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AGM motions ‘fail’ to represent students’ views

Over fifty percent of students believe that military funded bodies should be allowed to function on Sussex campus, a survey for The Badger has revealed. This is despite a motion at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Students’ Union that was passed in opposition. Less than 25 percent of people surveyed were in favour of the ban, with the other twenty-five per cent either not caring or not knowing about the issue.

The survey of over 250 Sussex students from all six different schools asked them what they thought about a number of issues relating to the AGM. As stated in last week’s edition of The Badger, the AGM struggled to reach its Quorate of 5%, resulting in many of the motions being passed on to council. It is felt that this low turnout is a result of a lack of confidence in its effectiveness and relevance. It comes on the back of claims that this year’s AGM was not representative of the wider student population. In general the students were largely negative about the AGM, with only 10% stating that it represented their views. The level of awareness of the AGM is also quite low, with over 40% of students saying that they don’t know if it represented them.

The results were, however, not equally shared across the schools. Those in SOCCUL were more than four times (39.5%) more likely to attend than those in Sussex Institute (8.5%). The levels of awareness also varied across the schools with 70% of pupils from SPRU responding ‘Don’t Know’ when asked if the Union represented their views, compared with only 30% in SOCCUL. But a number of students pointed out that they had timetabling clashes which meant they could not attend and this could help explain the lower turnout from science students who have more contact hours.

When asked whether there were any issues they would like to see brought to the AGM, most students declined to comment, once again reflecting an overriding apathy and a lack of confidence in the AGM amongst the student body. A concern over the lack of ‘adherence to academic matters’ was repeatedly raised, seemingly underlining the lack of representation. One student wrote: ‘the issues raised were completely alienating and unrepresentative of my concerns and that of the majority of the student body at Sussex. They are completely irrelevant to the academic and social issues that should have been put forward.’ Many students also voiced a lack of understanding in the issues raised, suggesting that more contact from the union would make the AGM more informative and inclusive as a whole. 

In analysis the survey revealed that feelings of representation correlated with attendance, with students twice as likely to say that the AGM represented their interests if they attended than if they did not. Adam Farrell, USSU Education officer, was stressed that the AGM was for students to raise concerns. He said “the motions that were put forward at the AGM came from students, if students feel an issue is being neglected I urge them to get involved and suggest motions.”

On the lighter side of the results a number of students took the opportunity to voice comical concerns about the University. When asked if the Union should have a referendum on membership of the NUS one student wrote “why would you not want a fifteen percent discount at Topshop?” Similarly responding to a question asking if there is another issue that they would have liked to have seen at the AGM, one student wrote “the terrible writing in The Badger and the pandemic of the ‘Masculine Rush for Fundraising!’”.

Similarly, following comments by a student named Izzy at the AGM who called the attendants of the meeting a “bunch of hippies”, a number of respondents appeared to claim that the AGM is too left-wing. One student suggested the Union should “oppose the activities of socialist bodies at the University”, while another suggested that the Union should give out “free deodorant for hippies”.

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