Opinion Matrix: Thoughts on the SU All Student Meeting

### Daniel Mountain

**Before attending the meeting I wasn’t really sure where I stood on the issue of SU boycotts, but some very interesting things were said. **

What needs to be remembered is that the SU is the representative body of the students, and any boycott is a boycott by the students. So when we wander in to the SU and discover a lack of KitKats or small arms in our vending machines, it is not some big, bad corporation taking away our stuff – it is us choosing to abstain.

I think this is a very cool way of thinking about the SU, but there does seem to be a problem with it. At the meeting only 1% of the student population is needed to attend in order for things to get done – 60 were in attendance. It is all very well to think of the significance and nobility of students enacting their will upon what is there, but is there really any point if nobody seems interested?

I am personally against human rights abuses and industries of death, but is there any significance in a boycott mandated by less than a percent of a population? The entire affair ultimately felt like a student politics roleplay, rather than a forum for an impassioned student body to thrash out their beliefs. While I am in favour of boycotting that with which I do not agree, is there any sense in enacting the “voice of the people” if that voice is nothing but a cough in an empty room?

### Jamie Sims

**We are constantly told that people act “rationally” (i.e. in order to maximise material benefits for themselves) and that this assumption can be scaled up to institutions, corporations and nation-states – we are told that cooperation and charity are unsustainable anomalies in human behaviour. **

This doctrine defines human nature in terms of characteristics associated with psychopaths – greed, lack of empathy, and ruthless pursuit of self interest – the empathetic instinct that is the noblest attribute of our species is denied completely. Humans are reduced to consumers and social institutions become nothing more than mechanisms for aggregating selfishness.

The falsity of this dangerously self-fulfilling prediction and promotion of self-interest is seen in the discussions on maintaining the Union’s various boycotts. Repeatedly the debate came down to the question of whether the Student Union should further the narrowly defined “interests of Warwick students” or if it should in fact be a mechanism for the democratic voice of students to be heard in bringing about progressive change in the world. The result, overwhelmingly and repeatedly, were votes to make an ethical stand despite a vocal minority of hardcore free market fundamentalists moaning about loss of “consumer choice”.

Our SU is an organisation, representing 23,000 students with significant purchasing power (selling £2,478,250 worth of products in 2011). This bestows a moral duty to ensure that companies that exploit poor women, lobby for inaction on climate change or fund terrorism are not allowed to sell their products or promote themselves in our SU.

### Samantha Hopps

Among the topics discussed in the All Student Meeting was the need for a new Humanities building. As an English student I would not actively disagree with the suggestion, however I find that apart from the five-floor trek to the top floor the building adequately meets my needs.

While there is a tendency for Humanities subjects to be bitter about their lack of funding we don’t need expensive resources to do our work in the same way that subjects such as the sciences do. With regards to seminar sizes, I had not realised this was such an issue since all of my seminars rooms are spacious with the correct number of people to fill them, however I have heard stories about large groups having to fit into tiny offices on the English corridor which must make for a particularly unpleasant learning experience – in this sense I would agree with a cap on seminar sizes. Another item on the agenda regarded a cap on accommodation price rises which, as a poor student, I am definitely in favour of. Even though prices include cleaning and bills they still seem incredibly high, particularly in comparison to houses that you can rent in Leamington or Coventry. The university should be making more accommodation available to those students on lower budgets. It is shocking that out of all accommodation choices very few cost less than the student maintenance loan, and there is a huge difference between expensive accommodation such as Bluebell and affordable accommodation such as Cryfield.

### Miguel Costa Matos

I don’t understand the argument that boycotts affect students’ job or funding prospects (for research or further education) with the boycotted firms. The University does not subscribe to our Boycott List, which is why these firms often come to University Career fairs and are often asked to fund research projects within the University, namely BAE. But even if they don’t come or aren’t already involved with the University, a little bit of initiative has never hurt anyone.

There’s yet another popular argument used against boycotts: choice. They often forget that their choice applies only within the SU, not in Costcutter or anywhere else for that matter. But exactly because they are SU venues, there cannot be endless choice in the bars. The SU can only stock up with so much. Otherwise, I’d be lobbying the SU to stock my favourite Portuguese spirits! Every day, the Student Union’s non-democratic operational branch makes commercial choices for us. To democratise this choice through a boycott is just another choice – and a democratic one at that. For some strange reason, I prefer democratic choices to technocratic ones!

But none of this would matter if these companies weren’t pursuing highly unethical practices. The cases against them are strong and persuasive. Keeping the SU clean of ‘dirty money’ – earned by selling guns to dictators or continuing our addiction to oil, to name just a few examples – may be a moral claim, but it is one I’m very ready to do.

### Natasha Clark

**With just 60 attendees at Warwick’s first ‘All-Student Meeting’ (formally known as General Meeting) last week, it’s clear that politics and democracy aren’t really that popular around here, with the exception of a small group of people.**

Warwick Labour and Warwick Conservatives turned up in tow, and tended to dominate most of the conversation. This is understandable, because they, well, care. Sort of. They represent a minority of the student population who are interested in Union politics, and who care enough to get actively involved. Just a handful of students outside of this circle attended, no where near reaching the quorum of 236, just 1 percent of the student population.

And why should they? As a result of the introduction of the latest rules and regulations, there’s little point in turning up if they just want to vote. The meeting is a space to discuss and debate the motions, and put forward arguments for and against that. While I agree that this is a crucial part of the democratic process, and to vote we should be as informed as possible, many people just don’t care about it.

They want to just vote for the policies they care about and leave, which has always caused problems with General Meetings in the past, and has led to the creation of the new online voting system. With almost every student thoroughly ingrained in social media, this can hopefully be a good thing for increasing participation in Union democracy, something that is desperately needed.


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