This week’s Union Council – the first of this academic year – featured the hallmarks of all the brilliant intricacies and formalities that make political councils such as these so alien to the outsider, and have become one of the many things to spot for anyone who dips their toe into the processes of the Union.
The best example came well into the second half of the two hour-long meeting (the chair, Ronnie Rowlands, convening a “fag and slash break” part way through) when the Council was asked to vote for three members to University Senate. For the uninitiated (many of whom were in the room at the time) Senate is the highest academic body of the university. According to VP(Education) Joe O’Neill, Senate is “full of all sorts of senior academics” and can be quite daunting as a result.
Even with the prospect of leering academics breathing down one’s neck in mind, four members of the Council come forward for the position. President Joel Pullan nominates Chair Rowlands, who under convention steps down from his position of Chair momentarily to give way to his deputy, LUSU Councillor Colin Mang. Cross-Campus Officer Caroline Arnold in turn nominates Chair Mang, who under convention steps down from his position of Chair to give way to VP(Education) O’Neill. Thankfully, due to already sitting on Senate, Joe cannot be nominated.
Two extra nominees come forward: Lonsdale College President Charlie Edwards and LUSU Councillor Lizzie Houghton.
Hustings for the position begin, with Ronnie, Colin and Lizzie each giving a decent pitch for their being on the Senate. Meanwhile Charlie – right in the middle of a characteristically impassioned speech – decides he no longer wants the position and withdraws his nomination. Ronnie, Colin and Lizzie are duly elected.
Such is the way with student politics.
Crucial motions of the meeting came much earlier in proceedings. The first of the main motions was over whether to support the recently-announced strike by the unions which have members working on campus. Alan Whitaker spoke to the Council on behalf of the UCU; Jason Wood spoke on behalf of UNISON. Mr. Whitaker said that he believed if LUSU showed support for the strike, it would put pressure on the University to come “back to the negotiating table”. The Council appeared to agree, the motion passing with only two members voting against the motion and a further two abstentions.
The other main motion passed during the two hours was the motion on Combating Rape Culture. While some points were raised – many officers asking for clarification regarding some of the terms used within the motion – the motion was passed by a considerable majority.
The evening is rounded off with the Full-Time Officers’ I’s and Q’s. President Pullan puts particular emphasis on the University’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations, while also launching the “Telephone project”: all college presidents are being asked if the wifi is working in campus accommodation.
Thus concludes another Union Council. While the quote of the session could have gone to many members of the Council – with particular mention to Rowlands and Mang – the prize is bestowed upon Cross Campus Officer Layla Fay who, when nominated for the position of LUSU Executive Member, declared “What am I doing?” A question no doubt asked by several other members of the Council during proceedings this evening.