A Call To Reform
By Tomas Pizzaro-Escuti
Student Associations represent the voices and concerns of thousands of students. In fact, they are our closest representatives. Their importance is highlighted by being enshrined in law and governed by statutes that outline the role of Sabbatical Officers. Yet, AUSA has seen a democratic deficit, undermining their potential to create meaningful change. The cause? A trend towards bureaucratisation and lack of accountability for the Sabbatical Officers due to the Students’ Council’s waning power.
Recent structural changes have caused detrimental consequences. The removal of ordinary members from the Student Council led to a dwindling number of Councillors. Previously, these members were integral parts of various committees, but AUSA's decision to only open positions for Vice-Chairs resulted in the creation of "ghost committees." These committees comprised of only one Sabbatical Officer and one Vice-Chair - except for the Education Committee - foster an environment of minimal student representation and accountability. This policy has led to limited checks and balances which are crucial for a legitimate democratic process, consolidating decision-making primarily within the hands of the Sabbatical Officers.
The heart of AUSA's crisis beats with the self-congratulatory disposition of its Sabbatical Officers, failing to grasp their pivotal role. The low turnout for the Student Council, plunging to a mere 6.2%, is not the fault of the students but a reflection of the’ shortcomings of AUSA. Vanessa, the President, exemplified this attitude at the AGM, deflecting concerns about low turnout with misplaced celebration of AUSA's apparent successes.
Furthermore, AUSA's loss of political purpose raises serious questions about its core values and commitments. The lack of substantive motions in the Student Council, absence of meaningful debates, delayed responses to critical events like the Gaza-Israel War and the Lecturer's strike, highlight a distressing path. Students had to lobby the University to lower the King's College flag in support of peace, because AUSA was unwilling to do anything at the moment. It is somehow ironic that the University of Aberdeen acted faster than the Student Association.
The issue of democratic accountability is wider than what we think. What about the Rector? No one has ever seen her again. Where are you, Martina Chukwuma-Ezike?
AUSA urgently requires reform, it needs individuals motivated by genuine change rather than a career in management. It needs a democratic revival and a new commitment to represent the voices of the students. We must put an end to the “age of bread and circuses.”