Nothing to declare at the start of this GM, beginning just about 6:30pm, as Chair, Gillian Craig, highlights the presence of a Poppy Appeal box at Tommy’s Bar, and of Maths Soc representatives making cubes for charity at the back of the hall, encouraging us to go and donate to both if we can.
When it comes to approving the Agenda, Democracy Officer, Hannah Strathern puts in a request for the Elections to come before the Motions, as she needed to be elsewhere from 7:30 in order to take part in the RAG Naked Calendar!
Communications & Statements saw LGBT+’s Alexandra Sophia plugging the LGBT+ Rainbow Rave on Thursday 20th November, taking place at Medicine with proceeds from the night going to charity. Alexandra also highlighted that on the 25th of November, there will be an Art Show Planning Meeting ahead of the Pride events happening in February.
Andrew Bassett of Polo extended a welcome to all at Rock the Polo, this coming Saturday, the 15th of November, which will be raising money for Help for Heroes. Sidonie Bertrand-Shelton came up to talk about SHAG Week, highlighting that she was selling ‘I Heart Consent’ t-shirts for £2 throughout the GM and the coming week! £1 of the money will be for the price of the tee, and £1 for charities focusing on domestic abuse in both straight and LGBT+ relationships.
Emma Peagam reminded us about the Free Education Demo on Wednesday 19th November, at midday. Sid and Emma are going to be in attendance as Stewards, and there is an online sign-up sheet in the General Meeting Facebook event. Nikki Hughes & Charlie Atterton of Gospel Choir and AbHarm told us all about their Charity Christmas Concert on the 28th of November. There will also be a launch night on Monday 24thNovember, with karaoke and Christmas jumpers. Tom Brown (RHUL Tennis) communicated that on Friday 28th November, there will be a mini-indoor tennis tournament. Sign-up if interested. The Volleyball club rounded off this part of the GM, talking about their UV volleyball tournament in the SU Main Hall, for those who have played previously. Involvement will be £3 for non-be active members, free for those with be-active membership, and more information can be found on their Facebook page!
This was followed by a guest speaker, Bob Fitzgerald, from RHUL’s branch of UCU, and a resident Management lecturer. Mr Fitzgerald gave an overview of the situation: how staff who had been refused more than a 1% payrise last year were now going to have their pensions cut by up to a third, in some cases. In response, they were proposing a marking boycott, until Senior University Management agreed to re-engage in negotiations.
As questions from the floor were encourage, Antonia King’s hand flew into the air. She described the student-side of the situation, reflecting on those making themselves financially unstable and physically ill in order to be at university and meet the standards expected of them. Would it not be unfair, then, she asked, for all of their hard work to be for nothing if lecturers refuse to mark their work? Fitzgerald countered this by stating that UCU had never supported the increase in fees, and that their demands were not great, and so should easily be met. Rose Walker piped up and asked the GM, “Can you take 10 seconds to consider the stress your lecturers in UCU are under?” Fitzgerald was quick to agree, stating that UCU don’t want to hurt the students, they in fact want the opposite, but being in such an undervalued profession and with ever-increasing financial stress, the lecturers are just as stressed as the students.
An exchange between Jason Michalski and Fitzgerald asserted that the marking boycott will only really affect the students if it has to continue until exam season: we will still be given feedback on work, just not physical marks at this stage. Finally, Alex Clarke asks what students can do now, to help, to which Fitzgerald replied that we should write to our Principal, write to our Deans and write to our Departments.
The Sabbs ran through their Sabbatical Updates, covering everything from Puppy Therapy to Socs Ball, Free Education Demos, to Teach First. For the full accounts, head to the SU website!
With several positions to elect, Hannah Strathern takes over the Chair. First up is Nayab Cheema, running for the position of Student Trustee, unopposed. After a request from the floor for some clarification around the role, Student Trustee, Josh Street, explains simply that the Trustee Board is a legal requirement of the Students’ Union, and this board holds College to account, reporting their findings back to the students.
Nayab explains that she wants to run so as to hold people accountable, and to improve communication between the behind-the-scenes parts of the SU and the students. After battling off an array of questions (which included the shot-down “are Student Trustee Boards an affront to Democracy?” and “what is a Students’ Union?”) Cheema was overwhelmingly elected to the role.
