Union Council Blog Review 11.06.09

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By Zain Sardar on 11.6.2023

Union Council Blog Review 11.06.09

So the last council of the year came and went; and with it many of its members which will no longer be seen around these parts. Although this will be the last Union Council blog that I personally will be writing, I have every faith that the accountability and transparency of this most vital decision making body will outlive me and like fine wine get better and better with time.

To start off proceedings, in what was a packed out Council, the Union Chair elections took place with the grand total of…one candidate running for it, the current VP Sports, Cai Robbins. Cai spoke about the “sometimes slow and sporadic” nature of Union Council (this is news to me), that it can be “closed and cliquey” and pledged to make “clear the debating rules”, improve “communication and democracy” and have better “open debates” about topics within it. She was duly elected as next year’s Union Chair, a post she will take up from the departing chair, Niall Allen, who quite fitting received a round of applause for all his unappreciated work over the last two years.

Afterwards, questions were asked to the President, during the latter’s report. Special concerns were aired about the Local and European elections voting drive; specifically on Student Committees not notified or coordinated (by sabbaticals) in mobilising students to vote in colleges. After replying that students should themselves know when the elections took place and that responsibility had been “delegated” down to them, he took these concerns on board.

Two emergency motions were submitted to this Council, one on ‘Welfare Groups’ by Tom Page, who was too busy cavorting with Gordon Brown to submit his motion in on time (no doubt his motion was particularly prudent). The other was the ‘Saving St. Stephen’s Community Centre’ Emergency Motion’ proposed by Pete Gray, in light of the threatened existence of the centre. Both Motions were voted to be heard.

The first motion to be heard was the ‘Life & Honorary Membership Review Motion’ proposed by Tom Christian. The motion was amended slightly by the proposer himself so that the review encompassed a clarification of ‘special benefits that come with membership.’ (Can someone please nominate me for next year in appreciation of all the hard work I’ve done or I might cry!) The motion passed.

The second was the ‘Paper Reduction Motion’ which we probably ‘remember from a couple of meetings ago.’ Indeed, we do. Indeed, we do. This motion passed comfortably although some concern was shown that motions would appear ‘squashed on projectors.’

The ‘Full Time Officers blog’ motion was next. This ended by being a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare as resolves one was amended twice to “mandate full time officers to publish at least a monthly blog starting from 1st July” and resolves two amended once (I can only blame myself as I wrote the motion!). To some people’s amusement a procedural motion was then proposed by Iain Kiy to push the motion to an immediate vote, the vote passed as did the motion afterwards.

In contrast the ‘RaG’ motion refused to drag on, and was unanimously passed straight away.

The first emergency motion, entitled ‘Welfare Groups’ was then proposed by VP Welfare Tom Page. The motion came about as some societies would be better suited to welfare matters and to receive support from the VP Welfare. The motion resolved to accept the constitution of welfare groups so they can be seen as proper functioning bodies. The motion passed.

The ‘Saving St Stephens Community Centre’ Motion proved slightly more controversial. The motion had to be amended a couple of times to ensure that it mandated Kent Union sabbaticals rather than staff. The motion resolved to help the community centre, in light of its threatened existence brought about by its finances and lack of use, by coming “up with ways to advertise events/ nights/ products/ activities …for students” to help its promotion amongst students and “provide it with additional volunteer support.”

The motion found opposition in the curly haired shape of ordinary member, Neil Cox, who found fault with using scarce Kent Union resources, money and staff on community rather than university places. The Seconder of the motion, Keynes President Lauren Crowley, pointed out in response that being involved and aiding the local community was part of Kent Union’s core values and in its strategic plan amongst other things. Hilarity ensued (for me anyway) when a clearly embarrassed Neil Cox passed the opportunity to second the opposition and provide a summation. He then proceeded to vote for the motion, along with all the other council members, as the motion inevitably passed.

Thus concluded Union Council for the year and I’ll leave you with this final plea. If you are an ordinary student, and you have found yourself interested in the happenings of Union Council, please come to council and make sure that elected representatives speak in your name.

Keeping these people to account is your democratic right as a student- after all these people you may never have heard of before represent you. It will make me very happy (where ever I am, whatever I do, whether I realise it or not) if in a year’s time Union Council was filled with ordinary students questioning their sabbaticals’ actions and showing that they care.

I’d like to thank all members of Union Council; without you it wouldn’t have been the dramatic, enthralling speculate it is (and I mean this).

Union Council is back for the 2009-10 academic year, under a new and exciting author, till then I hoped you’ve enjoyed it this year and goodbye council!

***

PREVIEW

It is with great sadness that I start to write what will be my final words in this blog. The last Union Council of the academic year 2008-9 has crept up on us; like an assassin creeping up on an innocent to deliver the blow that will bring on the eternal night (a bit too dramatic?). It will certainly be the last rights for many an elected representative including myself (feel sorry for me here).

