towards a united student union. A union that can effectively fight for everyone.

Sabbatical officer group to be replaced with guild officer group. so that the politics of the guild represent a more diverse range of voices, ushering out majority rule and in a more consensual politics.

An officer disciplinary committee elected from guild council, that requires a vote of 2/3 majority. So that it is students holding offices to account based on a consensus. With the “guns” put away we can build trust beetween groups.

We must do this and more not just for the sake of a union that is better able to fight but, further because this enormously confrontational political system is incredibly disempowering to any group who for complex reasons is suppressed by society. A more consensual and open system will hopefully help end the continued white male dominated union.

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