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It was perhaps appropriate that the Non-Sabbatical Review came to Union Council on Bonfire Night. There were fireworks inside as well as outside the Management School last Thursday.
In the same way that last year’s Sabbatical Review, the creator of the current Sabbatical team, was always going to cause contention over its removal of the Women’s Officer and proposed merger of sports and societies, the 2009 Non-Sabbatical Review contained sticky issues of its own.
In 2009 streamlining is the name of the game. Michael Payne made it clear throughout his presentation that perceived irrelevance of non-sabbatical positions cannot continue. If fewer officers are what’s required to prevent students running for office to fill up their CVs and doing nothing in the role then fewer officers there must be.
Not everyone in the room felt the same way. Reduction in representatives of societies and officers under the Equality, Welfare and Diversity remit were the obvious contenders for heated discussion, and they didn’t disappoint.
Unlike 2008, when the Sabbatical Review was passed at a General Meeting attended by over 500 students, the decision in 2009 was taken by Union Council members only. Despite their lack of voting rights, over 30 representatives of societies and liberation campaigns turned out to observe and contribute to the debate and it was in front of an unusually packed lecture theatre that Payne presented his proposal for the new, streamlined, non-sabbatical team.
The observers may have had no say in the final result but Union Council put on a good show for them.
As most had come to fight for the rights of societies – or watch their rights being fought for on their behalf by Chair of Societies Council Edwin Burrows – it seemed only fair that the first amendment proposed was to change the suggested Societies Exec Officer into two Societies Council Reps.
Burrows was in favour. Payne wasn’t. A heated discussion ensued, with Burrows producing a petition signed by numerous society members not in favour of streamlining and Payne responding that what societies need is more student involvement not more irrelevant officers. Bristling from the back row and a wave of the petition demonstrated that societies didn’t necessarily agree, but unfortunately for Burrows his petition had been submitted to the Chair too late for Council to pay it any attention. The amendment was voted down, whereupon the majority of the society representatives got up and left. Score one for streamlining.
Immediately after this an amendment was proposed to increase the number of Welfare Campaigns Officers from one to two. The proposal produced a very similar discussion to the first and the same result. Several of the remaining observers left. Score two for streamlining.
In the end the review passed with only one amendment. Late in the discussion it was proposed that a new role should be created, a Student Campaigns Officer, to support students engaging in campaigns. Perhaps because this created an entirely new role rather than adding to existing ones, Council voted in its favour.
Also like last year’s Sabbatical Review, though, it would be wrong to say that Council was split into those who agreed with the review and those who didn’t. There were no black and white opinions but infinitely many shades of grey, with the overwhelming feeling that the review contained much that was positive. The review has passed and LUSU now has a solid base from which to encourage students to get involved. What it needs to do is show those who might have thought otherwise how they’re wrong and the new, streamlined team of non-sabbatical officers is there to listen.