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In the Union Council held in Week 2, LUSU President Laura Clayson proposed that the issue of swearing in Union Council should be discussed, based on problems raised by some individuals in council who said that they found it uncomfortable. She asked the council to consider the following questions: How do they feel about the current acceptance of swearing; should swearing be allowed in Union Council meetings; does it create an inclusive and accessible culture; and also, depending on the general response, whether they thought policy and by-law changes should be made.
Clayson opened the discussion and said: “I’ve heard pretty strong arguments from both sides and I didn’t want to make a decision unilaterally, so if everyone could have a discussion about it so we can get some idea of what people think, that would be great.”
Speaking against swearing in Union Council, Richard Molyneux, Nightline service director, said: “I think we (LUSU) are meant to be a professional body and it just detracts from that.” LUSU Councillor Becky Cook agreed and said: “I think that if LA1:TV are going to film us and make us properly accountable, then swearing isn’t exactly a good image to put out as representatives of the Union.” When asked by VP (Campaigns and Communications) Ronnie Rowlands why she thought this, she said: “Well, if you’re a shy person who wants to run for a position but isn’t really sure, then a really aggressive environment in Council is going to put you off doing that. At least in my opinion.”
On the other hand, many debated that swearing in council was not a bad thing and that it made LUSU more approachable. They also discussed the issue of trying to enforce such a rule. Lizzie Houghton, another LUSU Councillor, said: “I think there’s quite a few issues with trying to enforce something like this, and while I take the point about professionalism, I also think we are meant to be accessible and I take that accessible might at first appear like, ‘well, swearing, that shouldn’t be a good thing because maybe it’s aggressive, maybe it puts people off.’ There’s also the argument that if you’re swearing it shows passion.”
She also said “I think in terms of engagement with our members there’s an argument that perhaps we’re trying to be too professional, and with too professional it can become quite alienating. Especially if there are some members who might find a slightly more relaxed atmosphere in LUSU Council more welcoming than if we were hung up on speaking the Queen’s English.”
She also highlighted that there was an issue of defining swearing, saying: “I think it’s something that actually very hard to define. I see that as long as it’s not engaged as personal insult but as a point of emphasis then I’d rather people were swearing because it shows that people are passionate about their argument rather than having to have this very clinical environment which might arise otherwise.”
Despite the discussion, no final decision was made regarding what LUSU were going to do to address the issue. However, more members spoke out in favour of swearing than against it. The debate ended on Houghton’s point that: “The basis of this discussion is how do we make LUSU Council more engaging to students and I think how we make LUSU Council more engaging to students isn’t through this sort of naval-gazing that goes on with, how do we conduct ourselves as council. It’s the, sort of, what motions how have put to council, what consultation are we as councillors doing with our students, how do we promote it. Although I think it’s good to occasionally do a check on ourselves, I’d say probably something like this, noted but perhaps we move on.”