After a record 80 minutes spent approving minutes from various committees of SUSU and presenting reports from the Sabbatical Officers (Sabbs), Union Council began a lengthy and heated debate on the Student Leader positions.
SUSU has been reviewing the method, timing and constituencies for the elections of student leaders to represent the students of Southampton and, at Union Council, Billy Fitzjohn presented a motion to finalise this review process. His motion stated that students have had many chances to input their views on this issue – there was an open forum attended by almost 30 people, a box with a handful of suggestions, and Billy’s Sabb blogs on the issue, with 3 comments.
Billy admits that he was less than pleased with the amount of feedback, but stated during Council that Sabbs have done all they can do to involve students in the politics of this issue and that all the feedback has been used in the review process.
The main point of the motion was finalising that student leaders that represent a particular cohort of students, such as international, sites and faculty officer, will be elected early in the first semester, with only those in each constituency able to stand and vote.
This is then in contrast to all the other Student Leaders that will be elected in the second semester, in the last week before Easter, where all students are eligible to stand and vote.
Several amendments were made to the motion. First of which was Alex Cunningham, who spoke very passionately on the representation of Post Graduates. At the moment Union Council has only one Post Graduate representative, yet they make up 25% of the Southampton University student population. Her amendment to create a second Student Leader position for Post Grads was passed.[podcast]http://www.wessexscene.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Alex-Cunningham.mp3[/podcast]
Alex Cunningham hopeful after her amendment was passed.
The second amendment was proposed by Dax Wood, station manager of SUSUtv. This motion proposed that all media departments should be elected by a specific constituency, rather than by all students. Dax argued that the leader of media departments requires technical knowledge and that opening voting to everybody risks too much.
Billy Fitzjohn questioned how specific constituencies would be defined for media departments, with members of council agreeing that SUSU media represents more than just the students involved. Joe Mclo also spoke for the motion, stating that it would be simple to adopt an ‘opt in’ system, where any student interested in voting for the media Student Leaders could do so.
The argument was debated, however was moved to a vote, before all questions that councillors had were answered. The result was against the amendment, which prompted a quick response from Dax and the sabbatical officer for Media and Communications, Charlotte Woods, on behalf of the media departments. They proposed another amendment which would completely remove the heads of media departments from the constitution, as Student Leaders.[podcast]http://www.wessexscene.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Dax-Wood.mp3[/podcast]
Comments from Dax after both of his amendments were rejected.
This debate became quite heated, as it progressed with claims that this would make the media departments more ‘cliquey’ and with equal claims that this motion was trying to make one policy fit across parts of SUSU that need to be treated differently.
At the end of the debate, the amendment was rejected, which will mean that elections for the heads of media departments will also take place before Easter with all the other cross-campus Student Leader elections. This leaves a very short timescale to find which students will lead SUSU, as can be seen by the Rag Officer, Grace Allingham, already advertising her position for the next academic year.
How these upcoming elections will compare to the Sabb elections earlier in the year will still have to be seen.[podcast]http://www.wessexscene.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Billy-Fitzjohn.mp3[/podcast]
Billy explains the reasoning behind his motion, passed by Council.