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I’m going to make a bold opening statement and say that the fact we didn’t reach quoracy for the General Meeting held in week 1 is an embarrassment to our Union.
Ste Smith (LUSU President) had every right to call the General Meeting for the first day of term; indeed the main agenda points of the meeting were a matter of urgency and so needed to be acted on as soon as possible. I’m not just talking about the bar re-structure which anybody with an ounce of University and Union politics awareness would have known about. I’m talking about the other items that although not billed as highly were equally important. Things like the motion to mandate the University to look at improving its counselling service put forward by my ex-JCR Vice president Rosalia O’Reilly (VP Equality, Welfare & Diversity), for example.
How can our Union make positive change or provide a voice with which to raise our concerns to the University if nobody contributes to this voice?
138 members came to the General Meeting, where quoracy (the number of attendees needed to be able to vote on the motions, i.e. get anything done!) was only 200 full members. Let me put this into perspective. If all elected Officers across campus attended the meeting, there would have already been upwards of 150 members there. Lancaster Uni has a student population of over 12,000. Do the maths, there’s a minute percentage of student representation actually needed to MAKE THINGS HAPPEN.
I’m a college JCR President and therefore am an elected vocal representative of Pendle College, something I take unfathomable pride in doing. My twin brother, Joel Pullan, is JCR President of Cartmel College, and there are a further six elected JCR Presidents that represent the Uni’s undergraduate colleges. We all lead our teams of officers that everyone knows as JCR’s.
We are all unpaid student volunteers that largely want to better our colleges and support the students in our respective colleges. Of course, we aren’t going to kid ourselves and say everyone in a JCR is in it for admirable and moral reasons, there are always going to be a few “CV boosters” in it to make themselves look good, or more to the point, make their CV’s look good. But these people crop up in all walks of life, right? For the most part, JCR’s work their fingers to the bone to provide a service to the students, and most of us love it.
“JCRs are a massive clique. They don’t give a shit about the average student. They think they are better than the rest of us”
Yeah, yeah. We’ve heard it all before. Being on a JCR is a largely thankless job. You usually only hear from the student base if something goes wrong, or something isn’t satisfactory enough for them. Very rarely do you get somebody going out of their way to praise a JCR member, or praise a scheme or initiative. You have to be pretty thick skinned about it.
But, what we can’t do, is use this as an excuse or a shield to hide behind the fact that officer representation at the latest General Meeting was humiliating. Like I said, we are elected to provide a voice for our Union, it is one of the most important things we should be doing. By not turning up to the General Meeting in force, our student officers have inevitably left the Union red-faced. The votes of confidence we once received in our elections now seem a little misplaced.
Of course, what I’m NOT doing, is saying that us elected officers should solely carry the voice of the students in the University. I’m not saying “leave it to us; don’t worry about being engaged in student politics, I mean after all, it’s SOOOO boring”. What I’m saying is “we should be here to represent you, we should be here to help inspire you to get involved, we should be here to provide support to our students”.
At the General Meeting, we didn’t do that.
We can’t afford to let down our students like we did in Week 1. Let’s not give any pessimists out there more ammunition to fire at JCRs for underperforming. In the General Meeting we underperformed. We should have been there in force. Student officers are supposedly some of the more engaged students: how are we meant to engage with the wider student body if we can’t even engage ourselves?
Let’s remain positive. Rosalia’s motion to improve the counselling service got passed in Union Council last week of which I was an attendee, as did other agenda items such as showing support to the NUS Demo later this year. The important things were dealt with. We just need to ensure that next time a General Meeting is called, our collective student officer “voice” is more than a painstakingly embarrassing whisper.