officer blog


hamish williams

campaigns & democracy

democracy discussions: what's the beef with our decision making processes?

Have we mooooved on yet?

It's finally come round to give a quick update on our decision making processes and how this has affected the issue of beef. Both policies that were passed last semester have now been overturned by the trustee board due to the financial risk associated with it.

How is a decision made, I hear you ask?

1.   A motion is created which has support from a proposer and seconder (both are members of Union Council). These individuals write a series of facts, beliefs and what they would like to see as a result of the motion.

2.   The motion has to go to the Democratic Procedures Committee to ensure that they meet the requirements to be added to the Council agenda.

  • Has a seconder and proposer
  • Clear to understand
  • Has a summary
  • States that it is a by-law amendment if it proposes to change the by-laws

3.   The motion then gets added to the agenda and is send out 4 days before with the ability for Union Councillors to submit any amendments to policy which can be accepted in advance of Union Council or debated at the meeting.

4.   The motion is then debated at Union Council following the Chair overseeing the structure below:

  • A proposing speech (lasting up to 5 min)
  • Questions and clarifications
  • A speech against (lasting up to 5 min)
  • A second proposing speech (lasting up to 3 min) 
  • A second speech against (lasting up to 3 min)
  • A summation (lasting up to 2 min)

5.   The motion then requires a simple majority to pass if it doesn’t propose to change a by-law which requires a 2/3rds majority.

6.   If the motion passes, this is looked at by the trustee board to ensure that there is no financial, legal, and reputational risks- if there is risk policy can be reversed.

So what happened at trustee board to reverse the beef policies?

As Campaigns and Democracy Officer, I have to provide a report to trustee board on the democratic decisions undertaken in the period between the previous trustee board and the next one taking place. In the December report, I highlighted that there could be financial and reputational risk related to the beef related policies. I stated that trustees needed to consider this in light of our finances and how Council is involved in the approval of our estimates. Therefore, the trustee board decided to overturn the amended motion, due to financial risk, as they did not want to allow a precedent of allowing Council to set prices of food in the shop as it would substantially change our estimated budgets. 

If this process sounds a bit complicated and you think it needs changing, make sure you keep up to date on the democracy review I am leading on, as it could change! In February, there will be more information on new models we have been looking into as well as the timeline for when the preferendum (preference referendum) and general meeting to discuss them will take place.

However, if you have any further questions, or are still interested in running an awareness campaign on highlighting the importance of reducing beef intake please get in touch. You can contact me at or pop into the office for a chat.


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