This was followed by the successful election of a third, and final, Societies Rep to SAC; three members of the Democratic Procedures Committee (which included a fabulous performance from AbHarm President Charlie Atterton, whose winning charm and one-liners such as ‘I like talking to people and I’m stopped from doing that if I have something to do’, and ‘I don’t really know what happened, but I’m sure it went well’, saw her join the ranks of Strathern’s Steering team); two members of the BME Committee; an LGBT+ Committee member; two WMG Committee positions; a Parents and Carers Rep, and finally, an an Englefield Green Rep.
Following the elections, we’re treated to a ten minute access break, by a re-instated Gillian Craig as Chair: we closed the first half at eighteen minutes past eight.
As we return, a Procedural Motion from Alex Clarke sees the guillotine extended by 45 minutes, taking the end-time of the GM to 9:15, Clarke having fought for an hour, but Craig standing firm.
The Sabbs present their Motion to amend the Constitution and replace the current GM structure with just one, non-mandatory GM a term, and instead, mandating Sports and Society Presidents to attend one of the four already-existing Councils, so that everyone is only voting on Motions which might directly affect them. Emma Peagam summed up the need for this nicely, pointing out that we would have been saved the previous two hours of bureaucracy if the new structure had already been in place, and Jason makes a point of reminding us that what they are proposing has already been passed, this is just a point of clarification which they’re presenting.
A Procedural Motion is raised to move this Motion to the next GM, which Brianna tackles by revealing that the Executive Committee had already ruled this as an option, and the point of the presentation at the GM was to gage whether or not the GM voted on the Motion now, or at the next meeting. The motion fell, despite two opposer arguments stating that not enough time had been given to thin about the Motion.
Winning much of the crowd, Brianna goes on to explain that the Sabbs do not want to have to mandate people to attend the GM, it would be more beneficial for all if people attended out of genuine interest: Presidents are already mandated to attend their Councils, why mandate them twice? An amendment is proposed by Jack Saffery-Rowe to add three voting open places to each Council, each time, and this is passed, with thanks from the Sabbs. Needing a two-thirds majority to pass, the Motion goes through with 48 out of 62 votes.
Asma, of the RHUL Womanist Collective, proposes a motion to try and make laundry-charges on campus more affordable, and to try and do-away with lock-out fees, which is passed with only a few minor blips. This is followed by an equally-as-easily passed Motion calling for SURHUL to work to introduce structures which will see Sports Clubs and Societies encouraged to engage in liberation work in future years, regardless of the quality of Sabbatical and Part-Time officers in the future.
Alex Clarke proposed a controversial Motion to condemn the actions of the NUS in withdrawing their support from the upcoming Free Education Demo on the 19th. The Motion asks for the resignation of the NUS President and for her to seriously reconsider her values. Clarke argued that the reasons the NUS gave for their withdrawal have been disproven, and so they can now only be seen to have forsaken standing for the views of the students they are elected to represent. A Procedural Motion is suggested, to affect the title, not the problematic ‘Resolves’ section, but this could not be fulfilled within the guillotine time.
Jason Michalski stands to oppose this Motion, and was asked a variety of questions, focussing around why SURHUL should care about their reputation within the NUS and in front of the NUS NEC when they have failed to represent the views of SURHUL, though Michalski stood firm on his belief that our reputation remained key, and that we should not allow anger to make us simply reactionary.
The Motion fell, and the guillotine was voted to be extended by a further fifteen minutes, after the General Meeting had already exceeded it’s previous guillotine time of 9:15 by ten minutes.
The final Motion was around support for Leeds student, Sanaz Raji, and proposed by Asma Farah, who passionately pleaded the cause of Raji, calling for solidarity from SURHUL. Tom Brown and Alex Reilly took issue and stood to oppose the Motion, however, on the grounds that it wasn’t simply calling for solidarity, but for a considerable use of Sabbatical time and resources that, they argued, might be better spent on our own students and case work, than a student from another institution. Some heated debating followed, but we finally came to a vote, at which point the Motion fell, by a narrow margin.
So overall, this was undoubtedly a productive General Meeting. The structure of future GMs has been constitutionally changed, several of the remaining positions within various SURHUL Committees have been filled, and we now have a focus group to ensure work on liberation and equality carries on into future years. With only a few minor blips, Chair Gillian Craig and Democracy Officer Hannah Strathern successfully guided us through the second GM of the year, and now onto the next!