SUSU’s Annual General Meeting was held today to give an overview of all that’s been achieved this year, to discuss three motions and introduce the candidates for Union Council Chair. The Motions were: Reforming the Role of Union Council Chair put across by Rupert Bailey, Referendum on NUS Affiliation put forward by SUSU President Sam Ling and Engagement and Involvement Focus put forward by VP Sports Development Jonny Brooks-Bartlett.
First off was the Annual Review, the Accounts Review for 2010-2011 was shown and questions encouraged. Then there was a short video highlighting some of SUSU’s achievements from this year. These included SUSU having one of the largest and most successful Athletic Unions in the Country with Ladies Hockey, Netball, Mens Rugby and Womens Rugby all gaining BUCS success, the introduction of the student taxi scheme and the new Friday Nights at the Cube.
SUSU’s income currently stands at £6,845,209. Looking to the future, President Sam Ling stated that the ‘biggest challenge is communication with members, checking that everything is in line with what they want.’ but that this year’s Sabbatical Team had been helped by a plan put in place by their predecessors which involved the next three years.
‘It’s been an incredible year, an incredible journey.’ (Sam Ling)
The meeting then progressed onto the discussion of the first motion. Rupert Bailey put forward the motion of Reforming the Role of Union Council Chair due to the fact that Union Council has gone through many changes in the past year and the role of Chair does not currently have any guidelines.
He also expressed the importance of this motion in light of today’s election of the new Union Council Chair as it ‘could help them in their role.’ Bailey proposed four things in his motion, firstly consistency, secondly that the role of Chair be written into the constitution, thirdly that it would be the responsibility of the Chair to publicise Union Council meetings and lastly that the Chair would control the management of these meetings.
The current Union Council Chair was asked what he thought of the motion and admitted that ‘at first I wasn’t especially happy with it,’ however ‘Rupert has gone away and revised it and now I’m feeling more happy about it,’ he did however express his discontent for one of the parts which led to a vote about whether to take the proposal in separate parts. This was granted, questions were encouraged and then the Motion was voted on. The Motion was passed.
The second motion, Referendum on NUS Affiliation provoked quite a debate. Sam Ling proposed that Union Council hold a Referendum about whether or not SUSU should re-affiliate with the NUS. SUSU left NUS in 2002 and the question about re-affiliation was not raised again until 2010 when a referendum was held and it was voted against.
Sam asserted that since then however, ‘the landscape of higher education has changed, as has the structure of both SUSU and the NUS’ so it is ‘fair and democratic to ask the question to all students.’ He proposed that a referendum be held towards the end of the Autumn term of the academic year 2012-2013 and then ask the question again in three years time.
An amendment to the motion was proposed which consisted of two parts denoting that those expressing a strong opinion and of an influential position within SUSU should remove themselves from the Referendum and that Election Committee’s membership be reviewed and supported by Yes and No campaign teams to ensure that all independent information on re-affiliation remained impartial.
The amendment was contested by Sam as he stated that ‘everyone has an opinion on everything.’ VP Academic Affairs Sasha Watson also explained that ‘part of the problem in 2010 was that we didn’t understand, we want an educated campaign and discussion’ so the amendment might hinder this.
It was then proposed that the amendment be discussed in separate parts, but this was rejected. Several members then stood up to voice their arguments for or against the motion. Arguments for, included the assertion that ‘people deserve the right to have a vote in this,’ and those against included ‘we’ve already answered this question, the result in 2010 of 2-1 is pretty conclusive’ and ‘I don’t understand why we need to vote on this.’
Sam was also asked about why he didn’t put the NUS Referendum in his manifesto, to which he answered, ‘this is not about me, it’s about the motion.’ He further said that ‘the impact of NUS affiliation on our five year plan is minimal, it’s about the support they can offer.’ After more questions and arguments for and against, the motion was voted upon. The motion was passed, meaning that Union Council will now hold a Referendum for the Affiliation with NUS.
The third motion to be proposed was Engagement and Involvement put forward by VP Sports Development Jonny Brooks Bartlett. This motion resolved that the VP Student Engagement set up a group to lead a review and research into overall student engagement with SUSU to complement the Engagement Strategy and that the SUSU trustee board work with this group to give an update at every Union Council Meeting and to finalise research by the final Union Council meeting of academic year 2012-2013.
Adam Maloney, speaking for the motion said that he thought it was a ‘cracking idea,’ and that perhaps it was ‘if anything overdue.’ Rob McGough further argued that ‘people aren’t aware of the Union, they need to know the difference between the Union and the University, and they need to know how important the Union is.’ The question was raised about how this motion would include all campuses and sites, to which Jonny replied that the ‘focus will be Union Council meetings.’ The motion was then voted on and it was passed.
The final thing on the agenda was the election for Chair of Union Council for which there are four candidates: Gary Beecheno, David Mendoza Wolfson, Adam Maloney and James O’Mahoney.
Each candidate offered different things to the role with Gary’s representative (as he couldn’t make it due to being on placement) stating that his democratic approach makes him a strong candidate, David confessing that ‘I didn’t really put a lot of thought into running for this, I kind of did it on a whim,’ but nevertheless feels he has the necessary experience to take on this role. Adam spoke about his experience as RAG officer and his attendance of Union Council meetings and James O’Mahoney drew from his four years at this University ascending the ranks to his current position as AU President. The candidates were then quizzed on neutrality and commitment.
The Union Council Chair elections are open until 8pm tonight. Anyone who attended the meeting can vote and the results will be announced shortly.