Conflicting motions proposed at Union General Meeting

The second and final Union General Meeting (UGM) of the term saw two opposing motions tabled over the way YUSU should be mandated to handle to recent bill raising the cap on tuition fees.

The first motion, proposed by Peter Spence, argued that YUSU should take a neutral stance on tuition fees because only “400 members of the union attended the recent demonstration”. He argued that, “YUSU should be more inward looking” concentrating on issues of welfare and equality, rather than the campaign against the rise in fees.

The conflicting motion was proposed by Luke Sandford, YUSU Campaigns Officer, who argued that the Union should “oppose any increase in university tuition fees” and to “actively campaign against cuts to higher and further education funding.” Sandford stated that it was important to have a position on this issue and this motion would “re-state YUSU’s stance” even though MPs voted for the government’s motion in the House of Commons last week.

If both passed, Dan Walker, YUSU Democracy and Services Officer, stated that, “an Emergency General Meeting (EGM) would be called.”

Overall, there were nine motions put forward at the meeting. A proposal to make UGM meetings and voting more transparent and democratic by publishing all of the speeches and arguments and not just the opening speeches was proposed by YUM Chair, Chris Young. It was acknowledged that considerably more people vote on the website than attend the UGMs in person and therefore, with only the two opening speeches currently available when voting, not all the arguments will be heard.

Other heavily debated motions were whether YUSU should support the NUS “Right to Recall” campaign. Questions were raised over whether the campaign was politically motivated and clearly targetting the Liberal Democrats, thus jeopardising YUSU’s position as a politically neutral body. However, those in favour stated that the NUS campaign is against future legislation that affects all parties. Dan Walker agreed to convene the rules and revisions committee to deem whether the motion was unconstitutional in its explicit naming of Lib Dems.

Addressing YUM representation on council, Chris Young, YUM Chair, described the large number of unique hits all of the media societies receive on their websites each month and therefore their greater ability to cover and debate Union activities than YUSU meetings, such as the UGM.

Young also argued that the media charter, which ensures York media’s freedoms, can be changed at council because it is a by-law and therefore this necesitates a representative from the media societies.

However, Dan Walker questioned the point of YUM having a seat on council ahead of other societies and whether what they discussed warranted a representative being there.

Other motions included lobbying the University to provide a common room specific to the International Student Association (ISA), to condemn the violence at the Demolition march on 11th November and to lobby the University to affiliate with the Workers Right Consortium.

Voting opens on Monday and all students who wish to cast their vote should visit the YUSU website http://www.yusu.org/democracy/voting

10 comments

  1. The Motion on the “Right to Recall” Campaign has been withdrawn, as it would have delayed the voting on the other motions as well as forcing Rules and Revisions to meet again, which seemed unnecessary given the relevant legislation does not exist yet.

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  2. @ Luke

    Why? It was such a good motion, and it least deserved to have it’s day in the vote

    YUSU Officers simply don’t understand Ultra Vires. Fees – perhaps more than any other current issue – affect students as students; other unions have passed motions that are exactly the same; and we have existing policy that condemns the BNP that was ruled OK as it was shown to be on issues that affect students as students (I think it expires this year as it happens).

    YUSU need to stop hiding behind Ultra Vires as an excuse to avoid taking a political stance even when it is right and proper to do so. I say this not in a general isn’t-YUSU-terrible rant, I just think they have a massive blind spot when it comes to Ultra Vires. Only one single SU in the history of UV has ever been taken to court, and over an incredibly dodgy case, and they were given the lightest slap on the wrist. YUSU need to wise up on UV.

    Yes the Right to Recall legislation doesn’t yet exist, but a) the fees legislation has passed – that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bother with the other related motions, and b) it’s about creating momentum and pressure (it’s very unlikely we’d win a vote of recall on Sturdy anyway, even if it was deemed we had grounds, which we probably don’t – even though he did promise to sign the NUS Pledge it still wouldn’t qualify as “corrupt”). Please re-submit it next term!

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  3. I’m not totally sure on the ultra vires laws and what they exactly mean, but in my opinion, the motion was a flawed one and dangerous for the union. The motion called for direct attacks to take place against Liberal Democrat MPs. “The right to recall” idea was a lib dem policy and not one of any other party. As a result, enforcing this draft policy as a Union makes the Union partisan political.

    Obviously YUSU should have a political role in supporting and standing up for students where need be. That role shouldn’t become partisan aligned though. Such a decision to would be dangerous for the credibility of the Union. I for one don’t want to see my Union become like that Trotskyite Labour breeding ground that is the NUS. I don’t want to see them become anti-lib dem. And I don’t want want to see them supporting Conservative cuts without irrational thought. How these sort of decisions are made must be through debate and rational thinking, and when that crosses the line and attacks a specific party, the Union loses its credibility in supporting students, giving the impression that it’s become party politically affiliated.

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  4. @Politico

    Your argument contains a fundamental flaw. The Student Union is there to represent student VIEWS and not simply issues that affect us.

    So, it is the case that not every student wants to run to London and smash a window in protest at these proposals. In fact, as the motion proposer states, only 400 showed a defiance to the increase in fees.

    You can’t just assume that because something affects a group of people they immediately disagree with it. You are, if anything, serving a massive disservice to the ability of students’ to form their opinion about an issue with good reason, and not just a simple knee-jerk, selfish reaction.

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  5. @ Tim

    So put it to the vote! That’s all I’m saying. Let the student body decide, rather than deny them a say by hiding behind an incorrect understanding of the law

    @ the joker

    So YUSU should never support a policy when a political party also has that policy? Bit of a silly argument.

    One way that YUSU can stand up for students is attacking those that have betrayed them. If students choose to do that (and here they have been denied that choice), then I think not doing that undermines its credibility rather more.

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  6. @politico

    what your’e doing is immediately assuming that all students voted lib dem. you’re wrong. i’ve met a lot of people that in fact didn’t support the initial lib dem policy. forcing this sorts of students to come under the yusu embrella and actively go against some of their own beliefs is wrong. the union should stand up for students, not for against political parties. yusu is campaigning against the fees rise – not the liberal democrats.

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  7. @ the joker

    I never said that all students voted LD, and I certainly don’t think that. You’re not getting my point: giving the student body the choice about whether to accept this motion or not is just that: giving them a choice, not forcing them to do anything. If they vote no, then fine. If it passes, and then not enough students sign the recall, then fine. But it’s about giving them that opportunity should they wish to take it. That’s called DEMOCRACY. What are you not getting?

    Sometimes, just sometimes, when the student body votes to do so, standing up for students and against a political party are the same thing (the fee rise is happening because of the actions – and in the case of the LDs, u-turning – of Members of Parliament, not out of the ether). But that’s a debate that the student body needs to have – a debate they have been denied because the motion is not going to the vote.

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  8. Results for the UGM vote have just gone online:

    http://www.yusu.org/blog/entry/525

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  9. Julian Sturdy didn’t sign the pledge…. Just saying :)

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  10. “Addressing YUM representation on council, Chris Young, YUM Chair, described the large number of unique hits all of the media societies receive on their websites each month and therefore their greater ability to cover and debate Union activities than YUSU meetings, such as the UGM.”

    Shame all those unique users diden’t log on and vote eh?

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