All-Student Meeting: success or failure?

Around 60 Warwick students attended the All Student Meeting on Monday evening.

The group indicatively voted to keep in place the boycotts of oil and arms companies, and to mandate Union officers to lobby for investment into a new humanities building. They also supported motions for a new Cryfield bus stop, and for the SU to lobby for a maximum price increase for campus rents of anything above Retail Price Index in addition to two percent.

The group of students present held indicative votes, all of which were passed.

The boycotts of arms companies, Nestle and oil companies were discussed in detail.

With regards to the specific boycott of Nestle, Sam Tracy, a fourth-year Engineering student who dominated the majority of the oppositional discussions, said that he did not believe the Union should be able to mandate what we can and cannot eat. He also argued that with regards to the boycotting of BAE Systems, due to funding issues for Engineering projects, it was “having a real effect on my education”.

“Any Union policy which has a negative effect on students shouldn’t be put forward,” he said. “That is the point of the Union, to support the welfare of its students.”

One second-year PAIS student, and many others, said that this policy would solely stop companies advertising with the SU, but will have no effect on the University. If passed, the companies involved, which include Nestle and BAE Systems among others, will not be able to sponsor societies, or be featured in the Students’ Union. However, they will still be able to appear on campus at University organised careers fairs and other events.

First-year councilor Miguel Costa Matos argued that the supporting of arms companies through the union was unethical, and that the SU should not be supporting any company that is actively helping to kill people.

The provisional vote was passed in favour of keeping the boycotts against BAE Systems, Nestle, arms and oil companies.

SU education officer James Entwistle proposed a motion to lobby the University for investment into a construction of a new humanities building. He noted that the building was around 43 years old, and as one of our top research areas at Warwick, we should honour this by encouraging a redevelopment.

“It’s cold and it’s not fit for purpose,” he said.

There was general consensus surrounding this motion, which was indicatively passed by those present.

PPE student, Robert Ankcorn, proposed a motion to cap campus accommodation rent increases to no more than two percent plus Retail Price Index.

He noted the recent Boar article which mentioned the increase in campus rents over the past few years, and the struggle that many students face when paying rents.

President Nick Swain fully supports this motion, and says that due to the number of Union officers on the Rents Working Party, this is something that the SU can have a real impact on.

Chris Drake and Mr Tracy noted that students are paying a premium to live on campus, and that the average price increases discussed could be as a result of expensive new accommodation Sherbourne and Bluebell.

Mr Entwistle noted the strong contributions of this year’s Sabb teams, who managed to secure a two percent increase, rather than the planned seven percent. Some years, he added, prices have increased more dramatically than others, with some years estimated to have risen by around 12 percent.

The floor also discussed whether the increase was down to a general increase in quality, although it was noted that this would be hard to measure. Nevertheless it was argued by some that it was not only the lower socio-economic bracket who were struggling to pay rents, but in fact a reality that many students, even those from middle class backgrounds, faced.

Second-year PAIS student, Charlie Hindhaugh, proposed a motion with regards to campaign to cap seminars at a maximum number of 16 students. He argued that the current sizes are unfair on staff and student alike; difficult for students to learn in and hard for teachers to be an effective.

Some members noted that it would be needed to define what a seminar is, as many subjects do not have seminars. It was also mentioned that this could have a possible negative effect on students, as it would mean that some modules would need to be made smaller, and less students could sign up for them.

The motion was indicatively passed.

Councilors Nathaniel Shiers and Kit Long proposed a motion for the union to investigate the possibility of having a bus in the lay-by next to Cryfield. Mr Swain supported this motion.

Sociology finalist Baris Yerli noted that there may be increased issues with congestion as a result of this. The need for a safe pedestrian crossing was also noted.

Kit Long summed up the motion for this policy in an Obama-esque speech: “We didn’t have to pick up any signatures for this motion but we decided to anyway. We got a hundred signatures in less than 24 hours; that is indicative of the student support we have for this.

“This Union has a rendezvous with destiny. Let’s pass this motion today so we can have a better University tomorrow,” he said.

The motion was indicatively passed.

Dominic Curran spoke in favour of the renewal of the ban of the allegedly unethical Bacardi, supporting the issue of consumer choices. “We have the choice of what we want to stock in our bar.”

Mr Tracy argued against the motion: “This is about sponsorship; we should not be limiting sponsorship of our union. Sports clubs felt they didn’t want to be restricted by this.”

Mr Costa Matos continued to support Mr Curran in favour of the ban. “This company made strongly unethical choices… There are many journalists who have supported this, and we have no reason to think he is wrong. We should ban Bacardi now and forever.”

One student pointed out that Barcardi is still on sale in the Union. Third-year History and Politics student Matt Davies clarified that they have lots of stocks still that haven’t been yet sold, which he argued devalues the point of the boycott.

Mr March confirmed this, and added that the Union had “lost about £10,000 in sponsorship from this… We are constantly looking for [more] sponsors.” He also explained that the Union had found some extra stock they previously didn’t know they had, and were under an obligation to sell it.

The boycott was indicatively renewed.

Prior to the meeting, SU Officers answered questions from the floor. The question was posed to Democracy and Development Officer, Cosmo March, regarding what communications Warwick SU had had with ATOS, global technology company, in the previous week.

It was brought to the attention of the SU last week, when a member posted to the Warwick SU Facebook page, asking why ATOS was allowed to have a stall in the Atrium considering its alleged inaccuracies in work capability assessments.

The comment said: “This is the very same company that has led to the premature and unnecessary deaths of disabled people deemed “fit for work” in addition to those who have committed suicide. In the interest of disabled, abled and student carers an inclusive and ethically sound Union ought to issue an apology and an explanation as to why this was allowed to happen.”

Mr March responded that the SU had suspended its relations with ATOS for the meantime, and had not had any contact with the company since.

Mr Swain commented on the debate: “It went really well. There was healthy debate on both sides of the argument and it’s up to the rest of the SU membership to vote online.”

Some students expressed irritation with the new democratic rules. With regards to the ‘voting’ process which did not count towards the quorum, postgraduate councilor Kit Long said: “The problem there is that this is an unforeseen problem as a result of the Democracy Review.”

“As voting is purely indicative, there is no real incentive for people to attend, as they have no voting power.”

“These general meetings are just an excuse for some of the more egotistical of the student population to have their say in front of a group,” commented Thomas Hatton, Deputy Chairman (political) of Warwick Conservatives.

The low number of people that turned out was also discussion, and one source deemed the meeting “a failure” as it did not attract many students.

Another commented that it was the lowest turnout of a Union student meeting in the time they had been at Warwick.

As a result of last year’s Democracy Review, the newly renamed All Student Meetings (formerly known as General Meetings) do not require a quorum to take place. Instead, the meetings provide a forum for debate and then students will vote online for the motions. However, as the 236 students needed for quorum did not turn out to the meeting, no amendments were able to be made, apart from grammatical queries.


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