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Don’t worry if you missed the AGM. Here’s everything you need to know.
On Monday 28th October, over 400 students attended Lancaster University Students’ Union’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), making it the first AGM to meet quorum in 5 years. Those students unable to attend were able to vote online by proxy in advance. On the night, in the highly charged atmosphere of the Great Hall, students had the chance to discuss and vote on the motions they presented. This is a summary of those motions and their outcomes.
1. Save Our Sugarhouse
Cllr Katie Whearty presented the motion. She emphasised that The Sugarhouse is a “uniquely inclusive and safe venue” and that the “bizarre secrecy” around the issue should end.
Speakers reiterated that The Sugarhouse provides jobs for its staff and safety for patrons. External Trustee Graeme Osborn assured that “Sugar has not been sold”. Addressing employment, he said the Union is not here “to provide jobs for students.”
Many students were not satisfied and argued that closing sugar would contradict the Union’s obligation to provide social and recreational activities, though Osborn promised that those concerns would be taken into account.
Cllr Katie Whearty closed the discussion with a summary speech, “Clearly the student opinion is that we want Sugar.”
The motion passed in the house and via proxy (FOR – 919; AGAINST – 10; ABSTAIN – 9)
2. Student Referendum
This motion proposed that the Students’ Union should amend the article stating that the Trustee Board may overturn any decision made by a student referendum in the case of the Sugarhouse Referendum.
Fylde President Cerys Pumphrey proposed the motion. Cartmel President Timothy Clark seconded the motion, as did all JCR Presidents besides Callum Penn (who could not as chair of the AGM). Pumphrey: “the Students’ Union should represent the student’s voice […] this would be best achieved by the Students’ Union respecting and accepting the result of a referendum”.
A student addressed Osborn directly, “do you think it’s right to have a Students’ Union [that] can overturn anything they want?” Osborn replied, “it would not comply with charity law to have referendum motions of the membership bind the Board to act in a certain way.”
At this point, Atree Ghosh put forward a procedural motion, asking President George Nuttall to exercise his power (as stated in article 4.8) to authorise trustees to speak about the vote on the Sugarhouse negotiations.
President George Nuttall said, “The board took the collective decision on the 22nd of August to entertain the sale of The Sugarhouse […] Since then we have chosen to suspend the sale […] The reasons why the Board entertained the sale were many and varied.” He said the Board had considered changing student behaviours and adjacent accommodation as reasons to sell and dropping student satisfaction and the fact Sugarhouse is “having some of their best years recently” as reasons not to sell.
He continued, “If the motion asking for all officers to take a public stance on the potential sale of Sugarhouse passes I, in my authority as Chair of the Board, will lift the embargo on the full-time officers to say their views on Sugarhouse and how they voted.” (See motions 4 and 5).
The motion passed in the house and via proxy (FOR – 896; AGAINST – 13; ABSTAIN – 26)
3. Referendum Legally Binding
This motion proposed that the Students’ Union abolish article 28.3 in the Union’s Articles of Association which allows the Board of Trustees to override any decision or policy made by student members in a referendum.
The motion’s author, Atree Ghosh, opened the discussion. He asked the audience, “Does the number 23% mean anything to anyone in this room? […] That’s how many members of the Students’ Union thought that they were listened to.” It was noted by the Chair that Graeme Osborn could not speak against any motion because he is not a student.
A student noted that article 28.3.2 enables the Board to override a decision which is in breach of charity law and argued, therefore, that “to lose article 28.3 could be quite damaging.”
On a point raised regarding what would be done with money from a potential sale, Osborn said, “that would come down to – what would you want us to do?” The hall was immediately filled with laughter, and a student cried “build another sugarhouse!”
Osborn addressed the motion at hand, “Passing the motion will not lead to the article being amended […] there is a consultation process […] it has to be logged with The Charity Commission.” He added, “we don’t have, and we can’t have – because it doesn’t comply with charity law – an obligation to absolutely enact the exact word of any particular referendum or motion.”
Ghosh closed the discussion, “I don’t think [the unelected trustees] should have the right to determine what’s best for us.”
The motion passed in the house and via proxy (FOR – 783; AGAINST – 27; ABSTAIN – 124)
4. FTO Public Stance on Potential Sale
The motion proposed that FTOs and PTOs should publicly take a stance on the sale, being allowed to campaign for a side during the referendum.
The motion was proposed by Kyra Webber and seconded by Mitch Boocock but was presented by VP Union Development Hannah Prydderch.
The motion was quickly moved to a vote, given that President George Nuttall had already promised to lift the embargo which prevented trustees from disclosing their views on the sale.
