Student #1: An Undemocratic Process?
Thursday, the 15th of March, was the second Senate meeting of the 2017/18 academic year. The union Senate exists to hold sabbatical officers accountable and allow students to challenge them. However, this is not what occurred on Thursday. By now, you have probably heard that full voting members in Senate voted to bring Flora Noble, our Union President, to a disciplinary hearing as she was not present at the meeting this week. What hasn’t been highlighted is the fact that almost half the Senate was not present on Thursday, and there were more audience members (5) than there were student representatives (4), with one of those leaving early, and only 2 senators present.
It should also be known that the original date for this senate was set to be the 7th of March, however, Flora asked for this to be changed as she believed it was unfair on the officers who re-ran in the election to go straight into a senate meeting. Rule 2: 4.5 stipulates that 2 weeks’ notice must be given before a senate, and as these re-running officers were on annual leave, arguably they did not have this time to complete the necessary arrangements for Senate pertaining to this rule. Flora found herself in a similar situation this week, and therefore this rule was broken.
We also find ourselves in an interesting position where there are another 2 senate meetings scheduled for the rest of this academic year. Supposing that Flora is present at both of these, she will have fulfilled the requirements for 3 senates in a year. One of the arguments for Flora’s hearing is that she wasn’t present and without apology, however, as has been pointed out in both the Surge recording and in the original Wessex Scene article, the Senate was aware that Flora was not able to make it prior to the time of the meeting.
Now, by no means am I suggesting this disciplinary shouldn’t go ahead. It was voted for in a democratic forum and therefore should happen. However, it is very clear that it was an afterthought of the Senate, and therefore should be wrapped up quickly. What this instance should also promote is a thorough investigation into the rules and regulations of our democratic forums as they are simply not working. Yes, Senate exists to scrutinise the sabbatical officers and have them answer student questions, but that is not what happened on Thursday.
The idea that those individuals in that room are enough to ‘represent’ the student body is quite honestly, a joke. We should be directing our energy into reforming the institution, not the representatives of the institution.
Student #2: A Case of Ignorance Against Mental Health?
The call for Flora Noble to attend a disciplinary meeting is merely evidence that as a university and a society, we are still intolerant of mental health.
It almost seems like the Union is trying to make up for all the mistakes it’s made with previous sabbatical officers and presidents by being harder on Flora, despite mitigating circumstances.
In the Senate meeting a few weeks ago, there was a majority vote (mainly from the sabbatical officers themselves) to push Flora into a disciplinary meeting following her lack of attendance and her not having submitted a sabbatical report. Whilst this is inconvenient, and yes, it does break senate rules, does it really deserve her having to stand in front of her peers and superiors and have to explain the effects of mental health?
If you did not see her video, view it here. She describes that being weak does not make you less strong, that the box isn’t always pretty.
Having been somebody who has had mental health issues, I can only imagine the extent of hers for her to not be able to do a job she was and always has been extremely passionate about. It seems hypocritical and unnecessary to shame her for missing one senate, and not submitting one report, when we had a sabattical officer this year who committed sexual harassment. Where was his call for disciplinary? We had another last year who, due to mental health issues, was open about the effects it had on their career. Where was their disciplinary? Why is Flora an exception? Why is she the scapegoat for the Union’s lack of appropriate punishment for other people in the past?
Flora has been open about her mental health issues as much as she can be, but she should not have to almost convince people that she is going through something for them to understand. This just shows how continuously intolerant we are of mental health. Flora should be supported, not punished. She should not be humiliated at a disciplinary, almost shamed for having those mental health issues, she should not be put through that for one mistake.
In all fairness, VP Sports Development Steve Gore did note that disciplinary should note that any mitigating circumstances should be taken into account and all charges dropped if necessary. But putting Flora through this, and shaming and embarrassing her in front of her Union in the first place, has no doubt added to the stress and contributed to her mental health issues. The Union should have supported her, not isolated her.
We cannot pretend to preach tolerance when we are doing this to our own Sabbatical officers.