Following a recent article in the Soton Tab, there’s been some concern amongst students that SUSU are set to implement a policy whereby voting is based on your gender: men vote only for men, and women only for women. Wessex Scene talked with VP Democracy and Creative Industries David Martin to see what SUSU’s stance was on the rumoured policy.
Wessex Scene: Could you start by maybe explaining a little more about the background of the motion?
David Martin: So at the AGM, there was a motion proposed regarding Leadership and Representation, which detailed how we deal with some of our elections. We planned to do a survey to work out why women were less engaged, running workshops, and another idea was to mandate that we have equal numbers of male and female positions. This was all at the AGM that happened in May, and the policy was passed in May. One of the things I was mandated to do in my role was to make sure we had policy to actually implement this, so we had to put some procedures in place to actually implement it. We were going to have a democracy meeting, but it got cancelled and postponed to a later date because we don’t have enough voting members at this time.
There are only three people officially on the committee, and that won’t get changed until Union Council. But essentially what we had there were a number of policies on how we would implement the mandate from the motion. One of the ideas proposed was that we would have males only voting for males and females for females. It was a case of looking at all the options available to us, but that’s not the way it’s going to be. One of the main other ones we could do would be to have set positions for males and females. That’s essentially the way we would have to do it. A 50/50 male female split, but voting would be free and open to everyone.
One of the ideas proposed was that we would have males only voting for males and females for females. It was a case of looking at all the options available to us, but that’s not the way it’s going to be.David Martin
WS: So the gender voting idea won’t be implemented?
DM: No. The 50% male and 50% female measure is the one that will affect Union Council.
WS: And none of this will affect societies?
DM: No, it’s purely for Union Council. Union Councillors are supposed to be reflective, it’s a representative position, so we’re trying to represent as many students as we can.
WS: Are there going to be further changes towards making Union Council representative then?
DM: There are already international positions too, but there’s a lot of work to be done. There are no LGBT positions, for example, so we’re planning to work with Union Councillors in terms of reflecting the wider group of people here at the university.
WS: Why are the issues surrounding the ‘gender voting’ only coming out of the woodwork now?
DM: It’s not a sudden thing. This was done in May, it was passed in May. We’ve been mandated to implement the policy, it’s not a recent thing. There were a number of articles written about the motion at the time. It’s all come up again in light of us trying to find a way to implement the policy. Out of the discussions came this notion of the gender voting, and it’s probably not going to happen.
WS: Probably not or definitely not?
DM: Definitely not. What we’re proposing is having female positions, and if nobody runs for them then they remain vacant. You have to have specific positions, there’s no other way around it.
WS: There was a lot of opposition to the parts of the motion regarding positions based on gender at the time. Some people felt it was the worst way to force SUSU into being representative, and that people should be voted in on merit instead. Something needs to be done to make the Union more representative, but do you feel this is the right way to do it?
DM: I think that there are a number of different ways people feel that they can get involved in the Union, and there are multiple causes for the imbalance. You need to look at the grass-roots problems about why people aren’t going the step further to run in elections. Time will tell whether this will work or not: we’re always looking to evaluate whether or current policies work or not.