327 Views
7 Comments

The system’s broke: it’s time to fix it

“AGM motions ‘fail’ to represent students’ views.” This was the headline which, along with a friendly-looking pie chart, jumped out and grabbed my attention in last week’s The Badger. Sadly, my reaction to this headline was not outraged shock or even bemused curiosity, but “Well, duh!”

I’ve attended the last three AGMs and in each one felt the same mixture of boredom, frustration and ultimately despairing resignation (not to mention a really sore bum) as the most trivial of clauses in a motion I neither know nor care about is nitpicked and bickered over ad nauseam. The system of voting for everything (vote to hear an amendment, vote on the amendment, vote on the motion) slows things down even more, and is frequently both confusing and alienating if you’re not really paying attention (which after four hours of this, you won’t be).

Clearly then, there are plenty of reasons for Joe Average (HUMS) to stay away from the AGM – he can either spend hours numbing his rear while We The Student Body decide if we’re officially narked about the state of affairs in the DR Congo (and who is this Dr Congo person anyway), or he can spend one hour in a relatively comfy chair in Arts A1 and perhaps even learn something relevant to his life. Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?

This can’t go on. If USSU is really serious about getting more people involved in the democratic process, the system needs to be changed to suit the busy, politically apathetic majority rather than the opinionated, mainly left-wing minority who actually attend the AGM. The 2.5% “majority” of the student body required to pass motions at the AGM is never going to be representative of US as a whole. That’s not democracy, no matter how you dress it up.

So here’s my idea: keep the AGM. Actually publicise it (how many of us were aware of it in advance this year?) and make sure everyone knows the deadlines for submitting motions.

Have the meeting, make sure quorum is reached (no way were there 406 people in that room this year) and go through the motions as per usual but all decisions made, quorate or not, are only indicative.

Now take the amended, nitpicked motions, read them out and vote on them at the start of lectures for the next few days, so that everyone is made aware and is represented. There won’t be any debating or amendments – that’d waste time in lectures, and besides that’s what the AGM is there for. There’d just be a vote.

I think we’d all be surprised to see just how radically the views of the student body differ from the views of We The Student Body. Then again, maybe we wouldn’t. Either way, it’s time we the democratic majority of US students got our Student Union back.

Editor’s note: This year the AGM was more publicised than ever before. The submission deadlines for motions were printed on cards on 3000 lanyards in Freshers’ Week; there were five full pages dedicated to it in The Badger (which included the Front and Back page), posters, flyers, door-knocking, social networking, blogs and a mass email to ALL students.

Despite the allegations in this article, the AGM was quorate for a period of time as was confirmed by the door count, the chair and the sabbatical officers.

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

7 Comments

  1. I share Dorian’s angst; there is something quite wrong if the salient forum for student decision making was so badly attended as to make it, for the moment, benign.

    Dorian ventures a number of reasons as to why nearly every single student didn’t turn up for the matinée performance of student democracy. The primary factor can be summarised thus; “sitting down hurts, if done for long enough.” Perhaps if “Joe Average” had got up from the bean bag in the Arts Fac, he could have put the issue of seats to the chair, and guarantee for a future generations of bums a brighter, more elevated future.

    I disagree also with Dorian’s suggestions on how to remedy some of the ills that haunt the perhaps fusty institution of allowing students to freely and publicly contest, expand, or do away with the policies that will affect them and their peers. Decision making, despite appearances, does have to be taxing ; you need to pay attention Dorian – indeed, collective action requires individuals to encourage other people to pay attention too.

    I can’t stand the idea that students, you know, people that are trying to learn something about the world, are only willing to make their voices heard if “there won’t be any debating or amendments.”

    My position; you can sit (or stand) around drinking fair trade-ish coffees, waiting for someone to invite you to a Facebook group named “we want SOFTER bog roll in the library kazis”, or go and discuss and thereby affect Sussex University policies for four hours per year – to use the phrase that Dorian borrowed from Dick Cheney, it’s a “no brainer”, isn’t it?

    Reply
  2. Juicy Ramone Wrote – (“are only willing to make their voices heard if “there won’t be any debating or amendments.”)

    I think that’s a pretty unfair quote taken out of context, Dorian’s argument is not to remove the debate process, instead she argues that the debate should continue, followed by a larger vote formed after the debate. The “won’t be any debating” bit, is simply to recognize that the chance for debate has already passed (the AGM) and that the vote is simply that, a vote.

