Background to the Governance Document Review
There are currently 58 documents that relate to the student governance of the Guild. There is no consistent format for the documents and they range in length from sentences to pages. They are written in a Wikipedia style so that they are easier to navigate on a website.
Feedback gathered from elected officers and students outlined that the documents were not easy to find on the website, were often written in overly complex or legal language which was not accessible nor easy to understand and were inconsistent in format, content and style across the board. There were also gaps in the documents, which had been filled by working practices supported by staff that were not documented, or by the direction of elected students which changed per year, giving rise to more inconsistences.
To begin redrafting the Bylaws, we first had to establish the document structure that we were creating. This was to ensure that we were clear which body held the authority to change these documents and how they related to each other. The table below shows the hierarchy of documents;
The hierarchy is split into 3 levels. The top level is the Memorandum and Articles of Association and can only be amended by agreement of the Board of Trustees. Level 2 is where the Bylaws sit, along with any Student Policy and the Code of Conduct. These can be amended by Guild Council, as the representative body of the Students’ Guild, and are ratified by the Board of Trustees. Level 3 is the day-to-day management of activity and should have delegated authority from the Bylaws, by agreement of Guild Council. Documents at Level 3 can be amended by the Specialist Councils or Executive Committees, providing the scope of the amendment does not go beyond the remit of the body itself.
This hierarchy is mirrored in the structure of representative bodies and roles that the Guild already has, as displayed below;
The next step was to create a structure within which we could redraft the Bylaws, using the hierarchy outlined above to make decision on what to include or not. We researched two other Students’ Unions to create an outline structure, there were University of Bristol Students’ Union and City Students’ Union. The latter of which has recently incorporated as a company by guarantee and gone through a similar process.
The structure that was created was similar to the mapping exercise in the previous section but was keep to the core areas needed. The order of Bylaws was guided by the sector.
Bylaw 1. Membership
Bylaw 2. Referenda
Bylaw 3. Elections
Bylaw 4. Elected Officers
Bylaw 5. Guild Council
Bylaw 6. Student Policy & Governance Documentation
To ensure that it was clear where the redrafting was created from, a referencing system was created to show which document the text either came from directly or was paraphrased from. The referencing included these categories;
- Memorandum & Articles of Association
- Current Governing Document
- Terms of Reference or Code of Conduct
Anything that did not fall into the categories above was drafted as an original piece for that section, however was done so with guidance from the sector and expertise.