This Union Notes:
1.1 Caucuses are defined here as ‘meetings of self-defining members of liberation groups’. Within the SOAS Students’ Union the ‘liberation groups’ include People of Colour, Women, LGBT+, Trans* and Gender Non-binary, Disabled students and Working Class students.
1.2 Caucuses have played a radical role in the trade union movement. They distribute power from elected officers to the union membership in order to ensure the union actively fights for social justice and equality. For example, within the Chicago Teachers’ Union the Caucus of Rank-and-file Educators (CORE) re-centred issues of school closures in poor neighborhoods of color, attacks on teachers, and the advance of free market education reform and mobilised community-teacher coalition against school closures. In Britain, anti-racist activists within the trade union movement campaigned for the creation of black caucuses or sections that fought against the white hegemonization of working class struggles within trade unions. The purpose of caucuses are thus to create space for collective struggle against structural inequality and centre the voices of marginalised groups within union’s democratic governance.
1.3 Structural inequality has developed through the growth of capitalism and the legacy of colonialism. European imperialist expansion relied on production centres in the colonies and the concentration of profit in imperial centres. Along with this inherently racist economic stratification came a project of European cultural hegemony, whereby the dominance of whiteness was reinforced through literature, academia and popular culture. The legacy of colonialism continues to manifest within SOAS through racialised and gendered hierarchies within the workplace and the Black attainment gap. It is crucial that the Students’ Union’s fight against inequality is shaped by those oppressed within an imperialist and capitalist society. This is both to ensure campaigns centre the experience and voices of liberation groups, as well as to prevent the cooptation of struggles by those with privilege.
1.4 With the introduction of marketisation legislation that designates students as consumers of education (2016 HE White Paper, titled Success as a Knowledge Economy: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice), students are increasingly focused on their individual interests. This notion of getting ‘value for money’ at university often means that there is a general lack of concerted effort on the part of students to address structural issues within education and society more broadly. Marketisation operates under the auspices of creating incentive for universities to improve research and the ‘student experience’, through for example the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework. However, rising fees the scrapping of maintenance grants and cuts to disabled students’ allowance shows there is little actual concern for the wellbeing of students. As consumers students are told to consider what the university is doing to cater to our individual desires as opposed to questioning the broader structure of the education system. In turn, Students’ Unions have increasingly become services catered to ‘enhancing the student experience,’ as opposed to communities collectively fighting for an alternative future for education centred on equality.
1.5 Currently, liberation meetings or forums take place within the SOAS Students’ Union on an ad-hoc basis. Elections for liberation officers are online, where students self-define into liberation groups in order to vote for their prefered candidate for the liberation officer post. However, there is one general hustings that all students attend where students any candidate, even if they are not able to vote for this candidate. Liberation caucuses are not a formal part of the SOAS Students’ Union constitution and as such do not have greater decision-making powers including the ability to pass union policy.
This Union Believes:
2.1 The Students’ Union must operate in the most democratic way possible. This means that power within the union should ultimately lie with its members, and not solely with the sabbatical or executive officers. Introducing caucuses is about devolving power in the union to its members.
2.2 A key criticism of the union in the past is that it has not adequately addressed issues faced by marginalised students. If the Students’ Union is to fight for equality, it is vital that its campaigns centre the experience and voices of liberation groups. Caucuses will both ensure that certain voices are not lost within the Students’ Union and that struggles are not co opted by those with privilege.
2.3 Part-time liberation officers require greater support in order to carry out their mandate. Caucuses will provide students the opportunity to feed-into and support the work of part-time liberation officers.
This Union Resolves:
3.1 That the Students’ Union establishes the following six caucuses, with membership in accordance with those members of the union who identify into the following groups:
People of Colour
Trans* and Gender Non-binary
Working Class students
3.2 The union shall hold a caucus for each liberation group at least once in each calendar year. The caucus shall be held at such time and place as the part-time liberation officer thinks suitable to allow the maximum number of caucus members to attend. Where there is no elected part-time liberation officer for a particular liberation group the duty of setting the time and place for the caucus will be referred to the Co-President Equality and Liberation.
3.3 A caucus shall be called by at least 10 clear working days’ written notice.
3.4 Every notice calling a general meeting shall specify the place, day and time of the meeting and the general nature of the business to be transacted.
3.5 Notice of a caucus shall be given to every Member and to the Trustees of the Union.
3.6 The deadline for submission of motions shall be three working days before the caucus, at which point the agenda including motions in full shall be publicised as widely as possible by the part-time liberation officer, Co-President Equality and Liberation and relevant staff member using electronic and printed media. All motions must be proposed and seconded by members of the caucus.
3.7 No business shall be transacted at any caucus unless a quorum is present. The quora for each liberation caucus will be either: 10% of the members who partook in the most recent election of a particular liberation officer or 10 members who identify into a particular liberation group, whichever is higher. This will also be the quora if a vote of no confidence in a liberation officer is proposed.
3.8 If such a quorum is not present within half an hour from the time appointed for the caucus, the caucus shall stand adjourned to the same day in the next week at the same time and place or to such other day, time and place as the part-time liberation officer or Co-President Equality and Liberation officer may determine and if at the adjourned meeting a quorum is not present within half an hour from the time appointed for the meeting the Members present shall be a quorum.
3.9 There shall be a Chair for the caucus who shall normally be the corresponding part-time elected liberation officer. Where there is no elected part-time liberation officer for a particular liberation group the role of Chair will be delegated to the Co-President Equality and Liberation. In the absence of a Chair the Members of a caucus present shall choose one of their number to be Chair.
3.10 Every Member who identifies as part of a particular liberation group has the right to attend that caucus and the right to vote. A motion put to the vote of a caucus shall be decided on a show of hands, and every Member of the caucus shall have one vote. The Chair will be able to call for a closed ballot and check Members’ eligibility to vote where necessary.
3.11 The motions will be debated in the order determined by either the part-time liberation officer, the Co-President Equality and Liberation officer, or the members present at a particular caucus.
3.12 Every motion put to the vote of a caucus shall be decided by a simple majority of the votes cast unless: the motion contains a vote of no confidence, in which case a majority of two thirds will be required.
3.13 Once passed in a caucus with quorum by a simple majority (unless the motion contains a vote of no confidence, in which case a majority of two thirds will be required) the motion will become union policy.
3.14 A caucus may be called at any time if: 10% of the members who partook in the most recent election of a particular liberation officer or 10 members who identify into a particular liberation group, whichever is higher, submit a signed note to the union sabbatical officers or staff calling for a caucus.