Union Council Blog 29/5/08: Review

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By comment-editor on 28.5.2023

Union Council Blog 29/5/08: Review

REVIEW

This is the moment you’ve all been waiting for- the ultimate union council review of the year! And what a union council it was- spanning no more than three hours, a paragon of democratic virtue and excitement.

I’m going to start the action with the senior managing director of Kent Union, Jim Gardner no less, giving a thoroughly absorbed and entranced council a presentation on the Union’s strategic plan for 2008-12, otherwise known as the ‘4 year plan.’ The plan will include targets to be met, in order to make sure the Union improves in a number of key areas, but will be nowhere near as restrictive as Stalin’s 5 year plans. The plan is designed to “capture the complexity of a student union” and aims to reach targets of improvement in areas such as customer services, democracy, representation and social, ethical and environment issues.

In the areas of customer service Jim Gardner admitted that this was a “major area of improvement” as the Union wasn’t particularly good at knowing what the students want, especially when marketing things to us. In areas where the Union struggles, such as catering, Kent Union couldn’t possibly compete with Kent Hospitality, which spends a staggering half a million on catering services. He thus vowed to improve the student-customer experience by introducing a customer complaints system. Additionally, the customer experience will be expanded in the years to come with a permanent chief being stationed at Woodys, the dropping of prices in Rutherford bar for next year, a delicatessen shop being built next to Blackwells, and as Endsleigh Insurance vacate their premises from September, the option of replacing it with something students actually want.

In terms of financial management, the Union would like to continue to build on its revenue and surplus till it hits that three quarters of a million mark, the level of financial security. Targets in representation involve Union representatives hosting bi-lateral meetings with Canterbury council and senior politicians. It occurs to me to be quite an entertaining thought that the likes of Julian Brazier (Conservative MP for Canterbury) , who called our former education sabbatical Mark Leach a ‘communist’ and threatened to have him imprisoned in the tower of London, meeting President Tom Christian on a regular basis in the future.

Jim Gardner had in mind for Union democracy a continued increase in voter turnout for the October and March elections, eventually hitting a target of 70-80 per cent in the years to come ( I’m not sure when he expected this target to be reached). On an social and environment level, the Union envisions a cut in electricity consumption by 5 per cent by the end of the plan, and reviews are to be conducted on the state of college buildings, the likes of which were designed in the 1970s and haven’t evolved since, especially as colleges like Darwin and Keynes are unlikely to be still around for another decade.

Council also saw the Union chair elected for next year. The election of the chair, criticised by some as not publicised well enough, seemed like it wouldn’t be contested. However, a former president of a FE college, Mirrih Ini (who admitted he wouldn’t have stood if he knew who he was up against), eventually stood against the mighty and already incumbent chair Niall Allen. Niall Allen mixed experience, supreme confidence and phrases like “the union council is powerhouse of democracy” (a phrase he’d probably been waiting weeks to use) to score a huge victory (15 votes to 3) over his inexperienced rival. However, for the likes of Mirrih Ini and others, there are still the vice-chair positions for next year to stand for.

The Union chair election wasn’t the only one during council, though. Another election of a very different nature took place- and all those running have been long dead! This was the election of the short-list of names for the renaming of the Virginia Woolf building (or Student Activities Centre). The 4 (out of 8) voted into the short-list were John Locke, reminding us of the ‘democratic’ nature of Kent Union, Princess Mariana, the first Chancellor of the University, Jane Austen and Mary Seacole, a “selfless person” emphasising the selfless endeavour of very own representatives.

Onwards to the motions! Since the Union council preview, both the society budget and food allowance motions were withdrawn. Two motions were asked to be added, one concerned with the fact that union bars on campus should ‘review and change the current licenses…to allow children onto the premises before a set time’ and generally make them more friendly to student child carers. This motion was voted by council to be put onto the agenda, and was promptly passed. The second motion that was asked to be added was one concerning the preservation of the collegiate system in the future, in light of the fact colleges like Keynes and Darwin that might not last the next decade. The vote to hear this motion was tied, very excitingly, and the chair, Niall Allen, decided it wise not to hear it due to time constraints.

