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Union Council this week began in a sombre fashion, as LUSU President Joel Pullan thanked those officers (primarily College Presidents and their Vice Presidents) for the time and hard work they have put into the Union, as after this week’s session some of them would be leaving Council permanently – unless they chose to run again for a position that would require their presence.
The debate in question hinged on several points. While there appeared to be a consensus that the number of representatives from the Board were to be cut from eleven to five (though even this was contentious to some members of the Council) the degree of representation postgraduate research and postgraduate taught students have on the Council remained a point of disagreement.
While the members of the Board expressed how difficult it was for them to guarantee representation of both research and taught postgraduate students, LUSU Councillor Lizzie Houghton and Vice President Education Joe O’Neill #FTjOe pushed the issue, suggesting that the Board were taking “the easy way out” when instead they should be attracting postgraduates to run for positions through campaigning and promoting elections. More issues about representation were brought up by LUSU Councillor Colin Mang, before the aforementioned Lonsdale President came out as the defender of the existing Board members.
Edwards declared that the Board had been “hounded” by Council that evening, and suggested that all 11 members of the Board should stay on Council. Other members of the Council countered Edwards argument, O’Neill asked Edwards: “How do you feel about a college with twice your college membership having five times [the number of] your representatives?” Mang added, “I don’t feel I should be represented by people who I have not voted for”. Instead, he asked for an amendment which would see the three Postgraduate Board portfolio officers, one postgraduate taught representative and one postgraduate research representative sitting on Council. Both the amendment and the bye-law changes themselves were passed by Council, though the rift caused was stark: every single member of the Board voted against all of the changes, whilst the rest of Council (except Edwards, who voted with the Board) voted in favour of the changes.
Discussion was a lot less controversial elsewhere. The other major conversation took place over the representation of liberation groups within LUSU. Liberation groups are any group within society which faces oppression, including ethnic minorities, students with disabilities and women. The main discussion was opened by observer Annabelle Blackburn. However, she told the Council that she rarely uses LUSU to achieve her aims – despite LGBTQ* being a sub-committee of LUSU, she also stated that the Union does not help liberation causes. Blackburn said that she had come to speak to the Council specifically in favour of the introduction (or, indeed, reintroduction) or a woman’s officer. She said that women need more help from their Union than men, saying that Lancaster claims to be a “bubble of safety for women” and that this in itself disguises problems; she also claimed that “The Lancaster Bubble” does not exist and there are still serious challenges that women face, often on a daily basis. Blackburn concluded that while female representation in the Union is currently at a high point, we cannot ensure that this will be the case in the future, arguing that the Union needs to use this time to further help liberation groups.
Pendle Vice President Becky Cook was the first to speak, arguing that a woman’s officer could be considered patronising. LGBTQ* Cross Campus Officer Anna Lee – herself a representative for a liberation group – countered Becky, arguing that she does not find her position patronising and that such positions are not patronising if the position is taken seriously. The idea of a woman’s officer had previously been discussed on a private Council group and had received very little positive feedback. Blackburn frequently rebutted points made by Council, despite observers not usually being allowed to comment and debate once they have stated their case. Another member of Council made the point that liberation groups needed to focus on more than simply women, and the conversation moved on to discussing liberation groups as a whole. Fylde Vice President Jamie Rogers suggested that there are so many liberation groups on campus, that if the Union were to offer representation to them, where would it stop? O’Neill responded that “it stops where Council wants it to stop”. Rogers continued, arguing that students of all groups get representation through their college. This was swiftly rebutted by Cartmel College President Salman Rukhsar, who – in a short but impassioned speech – stated how often he has been the victim of casual racism, and that liberation groups need someone to represent their community and tackle the issues which face that community. He received applause from the rest of Council.
Motions passed in the Council include a motion on the prevention of NHS fees for international students and a motion to promote Positive Body image on campus. Discussion also took place on whether the Union would support the “Stop Page 3” campaign.
The other motion passed aimed to reduce printing costs – something which some members of the Council appeared to take to heart even before the motion had been passed, with Bowland College President Patrick Somervell only printing off four copies of the JCR bye-laws for the whole of Council.