370 students vote against Business Process Review in packed LUSU GM

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Photo by Jonnie Critchley

Over 370 students attended the LUSU General Meeting, held on Thursday February 9th, meaning that quoracy was met. At least 200 students must vote for a motion in order for it to pass, and this was the first time in about three years that quoracy has been met, Vice President (Events and Democracy) Olly Trumble told the room.

Due to the overwhelming turn-out, Trumble – who was chairing the event – proposed to move the three motions up on the agenda, above the Full Time Officer (FTO)’s reports. This was met with complete agreement by the room.

The University’s Business Process Review (BPR) was the first point of discussion, and the reason that many people were in attendance. Vice President (Academic) Alex Carlin took to the stand to make his summation. The BPR is looking to make financial savings, primarily by focusing on administration at Lancaster University. Carlin stressed that these ‘financial savings’ were “unknown” and that the BPR Steering Group had failed to share important information with the rest of the University.

Carlin felt that it was “difficult to believe and trust in the agenda” of the BPR and urged those in attendance to vote in favour of the motion to halt the BPR so that it may be scrutinised and evaluated properly.

Nobody spoke against the motion. However, PhD student Chris Witter did propose two amendments to the motion.

The motion included “an independent board from within the institution” that would aid in evaluating the BPR. Witter proposed that administrative staff were part of this board, particularly as they understand the administrative process “the best” and that is in their “best interests” as their jobs are at stake under the BPR. The amendment was voted in favour of by the meeting.

He also proposed an amendment that whatever the results of the scrutiny there would be no further centralisation of departmental administration; this amendment was also met with agreement from the meeting.

A senior associate lecturer from the University of Cumbria (UCUM) and Post-Graduate student at Lancaster also stood up and urged the room to vote in favour of the motion. He expressed that a similar review had taken place at UCUM and it had resulted in negative effects for the student experience and the community at the university. He further stressed that if it had not worked at a smaller university like UCUM then it would not work for Lancaster.

The majority of the room, and over 200 students, voted in favour of the motion and it was passed.

The second motion, a referendum on the rights of Associate Membership, was proposed by Aaron Spence on behalf of an Associate Member. Associate Members include continuing education students, students on short courses, students on placements or years abroad, Summer University and Summer Programme students, students at associate institutions or colleges of the University, intercalating students, students enrolled with Study Group International, and all members and employees of the University. They are not allowed to attend general meetings and are unable to vote or run in any LUSU elections.

Spence proposed the motion that this system was reviewed and that Associate Members would be able to have equal rights to full-time members of the University. This would mean that students on placements or years abroad, for example, would be able to run in elections and hold officer positions even if they were not in attendance at the University during that year.

The motion was not, however, to change this immediately but rather to put it to a referendum that the student body could vote in during Week Eight of Lent Term.

This was met with discussion by the room. George Gardiner, LUSU President, spoke against the motion stating that although he did agree with the accessibility  argument he felt that the University should be encouraging international campuses to establish their own students’ unions. The newly announced Guandong campus in China is already in discussions about representation, said Gardiner.

This was met with discussion by the floor. Stephen Smith, LUSU Campaigns Cross Campus Officer, felt that the motion was “impractical” stressing that Junior Common Room (JCR) officers would not be able to fulfil their roles effectively if not present at the University. Others felt that Associate Members should still be able to run in elections, commenting that if people are aware of the candidate they are voting for and their location then they will still be making an informed decision. One student, who had been on a year abroad, also spoke up about the unfairness that they were not able to vote in any of the elections and therefore had no say over the officers that were in place upon their return to the University.

When put to a vote, the motion split the room and required two hand counts. During both counts the motion was voted in favour of, yet failed to gain 200 quoracy, and therefore did not pass.

The third motion was perhaps the most controversial of the evening. At this point there were 240 still present at the meeting. Will Taylor proposed the motion to ban engineering company BAE Systems on campus, stopping arms companies from advertising or sponsoring in the “Students’ Union, its societies, sports clubs or events.” He also proposed that the Students’ Union took a political stance on their position in relation to arms-related companies.

Taylor gave a summation about BAE, highlighting their effects worldwide, particularly emphasising the fact that they “sell weapons to over 100 military customers around the world including countries which the UK Foreign Office’s ‘Human Rights Report’ deems “countries of concern” such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Pakistan.” Taylor felt that the University’s contact with BAE systems “legitimises” their actions and presents them as “exiting career opportunities” to students.

This motion was met with alot of discussion from the meeting. Many felt that the Union has a duty to students to make them aware of all the career opportunities available to them. Others felt that the presence of BAE systems on campus had detrimental effects.

After much discussion, an amendment was passed to get rid of the majority of the ‘Resolve’ points in the motion and only resolve “to mandate the SU to notify the University of the SU’s position on arms related companies.” This amendment was passed.

Taylor felt that it was still important for students to vote in favour of this motion as it meant that the Students’ Union would adopt a political stance and that some change could be made.

Despite this, the motion failed to gain quoracy and did not pass. There was some confusion as it was only at this stage in proceedings that it was announced that 200 votes in favour were required for a motion to pass.

When speaking about the meeting, Alex Carlin, LUSU Vice President (Academic) who proposed the motion against the Business Process Review was extremely pleased. He told SCAN that “he was proud of the diligence of all the students who attended tonight’s meeting.”

Attendee Rachel Essex commented that she has “attended general meetings before and [had] been disappointed at the lack of students there. It was great to see so many students at the meeting, showing that our students really do care about what happens at the University. It was also fantastic to see so many speaking out in favour of or against the motions put forward.”

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