    Also, Dorian might have been a bit flowery when she wrote “Clearly then, there are plenty of reasons for Joe Average (HUMS) to stay away from the AGM – he can either spend hours numbing his rear while We The Student Body decide if we’re officially narked about the state of affairs in the DR Congo (and who is this Dr Congo person anyway), or he can spend one hour in a relatively comfy chair in Arts A1 and perhaps even learn something relevant to his life.”

    But she did not mean Joe Average (Hums) was slacking in a “bean bag” she meant (I presume) that Joe Average (Hums) was busy in a lecture (Arts A1 is a lecture theatre after-all), as the AGM took place right in the middle of the academic day.

    My impression of Dorian’s article is just ramming home the points made in the referenced news article: http://www.thebadgeronline.co.uk/news/agm-motions-fail-to-represent-students-views/

    Why would Joe Average be interested in “discuss(ing) and thereby affect(ing) Sussex University policies for four hours per year” when as the news piece makes quite clear, the discussion is all about motions which do not necessarily represent the opinions of students.

    Reply
  3. Dorian’s broad approach to the more sublte machinations of student democratic decision making is that they’re boring, and thus archaic. Did I remove the quote from it’s intended context? Ok. Misleadingly so? Nope.

    And pull the other one with the Knackered Student stuff ; I reject that myth just as quickly as I do The Lazy Student generalisation. If you’ve got 40hrs contact a week, congratulations ; hiding behind A Jam Packed Schedule whilst leaving the difficult task of participation in democracy to others is one of the more dishonest types of laziness.

    What Dorian is saying is that students who are are double plus not happy with the state of the AGM should abandon it altogether, or are at least reasonable in abandoning it, and should instead be provided with Another forum, preferably one that is easier to intellectually navigate.

    I’m sure that both you and Dorian turned up to the AGM – why do you not expect others to ar least try to do the same?

    Granted, it’s got some major problems, some cosmetic (approachability, comfort over a long day), some more profound ; should public discussion be done away with becuase of these issues? This is what Dorian, and by extension yourself, seem to suggest.

    Reply
  4. Dear Paul Codd,
    Dorian’s broad approach to the more sublte machinations of student democratic decision making is that they’re boring, and thus archaic. Did I remove the quote from it’s intended context? Ok. Misleadingly so? Nope.

    And pull the other one with the Knackered Student stuff ; I reject that myth just as quickly as I do The Lazy Student generalisation. If you’ve got 40hrs contact a week, congratulations ; hiding behind A Jam Packed Schedule whilst leaving the difficult task of participation in democracy to others is one of the more dishonest types of laziness.

    What Dorian is saying is that students who are are double plus not happy with the state of the AGM should abandon it altogether, or are at least reasonable in abandoning it, and should instead be provided with Another forum, preferably one that is easier to intellectually navigate.

    I’m sure that both you and Dorian turned up to the AGM – why do you not expect others to ar least try to do the same?

    Granted, it’s got some major problems, some cosmetic (approachability, comfort over a long day), some more profound ; should public discussion be done away with becuase of these issues? This is what Dorian, and by extension yourself, seem to suggest.

    Reply
  5. I agree, hiding behind a schedule or simply not taking part is a poor excuse. I’m sure it’s also possible to extend a “well if you don’t take part, don’t complain” argument as well.

    My problem, is that is it still acceptable for the Union to take decisions that affect all students, when it clearly suffers from so little student participation.

    Low student participation can not be blamed on the Union (as the editor’s note makes clear) but still, when the Union takes action or involves motions that affect all students (i.e Anti-Military, or Anti-NUS) Whilst low participation might not be the Union’s fault, can it ignore it and press ahead anyway with representation based on less than 5%?

    Far more worrying, is that the news article http://www.thebadgeronline.co.uk/news/agm-motions-fail-to-represent-students-views/ (whilst I’m sure equally flawed) seems to show that it’s possible to find a completely different response to the exact same motion outside of the AGM (i/e a “no” vote to NUS disaffiliation compared to the ‘Yes” found at the AGM) How does the Union respond?

    Reply
  6. I responded on a personal level in The Badger this week (http://www.thebadgeronline.co.uk/comment/a-response-to-student-apathy/), though it does reflect the sentiment of many within the Union.

    You seem to keep forgetting Paul that the Union HASN’T taken action on the NUS or military bodies. In fact, what we said at the time and which has now been confirmed by Council was that both these descisions effect all students and are clearly too contentious an issue to be decided within the AGM.

