Over the past year, we have noticed that students don’t tend to pay much attention to SGMs, sometimes wondering why and how certain motions have been passed. So when we heard how action packed the schedule for the last SGM was to be, we decided to bring all the decision making straight to your computer screen. Becca Taylor was there to witness all the action, with 9 motions being brought forward. Here’s her rundown of a few of the events of the SGM.
by Becca Taylor
Union regulars Stephen Marshall and Zahid Raja once again had multiple motions to put through, and for Marshall, they were somewhat bitter-sweet, as he addressed the last SGM he is likely to attend now he has finished his undergraduate degree. He put through motions on greener transport, the final act of his remit as environment and ethics officer, and on the accountability of NUS delegates to students. Unfortunately, despite criticism of our collective record with the University on green issues, the motion on a ban of air travel within 400 land miles fell at the SGM, for some begging the question of how our Union can possibly question the continual fall in green leagues if we reject change which would improve this. On a lighter note, his final motion, on NUS delegate accountability passed soundly, and we will now be able to hold our NUS delegates more to account on voting records at conference and the work they are doing for us there.
Zahid Raja was the bringer of many a motion as per usual, and as well as seconding the NUS delegate accountability motion, he also put through motions within his own remit of supporting the black students campaign, as well as one on opening up general campaigning within the SU, an election pledge of our new President, Luke James. These passed with a few rounds of debate, but general consensus.
More controversial motions were also on the agenda, and we got to see students who don’t normally feature heavily at SGMs bringing issues to the table. Ross Davies led on a motion which aimed to see the sexual harassment motion of the last SGM clarified, claiming it was too subjective and used language which was unclear such as ‘sexual noises’. The motion was defeated, but women’s officer Raegan Healy did speak about the wider plan of coming up with a clearer scheme of offence and punishment within the Union.
Also bringing controversy were Effion Blease and Stephen Fernley (wrongly listed in the motion document as Kay) who aimed to reinstate the rule that sabbatical officers may only stand for one term in office. The two year term was effected in 1994 after the Education Act allowed it, and it is the case in the majority of Unions that officers may stand for two years. Students arguing for the motion pointed out that it’s difficult for students to defeat a candidate standing for re-election whilst those opposing the motion were keen to emphasise how much there is to get to grips with in the role, and why two years therefore means enough time to understand what you want to do and how it can be done. This motion was too, defeated.
Perhaps my favourite motion though, was the Welsh language motion brought forward by the outgoing Swyddog Materion Cymraeg (Welsh Affairs Officer), Charlie James. She challenged the Union to lead on the Welsh language and pointed out that whilst we have constitutional provision for bilingualism, we fail on this all too often. James mandated the sabbatical and executive officers to provide bilingual posters for all their events, and encouraged societies to follow suit. Owain Harries, the incoming Officer supported the motion wholeheartedly, and offered himself as translator when all other options failed and time was of the essence. The motion passed which represented fantastic news for the Welsh language.
All told, it was a busy last SGM, as many have been this year. The Siren look forward to bringing you all the news from within the Union next year, and encourage you to join us at SGMs – they really can be fun, we promise!
Did you go to the most recent SGM? Are you a regular attendee of such meetings? Let us know your thoughts, as always, we’re all ears!