During the course of the year that I’ve written this blog I have tried to give you a flavour of what Kent Union is all about, and hopefully an insight into student politics in general; that it’s not simply an overarching robot above our heads but something very much alive with different ideas, characters, and goings on in your name. If you have laughed at an absurd situation, felt sympathy for a representative, been furious at an outcome- then I have succeeded in what I had hoped to set out to do. That is- I have lured you into taking notice and caring about something the majority of students care and know little about.

What I find fascinating about student politics is how much like governmental politics it can strive to be like. The complexity is there- the background relationships and emotions, the infighting, the paperwork and the disillusionment amongst other things. Although these are the very things that put a lot of people off, the charming and the definitely most reconciling aspect of student politics is that those that are still young can care so passionately about the world around them. As the president put in his Thank You Statement sent to all union council members ‘look beyond the Senate Building, and think about how you can lead the better world.’

Council this week starts off with the election of the Union Chair for next year. The departure of Niall Allen, the current law enforcing, constitution interpreting, agenda compiling chair after two years will leave a massive…hmmm…chair shaped hole, I suppose, that will be difficult to fill. The job of the Union Chair as well as other things; to let people know when there comments are not relevant to the debate at hand and chairing AGM.

The president’s report includes some interesting points. Firstly, the president has made ‘a donation on behalf of the University of £2,000 to the Stephen’s Community Association to maintain their community hall in Hales Place.’ It is hoped this will help improve the perception of students in the local community, especially as local residents fear the ‘studentification of the area.’ Those students, they come here, educate themselves, take our jobs, take our flats, dare to help our local economy…oh wait.

The Summer Ball apparently sold ‘a record breaking 4,227 tickets’ -an increase on last year and ‘turned over roughly £250,000 giving Kent Union a surplus of roughly £15,000.’ I personally think, more importantly, that the Summer Ball will be famed for Dizzee Rascal falling off the stage during his set on stage, and this translating onto the front page of The Sun (it’s not really surprising they put this on their front page).

Additionally, after the MPs expenses scandal ‘Kent Union is going to lead the way in the student movement by becoming the first student union to make such a move towards more transparent and accountable financial procedure.’ I’d like to see what are sabbaticals are claiming expenses on; pornography at NUS conference? A little moat around their houses to protect them from disgruntled students? Who knows?

Helen Palmer’s education reports details the concern that ‘there had been issues regarding plagiarism where students had been buying essays online…the students in these positions were well aware that they were committing plagiarism.’ What’s plagiarism? Some of us just like buying essays online and conveniently quote from them, a quote that consists in the entirety of our essay, and don’t bother referencing it.

There are some other issues mentioned- regarding teaching spaces anomalies such as the University counting places like ‘Rutherford Bar and the Eliot car park as teaching spaces’ in their data. I’m not really sure what you can teach in a car park. ‘Gather round students, this is car park…’ However, what came out of the University’s data is the need for departments to use their own rooms more before using centrally timetabled rooms. I’m glad this has been pointed out.

Cai Robbins sports report contains mention of ‘consultation’ with sports clubs members about what they would like to ‘see in the cafe at the sports pavilion.’ I’m sure the rugby players would like to see a bigger selection of herbal teas, spiced aromas and philosophical books from Sartre to Hegel.

Four motions and one emergency motion (you gotta love them) have been submitted this time around.

The first motion is the ‘Life and Honorary’ motion which essentially resolves to ‘conduct a comprehensive review of the Life & Honorary Membership Selection Process.’ This, I’m assuming, entails the introduction of criteria for deciding between those nominated for Kent Union Lifetime and Honorary membership, especially since ‘the sub-committee is hugely vulnerable to personal bias.’ This motion is proposed by Union President Tom Christian.

The Second motion, proposed by ordinary member Neil Cox, is the great Paper Reduction motion once again with 9 resolves (oh goody) which in brutal short seeks to replace hard copies of motions and agendas with projections (we no longer need to fear the dreaded paper cut!). The new resolves outline various exemptions and details I won’t go into.

Next, it is the Full Time Officer’s blogs motion (proposed by me!) which, if the union council blog wasn’t good enough, mandates the 5 full time officers from next year to write monthly blogs on the Kent Union website detailing their personal thoughts and experiences of being a sabbatical.

Finally the RaG (Raise and Give) motion. Proposed by RaG treasurer, Laura Pethers, the motion mandates the Vice-President Activities to count money fundraised by societies for charity (on behalf of RaG) during holiday time when no student is available to do so. It also tightens up the procedures for the money count, for example all ‘cheques raised and posted within 10 working days of any RaG count’ – ensuring money gets to charities quicker.

The emergency motion has been submitted by Tom Page and concern welfare groups. Whether the motion is heard or not will be decided at Council.

*DISCLAIMER: Zain Sardar is an elected representative of Union Council, and hence attends it as a voting member*



Comments

  • Thanks Zain for another great blog and thanks for all the blogs that have been written over the year or so

    By Niall Allen on 17.6.2023

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