Sortition in students’ associations: A democratic experience at the University of Lausanne?

Special report–Sortition in the twenty-first century
By Maxime Mellina

In this article, we describe the use of sortition within the Fédération des associations d’étudiant·e·s, the student association of the University of Lausanne. In 2013, the association introduced sortition as a method to designate the representatives of its legislative assembly. Prior to this introduction, all students registered at the University of Lausanne voted to designate their representatives during the academic year. This contribution analyzes the political dynamics of this particular experience in order to bring new elements and arguments to the field of democratic representation. It shows that this method does indeed diversify the profiles of representatives in order to enhance their representativeness. It also shows that sortition also has symbolic effects, which lead to a greater consideration of the community’s interest in the deliberation. Finally, it discusses how these representative and symbolic dimensions are realized in the dynamic process of deliberation. On this basis, this article concludes that sortition reduces the strength of role-generating structures, but not enough to completely dismantle the classic norms and codes of the political game.


  • sortition
  • random selection
  • democracy
  • representation
  • deliberative democracy
  • participatory democracy
  • student association
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