The first motion actually listed on the agenda was that regarding the Territorial Army. Pete Mackintosh was at pains to stress that the motion was not a “right-wing one sending students to war” but one that would increase student choice. Besides some minor informational amendments by Shaun Nichols and Darwin JCC President-elect Iain Kiy, the motion passed with no opposition to be had.

The much heated motion concerning the increase of ordinary members from 10 to 15 was next, and good discussion and argument was heard from both sides. Helen Palmer suggested the motion would “encourage voter turnout and get more people involved” in council. Opposing the motion, Iain Kiy stated that representation wasn’t “just about numbers” and that currently the lack of people running for the position of ordinary member didn’t warrant increasing it. Seconding the motion, Tom Page highlighted that increasing representation “can’t be a bad thing” and that more people keeping the Union to account is something that should be encouraged and promoted, especially as it decentralises power within the Union. Tom Christian, seconding the opposition, echoed Iain Kiy somewhat in saying that “representation is not a thing in itself” and that more representation should be encouraged in places or demographics that are under-represented. In fact, he argued that increasing ordinary members would exacerbate the cliquey image of the Union, particularly if it ensured who ‘we wanted were elected’ to council. At the end of the heated discussion, the motion fell as most people voted against it.

The motion increasing amount of music rooms on campus experience strong opposition from Ben Tipple and Archie Ofodile. The reasons where that it was deemed more democratic to find out what students wanted to use social space for, rather than impose the view that more music rooms where needed, which doesn’t ‘represent the demographics’ that those on council are supposed to represent. Sam Kennedy, Parkwood JCC vice-president, raised the point that a social spaces survey was taking place at this time, to find out exactly what students would like to use more social spaces on campus for. The proposer of the motion, Ollie Goulding, argued that music facilities, especially for bands, were really what were needed, as the 30 bands for Keynes Stock had nowhere to practice. Despite his arguments, the motion fell.

The International Students motion, proposed by Archie Ofodile because “international students have a hard time” passed comfortably.

As Union council rolled to an end, one wonders about how the representatives of next year will fare in the cauldron of political intrigue and decision-making. Will they, as Archie put it in his closing speech, “inspire students” and “surpass” what the Union’s already done? Only time will tell. Join me next year for another series of the Union Council Blog.

Union Council Blog 2008/9 resumes after the summer holidays

PREVIEW

With tears in my eyes, and some regret, we must bid farewell to Union Council for the year as a sense of the mourning of student politics overcomes us. Still, student politics will break for the summer, and like all things good, like the very phoenix itself, come back renewed and revitalised, with new promises and challenges in the year ahead.

If anyone thought that the last of union councils would be but a last chance for union representatives to give each other a pat on the back and wish each other good luck for times after Kent Union, one is firmly mistaken. There is no such luck in this story- the soap opera that is student politics continues to the very end.

The Welfare sabbatical, ‘pistol’ Pete Mackintosh, recently uploaded on to his Facebook page a motion of high drama, one which he intends to pass in this union council. This policy aims, to sum up in Pete Mackintosh’s own words, to “give the union clear policy on military recruitment on campus” and allows “our members the best opportunity to better themselves.” The motion basically updates union policy that has just expired, and so is considered not a particularly “controversial” one “and is policy the union already carries out”; allowing the local Territorial Army to come and advertise themselves and give out information at freshers fayre, although not actively ‘conscript’ members. However, Jana Mills actively opposed to the motion, states that “Union events, particularly freshers fayre, is no place for military recruitment. When students are worried about mountains of debt, it is exploitative to allow them to recruit students.” The biggest obstacle to the motion is its resolves 5 which states Kent Union should ‘mandate NUS delegates to defend Kent’s and other Students’ Unions rights to allow MoD organization to recruit on their campus.’ For a lot of people, actively encouraging military recruitment on other campuses is to take a political stance beyond one the union should. Mackintosh has himself expressed an interest in removing the clause from the motion.