The motion passed in the house and via proxy (FOR – 633; AGAINST – 98; ABSTAIN – 203)
5. Recording of Trustee Board
The motion proposed that future Trustee Board meetings be live-streamed and that recordings be kept on the Union’s website.
The motion was proposed by Amy Merchant and seconded by Emma Charlotte Wood. Merchant said, “students would have a better understanding of the reasons for the decision to enter into negotiations around selling the Sugarhouse if they could see the discussions there.”
During discussions, Ghosh requested that all FTOs take a public stance on the potential Sugarhouse sale, given motion four had now passed.
President George Nuttall addressed motion five first, “If the motion passes, I will implement it […], but I will not be live-streaming anything that is commercially confidential or anything that affects personal matters of people involved.” He moved on, “Now that the embargo has been lifted, I want to be the first officer to come out and say I’m against the sale of The Sugarhouse and I’m in favour of this referendum.” All FTOs (except Ben Evans who was absent) said that they were against the sale, and many said they would be happy to be live-streamed.
Osborn said live-streaming the Trustee Board presents “significant legal risks […] either you would have a meeting which is very heavily redacted […] or you would have a significant risk of us disclosing commercially sensitive or personal information.”
Cllr Oliver Robinson argued, “it is really actually quite easy to separate confidential information from non-confidential information.”
One student said, “you did propose a heavily redacted version of the live-stream […] I would rather that than not know at all what my Trustees are talking about.”
Wood closed the discussion, “transparency is important. Even if we can’t see the whole thing, we would like to see the arguments.”
The motion passed in the house and via proxy (FOR – 610; AGAINST – 25; ABSTAIN – 300)
6. Student Trustee Recruitment
This motion noted a vacancy for an undergraduate position on the trustee board and that this was a vital position to be filled to ensure full representation of the student body.
Guy Watts proposed the motion and Robert Ogden seconded it. The motion was presented by Cameron. He urged that all student trustee appointments be “approved and completed by week 8.”
Despite a proposal to move straight to a vote in the interest of time, student trustee Gemma suggested that the vacancy is still standing due to logistics in regard to interviewing.
The motion passed in the house and via proxy (FOR – 579; AGAINST – 18; ABSTAIN – 336)
7. Position on Industrial Action
This motion was proposed by VP Education Bee Morgan and was seconded by President George Nuttall. Morgan said it was “for discussion only”. She proposed that the University took a neutral position previously on industrial action and would like this decision to be made with information from the students via a referendum. She spoke about the three unions currently balloting and the effects that the strikes could have on students and their learning. The proposed amendments on this focused around postgraduate students who taught undergraduate students, gender and racial pay gaps. After the amendment passed the motion went to a vote.
The motion passed in the house and via proxy (FOR – 306; AGAINST – 48; ABSTAIN – 577)
8. Climate Emergency
This motion called on the union to declare a climate emergency. Among the numerous points outlined in the motion was a demand for an investigation into the potential closing of Barclay’s Lancaster University branch as a part of the Support People & Planet’s ‘Divest Barclays’ campaign.
The motion was proposed by Jack O’Dwyer-Henry and seconded by Laurie Butler. O’Dwyer-Henry introduced the motion, “climate change is an unprecedented emergency”.
A student spoke against the motion. He didn’t like the main focus on Barclays alone and discussed the involvement of the other campus bank branch of Santander. He noted the effect on workers at the branch, “it will directly affect them, not the CEO’s with cosy salaries.” It was also suggested that “scaring off such a big employer could be catastrophic” for our graduate prospects.
Another disputed this, arguing that it would be wrong to agree with their attitude towards climate change purely on our selfish motivations.
The motion passed in the house and via proxy (FOR – 739; AGAINST – 56; ABSTAIN – 139)
9. Affordable Student Housing
This motion sought to materially support efforts by students to form tenants’ unions and to apply pressure to unaccountable, third-rate student landlords. It was proposed by Andrew Williams and seconded by Toby Atkinson.
The motion passed in the house and via proxy (FOR – 607; AGAINST – 18; ABSTAIN – 308)
This motion was proposed by Oliver Robinson and seconded by Jack O’Dwyer-Henry. It demanded the University re-establish the University Court and restore non-academic staff and Lancaster City Council representation on the University Council.
The motion passed in the house and via proxy (FOR – 607; AGAINST – 18; ABSTAIN – 208)
11. Increased Student Input in Union Spending
This motion was proposed by Hannah Prydderch and seconded by Charlie Bradbury. It sought to hold an annual student consultation to enable the Students’ Union to better understand what the funding priorities should be.
The motion passed in the house and via proxy (FOR – 714; AGAINST – 26; ABSTAIN – 194)
The meeting was adjourned after three hours of debate to be continued at a later date.