Smoking will be banned completely from all Union buildings and events after a student vote last week.
Despite a massive campaign by senior Union officials claiming that a smoking ban would force huge budget cuts, the motion passed by a large majority.
Union President Kat Stark commented, “the students have spoken; I do think we will lose money, but the policy specified that cuts would have to be made, and our job is now to enact that policy.”
The newly adopted smoking ban stipulates that the Union will cancel or scale-back its “least commercially successful events, possibly including Vapour, Crash, Pressure, Coalition, Heat, and live music events” to offset the projected financial losses arising from the ban. Cuts will also be made to society funding, opening hours, and “computing and support facilities for clubs and societies.”
Finance Officer Andy Dyer clarified, “We’re not saying that these events will be scrapped completely. We are saying that our budget is too tight for us to wait for the effects of the policy to happen. In advance of the policy coming into effect, we’ll have to have a review of the services we supply and say ‘we’ll have to lose this, this, and this.’”
The Union currently has neither a business plan nor any elements of such a plan in place to deal with the financial impact of the new policy, but intends to create one over the next few weeks.
Dyer explained, “We have no business plan as of yet because we haven’t had time to produce one. Our opposition to the ban was based on the experience of other Unions which attempted similar bans. Leeds University lost more than £26,000 in 13 days. That’s massive. We are obviously in a different situation to them, but we’re still projecting losses around half that size. Students on campus have several choices, and two thirds of our members live off-campus. Everyone in the Union is very, very nervous.”
He refused to make any comment on the final decision as the Boar went to press, but said it was “unlikely” that the Union Executive Committee would veto the new policy on financial grounds.
Although sabbatical officer Ed Longden claimed at a public debate on the referendum motions last week that “if the ban is passed, myself and the other Sabbatical officers will sit in our offices the next day and begin making cuts,” no cuts to Union events or services will take place until the third term.
A meeting of senior officials discussed potential cuts yesterday, but a firm decision is not expected for at least another month. The policy itself is vague, only stipulating the areas in which initial cuts will be made and the latest date at which they must be implemented, leaving considerable leeway for senior Union staff to decide which events and societies will lose funding.
Longden’s comments have been criticised for implying that the Union would make immediate cuts in response to the smoking ban.
The Union is expected to delay implementing the ban until April 19th, the last possible date allowed under the policy.
Two other policies were also passed in the referendum, including one giving the Union a “no stance” policy on Abortion rights and another mandating the Union to campaign for the creation of a Freshers’ Week.
The first will have no real effect on the Union, but will prevent Union President Kat Stark from continuing her controversial ‘pro-choice’ campaign, reported on by the Boar two weeks ago. Stark caused more controversy at last week’s sparsely attended ‘Big Debate’ when she told assembled students that she believes a woman should have the right to an abortion “for any reason, at any time during the pregnancy,” and was criticised for using rude and intimidating debating tactics against students in favour of the ban. She defended her remarks last week, claiming “I understand people might find me a bit much, but I was not up there as President.”
Union referenda are binding only upon the Union, so the second policy passed this week is unlikely to lead to the creation of a Freshers’ Week. It mandates that the Union lobby the University to provide such a week, but the final decision over such matters lies exclusively with the University.
Proposals are likely to be met with scepticism, as a Freshers’ Week with no academic commitments would either mean that students would lose a week of tuition or that the University would have to stop hosting lucrative conferences a week early.