The second motion of exceeding interest is the one proposed by the tag-team pairing of JCC presidents, Helen Palmer and Tom Page to increase ‘Ordinary Council Members from Ten to Fifteen.’ The reasoning behind this, the motion claims, is that the removal of JCC vice-presidents from council is seen by them as ‘undemocratic’ and so JCC vice-presidents, representing all students, like ordinary members deserve (or at least given a fairer chance) to represent students as ordinary members. The motion thus resolves to increase the number of ordinary members to take account of this, and ensures more representation and democracy as 15 positions makes sure that JCC vice-presidents as well as a reasonably large sample of ordinary students (it would be kept at 10) have a good chance of being elected. This motion will encounter strong opposition, no less from the president, Achike Ofodile, and the student trustee Rebecca Haran. The education sabbatical, Tom Christian, firmly opposed to the motion, sees it as a back door way of letting JCC vice-presidents back into council. He believes “real representation is qualitative rather than quantitative” and the motion will bring its own “inherent dangers”, like increasing the members needed for quorum by something like another 2.5 members. He also points out that ordinary members represent all students on all campuses, while JCCs only those members of colleges. No doubt fierce debate will rage during council on this issue and although I’m simplifying matters slightly, this observer can’t help but to enjoy warfare between the JCC presidents and the higher echelons of the union.

Furthermore, other motions include lobbying the university for more music practice rooms, a complicated financial motion (admitted by Tom Bates himself) concerning society roll-over budgets and one regarding NUS delegates that are not full-time sabbaticals to claim a food budget when at NUS conference.

For those who especially enjoy watching democracy in action, this union council also has lined up for you the union chair elections. The union chair, quite obviously, chairs union council in a non-voting, non-arguing, non-debating capacity, with the highlight being, apparently, the year’s AGM. Some have expressed an interest in standing, along with the current union chair, Niall Allen.

For those that I have enticed to come, Union council can be seen in a senate chamber near you, evening viewing is at 6pm, this Thursday, 29th March. For many, this may be your last chance to see characters, such as our very own President in action.



Comments

  • It was somewhere towards the end of the agenda, Lauren, I’m surprised you didn’t see it. (:

    Okay, seriously, in the motion it says that “council is less representative due to the removal of the JCC Vice-Presidents.” I apologise for writing “undemocratic”, I don’t know what got in to me. I’m a terrible person that deserves to be whipped.

    You did look quite forlorn when the motion fell, Helen. ):

    By comment-editor on 12.6.2023

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  • My original point was that you wrote that Palmer and Page saw the removing of vice-presidents as ‘undemocratic’. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t in the Agenda.

    Also it was 40 bands that auditioned for keynestock 🙂

    By Lauren Granville on 9.6.2023

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  • Zain I understand the arguements against the motion, I just don’t agree. I commentated only on the ‘backdoor’ arguement because that is the one you mentioned in your preview and the one dicussed in the comments. There is no limit to how many council members we can have, so to me it is not an issue of where to re-distibute the five votes removed at last Council. I fully support adding more portfolio officers in future such as a Medway Officer and splitting the Postgraduate Officer into two Research and Taught Officers, however, if we are going to proportionally represent the demographic of Kent Union then in theory we should have to increase the number of non-portfolio officers accordingly. I realise that this year not all posititons have been filled, but as I said in my summation, in March elections we didn’t fill positions such as Mature Students Officer, and we shouldn’t just get rid of that either! I don’t think Ordinary Council Member is an arbitrary position, and considering the lack of motions in the first term, I think it is a position vital for debate, accountability and strong representation. Sorry if I’m going on about it, I just whole-heartedly believe that the best form of representation is active participation. The motion fell so I guess not many people agree with me, and to be honest I’m completely gutted.

    By Helen Palmer on 9.6.2023

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  • Lauren, the agenda doesn’t take into account that 2 motions were withdrawn at the last minute, or that two motions were added, for that matter. How’s was I supposed to know that from the agenda I was given?

    By comment-editor on 6.6.2023

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  • And also, I would be interested what you define as a clique…?

    By Lauren Granville on 5.6.2023

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  • The agenda of Union Council does not report opinion, and there were inaccuracies in this article regarding the agenda.

    I do like this idea of a Union Council preview but only if it is all correct.

    By Lauren Granville on 5.6.2023

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  • ‘Inaccuracies’???? He’s was merely reporting what was on the Agenda paper! This was a PREVIEW not a review (which will come soon eh Zain).

    Keep up the good work Zain as you attempt to break down these cliques.

