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In keeping with the re-branding of LUSU that went on over the summer, Union Council in Week One had a shiny new look of its own. To help newcomers and observers work out who was who, each officer was given a card with his or her position marked clearly above the LUSU logo and a sheet of Union Council FAQs were handed out before the meeting started.
Continuing the theme, the meeting began with a presentation from the staff of Involve, the new collective term for what used to be Create, LUVU and suchlike. It seemed a little like preaching to the converted – no one knows better than Union Councillors the advantages of being involved with LUSU – but according to new President Robbie Pickles, it gave officers a chance to find out about parts of LUSU they didn’t know about. He plans to encourage this positive appetite by arranging further presentations.
If fresh starts were the main theme of the evening, positivity came a close second. The biggest item on the agenda was the passing of several bylaws to the LUSU constitution, which not only gave Council the opportunity to tidy up their existing byelaws but also the chance to make a positive move. Or so Pickles told us. ‘It’s a positive change,’ he said over and over again. ‘It was seen as a positive decision.’
If he was looking to throw off the shadow of his predecessor Michael Payne and make the meeting his own he could not have found a better way. Pickles knows the LUSU bylaws inside out, having organised their re-drafting almost as soon as he took office at the start of July. Perhaps Union Council was still sleeping off the effects of Freshers’ Week, or perhaps they were soothed by Pickles’ repeated insistence that everything was positive, because bylaw after bylaw passed without comment.
The introduction of a new one, the Cross-Campus Officer bylaw, which turns the position of Union Council Chair into one elected by the entire student body rather than just the members of Council, was the only one to disturb Council’s torpor. Vice President Media & Communications Lizzie Houghton pointed out that Council needed a Chair it respected. ‘I won’t name names,’ she said, before proceeding to do exactly that, but Council got the point and livened up a little.
Only a little. ‘It’s a positive change,’ said Pickles, who has faith in the student body to elect the right person for the job. Before the discussion became too prolonged current Chair and President of Fylde JCR George Gardiner moved it to a vote, unbending from his usual position of objectivity to give Council the benefit of his experience and point out that the role is what you make of it. The bylaw passed.
The livelier mood continued, though, as discussion turned to a request from Pickles and Houghton for £2,000 of the Union Council Reserve to part-fund sending 200 students to participate in the NUS’s demonstration against a rise in tuition fees in November. Concerns were raised by some members of Council that 200 students wouldn’t be found. Pickles and his fellow Full Time Officers, however, were positive that they would. It would, in fact, be embarrassing if they couldn’t. A combined programme of fund-raising and awareness-raising has been planned for the next few weeks. Marc Handley, the Vice President Sports, pointed out that if every member of Council did their fair share of recruiting they would get 200 people without any trouble whatsoever.
Pickles’ final comment before the vote was only to be expected. ‘It’s about being positive about what students do.’