An elected Sabbatical Officer has dropped a policy following concerns raised by academic representatives from the Department of Psychology.
Julian Porch, who will begin his tenure as Academic Officer of the University of York Students’ Union (YUSU) in July, has jettisoned a plan for academic reform after receiving criticism from student academic representatives.
Porch had planned to make the course representative system “more democratic” by enforcing a requirement that all changes to courses implemented by representatives were approved by a quorate vote from the student body.
Speaking at the Full Time Officer Debate Night earlier this year opposite rival candidate Jay Elizabeth Edevane, Porch told an audience that the current system is “undemocratic”:
So, the current course rep system, to my knowledge, doesn’t actually have to pass its ideas – the ideas which are passed on to their departments, they don’t have to be run by a certain number of students, they don’t have to meet quorum – and that’s something that I would change because I think the current system is undemocratic in that sense.
However, course representatives from the Department of Psychology did not react well to this policy. The Yorker was contacted by a department representative who passed on her team’s concerns. “I cannot stress enough how damaging this idea is to the rep system,” one representative remarked.
The students said that the policy would not be feasible. “If I had to take every suggestion through all of the students, I’d never get anything done and frankly it would make me not want to do the role,” added another representative.
A third representative said that “I think it shows how little he knows about how we work.”
The Yorker approached Porch and offered him the opportunity to explain his policy and defend it against criticisms. However, he declined to respond and asked us to contact the incumbent Academic Officer, Tamaki Laycock, about his policy instead. Laycock also declined to respond.
Porch later replied to The Yorker, stating that, after speaking with course representatives and some “individual reflection,” he had “no current plans to introduce” a quorate-based reform within the course representative system when he takes over the role of Academic Officer. He added that it was not stated in his manifesto.
That said, in an ideal world any changes made to the structure, content, or assessment of any degree course would be quantifiably representative of the wishes of students. It would be difficult to reconcile this ideal, however, with the realities or resources (especially time), logistics, and engagement.
At the University of York, academic representatives are students who represent fellow students studying their academic subjects. Representatives can focus on courses, academic departments and the academic faculty into which their discipline fits.
According to the students’ union, there are 440 representatives across the university population, working on behalf of undergraduate and postgraduate students alike.
Current applications to be the next Department Representatives of the union are open until the 24th of April.
Additional reporting by The Yorker‘s News Team