The Devil’s in the detail


It’s not often you struggle to find a seat at LUSU Council (formerly known as Union Council) but on Thursday Week Five the place was crawling with observers. They’d been jolted out of disinterest by two agenda items hotly tipped to cause controversy: the proposed abolition of the Equality, Welfare and Diversity (EWD) subcommittees and a motion for LUSU to support the building of gender neutral toilets.

In the event, however, the controversy came from somewhere else altogether.

Having previously been reduced in number last year, the decision had been made to dispense with EWD subcommittees entirely and have none at all. Pete Macmillan, Vice President (EWD), proposed the structural changes, racing through his presentation as though he thought Council might take it off him if he went on too long.

As the motion had already been passed by EWD Council it had come to LUSU Council purely for information and we were spared the “lengthy debate” which took place the first time it was voted on. Macmillan stressed the positive side to the changes, including more time for officers to campaign and represent students and Robbie Pickles, LUSU President, chimed in agreeing that endless subcommittees wasted officers’ time. Matt Saint, Macmillan’s successor, was clearly not in favour, however, commenting that “it’s been done now” with a marked lack of enthusiasm and pointing out that it is in fact the fifth such review that has taken place in two years.

The motion for gender neutral toilets, also proposed by Macmillan, was meant to be even more exciting than the EWD subcommittees, at least for those who sat through the two-hour argument when it came to Council 12 months ago. Before Council was encouraged to begin debate Pickles shared his opinion that the reason it was voted down last time was due to confusion on behalf of councillors as to what exactly a gender neutral toilet was.

“There’s nothing bad about gender neutral toilets,” he said reassuringly. “They’re not massive open urinals, people don’t have sex in them.”

Thus comforted, Council passed the motion with almost no comment and, thinking the majority of business was over for the evening, visibly relaxed.

But it was not to be. Right at the end of the agenda, the constitutional review business required Council to pass the elections bylaw, and unfortunately for those planning an early night Council did so in excruciating detail.

Confusion reigned from the start with amendments being proposed left, right and centre.First of all, Emily Blanchard, the current Chair of Elections, proposed that the Chair of Elections position be voted on in lent term. Ste Smith, president of Fylde JCR and former college chair, disagreed, and proceeded to outline several reasons why, amongst others, he felt that it would be beneficial for all Cross Campus Officers to be elected together and have chance to bond as a team, like a JCR.

“Just to be an arsehole,” said Matt Windsor, Vice President (Finance, Events, Democracy & Societies), as soon as Smith had finished speaking, “your second argument negated your third.”

Smith disagreed. Pickles hastened in before the debate got out of hand to point out that, unlike JCRs, Cross Campus Officers don’t tend to be elected all at once anyway. And Richard Clark, Pendle Vice President, informed Windsor that, despite having taken the trouble to inform Council of the way Smith’s arguments negated themselves, his own had done exactly the same thing.

Before we became any further mired in the confusion of whose argument had negated whose, Blanchard jumped back in to return to the JCR vs CCO attitude to election organisation. “It works, and it’s a different ethos to JCRs, so [I] don’t think the team thing is a massive issue,” she said.

The vast majority of Council agreed with Blanchard, because the amendment passed.

This was just the start; Smith had amendments of his own. Several amendments. As he itemised them it became clear that he and Blanchard were the only people really paying attention – that is, until Smith objected to the part of the bylaw which restricted candidates for Elections Officer to those who could fill the role for a full 12 months as he felt it was undemocratic. Robin Hughes, Vice President (Academic Affairs), agreed, saying that it was not only undemocratic but also unconstitutional.

Pickles perked up at this reference to the constitution.

“I’d love to find the part of the constitution where it says that. If anyone has a copy of the constitution?” he added hopefully.

No one had a copy of the constitution. There was a pause whilst Council attempted to track one down; Hughes got out his iPad but was pipped to the post by Pete Elliott, LUSU Chief Executive, who retrieved one from inside a briefcase.

Pickles, it turned out, was right; a summer spent updating the bylaws had not been wasted and restricting candidates was permitted.

“It’s still undemocratic,” said Smith.

Council had begun to mutter to itself.

“Order,” shouted Mark Lord, Council Chair. ” Can someone propose an amendment to strike out this point?”

The amendment fell. Undeterred, the tireless Smith continued; he had amendments proposing changes to when candidate information is given out, what should be done at hustings, whether college AROs should attend the vote count and much, much more.His last suggestion, that candidates should not be required to submit copies of their budget to their ARO, was liked by no one. Vice President (Media & Communications) Lizzie Houghton said that receiving emails from candidates was part of an ARO’s job and if they didn’t like it they’d have to deal with it, and Pickles informed Council that of course they could stop people from having to submit budgets but if they did they were likely to find themselves on the wrong side of a lawsuit.

Smith gave up. There were a couple more amendments proposed but no one’s heart was really in it any more; 10 minutes later the bylaw had passed and Council could start thinking of the pub once more.

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  1. I maintain that I was correct 😛

  2. I quite like this article but just to point out some of the misunderstandings…

    I wasn’t referring to the Elections CCO not forming part of a team with the CCOs… It was about forming a team with Elections Subcommittee.

    Secondly, I didn’t suggest that budgets weren’t submitted to AROs. My suggestion was that they only needed to be submitted upon request, which is the process that has been followed in all of the elections that have occurred since I’ve been at University – I know this is the practice as I’ve either been running in the elections or I’ve been an ARO during them… I believe it’s sensible to keep a record of what you spend and it’s in the powerpoint I used in my candidates meeting in the elections I ran, but only ever used upon request…

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