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York Students’ Union officers resign calling institution ‘hostile’ and ‘anti-democratic’

YUSU’s Environment and Ethics officers resigned yesterday

The University of York Students’ Union Environment and Ethics Officers have resigned from their roles this week, calling the institution “hostile” and “anti-democratic”.

In their resignation letter, posted onto Instagram yesterday, Claire Sheldon and Woody Kadis-Ross said that the decision came as it became clear they would be “unable to fulfil the mandate [they] were elected upon within the confines of YUSU”. Specifically, the decision concerns the recent rejection of a motion campaigning for Uni of York to switch to plant-based catering.

Resulting from their resignation, the officers have announced the launch of a new network, York Action for Student Solidarity (YASS), which they claim will rival YUSU as a space for student campaigns.

YUSU President, Pierrick Rodger, has said that, due their resignation, he has “finally” been able to put forward a proposal which will move York to an immediate 80 per cent plant-based catering system.

In their statement, Claire and Woody said that it has become “transparent that the institution of YUSU is entirely hostile to bringing forward progressive change on campus.”

“Its closeness to the university, legal tires to commercial output and an ingrained culture of maintaining the status quo and resisting change, have created an institution that, far from being a champion of student democracy, performs an anti-democratic function.”

Primarily, their resignation concerns the recent rejection of a motion proposing plant-based catering on York’s campus. The motion, which asked that all food and drink facilities on campus need to “commit to becoming 100 per cent plant-based and provide a clear timeline for how and when this will happen”, passed on YUSUggestions with 142 student votes

In their statement, Claire and Woody claimed that despite “record breaking” student support, a small number of officers were able to override the wishes of students and thwart the proposal. They said that genuine conversations surrounding the pros and cons of the policy were “absent, replaced with predetermined, rigidly held opposition to radical environmental action.”

via Google Maps

YUSU President, Pierrick Rodger, told The York Tab that “delays provoked by the E&E Officers” have meant that that the proposal has been in circulation for “months on end.

YUSU President, Pierrick Rodger, told The York Tab that “delays provoked by the E&E Officers” have meant that that the proposal has been in circulation for “months on end.

Claire and Woody also criticised the recent proposals to merge YUSU and the Graduate Students’ Union into a single Students’ Union. The proposals were put to a student vote yesterday and passed, creating seven full time officer roles, and removing previous part time officer roles in favour of student representatives.

They said that the decision signals a centralisation of power: “The removal of Part Time Officer positions and their replacement with less powerful ‘representatives’ will do nothing for strengthening students’ voices and everything for furthering the anti-democratic nature of the union.

“The absence of a full time officer focused on environmental justice displays the lack of care that YUSU gives to the environment.”

via @yusuenviroment on Instagram

Pierrick Rodger, said: “I am very disappointed and sad to see the E&E Officers go. Unfortunately, it has become impossible to conciliate their single-issue vision with the rest of the Officer Group. Decisions made by Officer Group are not anti-democratic: all Policy decisions require buy-in from a majority of elected Officers – this is how democracy works.

“Repeated delays provoked by the E&E Officers have meant that the Policy Proposal has been in circulation at Officer Group for months on end. The E&E Officers have been consistently unwilling to hear anyone else’s voice apart from their own. Officer Group is not and has never been opposed to a transition: our venues already operate a 75 per cent plant-based menu as was supported by the previous Officer Group and there are already plans to further that more with our new Food Strategy.

“The E&E Officers have not been able to budge from an immediate 100 per cent transition which we are unable to proceed with because it will financially bankrupt our Union venues and discriminate against disabled students with eating disorders, such as ARFID, or allergen requirements. With the E&E Officers’ resignation, I have finally been able to put a proposal forward which will see us move to an immediate 80 per cent plant-based, followed by 90 per cent in the next three years, which Officer Group have approved.

“As to criticism about the new Union rep structure, these claims are untrue: the Union Development Officer’s portfolio is entirely concentrated on Commercial Services and their sustainability, and the new rep structure has been installed for us to remunerate our dedicated Part-Time Officer team who currently volunteer without pay due to Government legislation around Officer pay. I am very sad to see the former Officers believe they have been treated unfairly.”

Featured images via Instagram and Google Maps.

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