    By Gordon Brun on 3.6.2023

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  • You’re more than welcome too next year, Lauren and I’d be pleased if you do. I don’t claim to know all the ins and outs of everything in Kent Union politics and I’m glad I don’t as it would probably do my head in. But the whole point of the blog is to get ordinary students interested and stimulate discussion, so if you have a point you’d like to raise or correct me on in the next review don’t hesitate to contact me.

    By comment-editor on 1.6.2023

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  • I don’t have an issue with the motion anymore, it passed and that’s that.

    I have an issue with the inaccuracies in your article Zain, and I wonder whether I’m going to be correcting things for the next year about union council?

    By Lauren Granville on 31.5.2023

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  • I agree, Mr Nichols,that some of the ordinary members haven’t done their job as they should have, i.e. keeping the union to account, and more needs to be done to make sure they do their job properly. Remember, we publicly hanged the International officer during the AGM for not attending council.

    The ‘back door’ argument against the ordinary member motion is Mr Tom Christian’s. The argument, Helen, that was given against increasing ordinary members from 10 to 15, was that those 5 positions on council could go to representing a demographic that really needs it as opposed to just adding on more ordinary members when in the past few years not many people have stood for it. Adding arbitrary positions, no matter how democratic it might be, will not provide effective representation.

    The whole point of removing JCC VPs from council, as Lauren points out, is to make the amount of JCC representation, compared to other parts of the union, fairer. Those positions on council could be used to represent demographics that need to be represented, for example associate colleges and possibly other campuses like Medway.

    Hopefully I’ll get the review up in the next few days…

    By comment-editor on 31.5.2023

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  • I thought both sides put forward a strong argument on this motion, shame we didn’t get more time to debate this on the night!

    One thing that hasn’t been brought up in Council is the poor attendance of SOME Ordinary Council Members. Some, like Rebecca Haran, have proved to be very competent in the scrutiny role and debating. Some, like those elected on a KUCA ticket, hardly ever show up. Bethany Wales for example has been there once I think.

    As we are sticking to 10 Ordinary Members of Council next year can I ask the Chair and Vice-Chairs to make a proper record of attendance by those members.

    By Shaun Nichols on 30.5.2023

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  • Can I just mention that first of all I didn’t think removing VPs was undemocratic, it was a move I supported. I believe in active participation as the best form of representation, so I feel that lowering the number of voting members on council means that council is much less democratic. And I’m not really sure who has said what about Vice-Presidents, but if anyone has actually said that it’s a ‘backdoor way to get VPs on Council’ then I find that ludicrous, there is nothing to stop them running with 10 members!!! From speaking to this years VPs I think only two would have run anyway. Well I guess council disagree with me about the best form of representation, but just wanted to state I don’t think losing VPs is an undemocratic move or that they should necessarily run for Ordinary Members, however I do think its advisable for them to go to council.

    By Helen Palmer on 30.5.2023

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  • OI!!! Please don’t interfere with my comments!!! I didn’t write that last line!!!

    By Lauren Granville on 30.5.2023

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  • I did worry that it could be seen that way Lauren as I said in my speech to Union Council. We must do everything we can to escape our cliquey image and if students were to think that we were extending the number of these positions to cater for the exclusion of the VP’s then it would understandably not go down well. Anyway, that wasn’t the crux of my argument and it’s all over now.

    By Tom Christian on 30.5.2023

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  • what a majority of students believe rather than just voting on what I believe is right.

    I would also like to know if Tom Christian really does believe that the motion was a back door way to get vice-presidents back on council as what you have written is not in quotation marks.

    By Lauren Granville on 30.5.2023

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  • Sorry Zain, I have to disagree with you. Helen and Tom did not see removing the JCC vice-presidents as ‘undemocratic’. We all supported their removal of vote as we believed, as I’m sure many others do, and as Tom said in his speech today, that JCC’s having two votes on council was unfair. Especially as they are voted in by a small handful of students in contrast to the other officers that sit on council.

    The point of the motion was to not let the amount of representative seats drop, but as you know there was disagreement about whether this should come from ordinary council members or another area where students are lacking representation.

    Either way the motion fell, and I will be encouraging my vice-president, as I hope other JCC presidents will, to run for ordinary council member. If they do not want to then that is fine as well, I just feel it is beneficial to have them beside me holding me to account and ensuring that I vote accordingly to

    By Lauren Granville on 30.5.2023

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