The Students’ Union Annual General Meeting (AGM) took place on Monday 16 November (week seven), in which a number of controversial policies were voted on.
The AGM, which is a plenary meeting for all members of the Students’ Union, debated four policy motions, including one emergency motion regarding the ongoing School of Life Sciences departmental merger. The three pre-arranged policy motions under discussion were “No to Lambert, No to Fees”, “A Living Wage for Union Staff”, and “Refusing the Military’s Money”.
The majority of the AGM, which went on for around three hours, was in quorum, meaning that the threshold of 101 attendees was met. A maximum attendance of 160 people was recorded. However, a headcount before the final motion, “Refusing the Military’s Money”, found that only 89 people remained, meaning quorum was lost. As a result the AGM had only an advisory capacity, and the debate was deferred until Monday’s Union Council. Council will now decide whether to implement the policy.
The emergency resolution, put forward by John Lapage, a second-year Biological Sciences student, opposed the merger of the Department of Biological Sciences and the Warwick Horticulture Research Institute (HRI) based on a number of concerns about the handling of current students’ degree programmes, and a lack of communication and student representation amidst the merger. The vote was cast in resounding support of the resolution, with 139 in favour, one against, with three abstentions.
More controversial and protracted were the debates surrounding the tuition fees and living wage motions. The inclusion of a call for Richard Lambert’s resignation from his position as Warwick Chancellor in the former motion came in the wake of comments he made to the CBI, calling for the cap on tuition fees to be lifted, and interest to be made payable on student loans. Sami Wannell, the Welfare Officer, said “we cannot afford to not have a strong policy with fees” and called for one “which has teeth”.
The “resolves” clauses in the above motion calling for Lambert’s resignation, and mandating the Communications Officer to issue a statement condemning his views were voted to be separated from the main body of the motion. Whilst the call for Lambert’s resignation was finally rejected by a tiny majority of just three votes (58 in favour, 62 against), the condemnation of Lambert’s views and the main policy were both passed, with 96 in favour, 31 against, with 3 abstentions.
The motion in favour of working towards a living wage (£7 per hour) for Union staff was passed with 55 votes in favour, 31 against, with 17 abstentions. A number of sabbatical officers opposed the policy, citing an already restricted budget, and the end of year loss of over £500,000 incurred by the Union in 2008.