    NUS affiliation was never decided at AGM and can never be by our constitution, and is likely going to referendum. The Union has no official position on whether to affiliate or not (I’ve written articles in The Badger to remain affiliated), but if 300 students ask us to faciliate a debate and then a referedum then we have to do it.

    Same with military bodies. If 200 or so students have come forward and asked for it to be policy, we can’t simply ignore it from an AGM as that would be ridiculously undemocratic. Understanding that it’s such a massive issue that we can’t decide there on the basis of an inquorate AGM, the decision will be going to referendum, most likely next term.

    Yes, AGM isn’t entirely representative and yes, it has a lot of flaws. However, when we have a large group of people coming forward in an open democratic matter to decide on Union policy we can’t simply just ignore them as irrealevant. Instead, the Union has seen that these are controversial issues that can’t be decided here and will go out for all students to decide. This is the same for any controversial issue that is brought up.

    Reply
  7. DR Congo means Democratic Republic of Congo. That is a crap joke.

    Dorien at least complains about the AGM having actually attended it, the same can’t be said for some

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate
Campus News
541 views1
Campus News
541 views1

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate

Jordan Wright - April 27, 2018

Student society Liberate the Debate’s most recent event was cancelled over a lack of compliance with the Students' Union's (USSU) requirement for a neutral chair - a…

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series
Arts
77 views
Arts
77 views

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - June 17, 2018

Pictured: Zac Black At Proud Cabaret audiences were spellbound as if at night at the circus, yet this was not like Angela Carter’s magical realist novel; Verve…

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review
Arts
111 views
Arts
111 views

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review

Florence Dutton - June 11, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Last Monday at 8pm at Brighton’s The Old Market, I sat myself down in my theatre seat eagerly awaiting…

Fleabag preview
Arts
109 views
Arts
109 views

Fleabag preview

Florence Dutton - June 2, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Following the mass success of the Bafta award-winning BBC Series, DryWrite and Soho Theatre are about to hit the…

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome
Arts
135 views
Arts
135 views

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome

Georgia Grace - June 1, 2018

Having completed my final semester of university with modules on punk history and queer arts, it was fitting that I rounded off my end-of-assessment celebrations by attending…

Arts
149 views

The Tempest review

Georgia Grace - May 30, 2018

As the sun begins to set over Hove Green, tinnies of Red Stripe are cracked open, tartan blankets are strewn, and families tuck into their picnic hampers.…

A Glass Half Empty review
Arts
159 views
Arts
159 views

A Glass Half Empty review

Georgia Grace - May 27, 2018

For those of us coming to the end of another year of university study, the prospect of careers, marriages and babies may seem a long way off.…

DollyWould at The Old Market review
Arts
153 views
Arts
153 views

DollyWould at The Old Market review

Alex Hutson - May 27, 2018

Sh!t Theatre’s DollyWould is a hilarious, thoughtful and experimental performance piece. The award winning show has the Sh!t Theatre duo integrating comedy, storytelling, personal experience and music.…

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex
Campus News
246 views
Campus News
246 views

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex

Billie-Jean Johnson - May 26, 2018

The Sussex branch of the University and College Union (UCU) has launched a petition calling for Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell to end the 'hostile environment' at Sussex. The…

Arts
117 views

Shakespeare in the sun – The Tempest preview

Georgia Grace - May 24, 2018

In a world of dystopian King Lears and female Hamlets, Shakespeare’s classics are constantly being reimagined for the modern day. There’s something oddly refreshing then about the…

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
231 views
Arts
231 views

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 23, 2018

What a phenomenal contrast these two films present when watched side-by-side. In essence, together they are capable of tracing inner and outer metamorphoses of their subjects. The…

Dollywould at The Old Market preview
Arts
151 views
Arts
151 views

Dollywould at The Old Market preview

Alex Hutson - May 22, 2018

From the 22nd May - 25th May 2018 DollyWould will be showing at The Old Market. An exciting new show, presented by Sh!t Theatre, who won the…

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu
Artist Focus
224 views
Artist Focus
224 views

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - May 16, 2018

Last week artist Fedilou made her debut exhibition in the downstairs space of Morelli Zorelli, a quaint vegan Italian restaurant in Hove, featuring a collection of intimate…

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley
Interview
159 views
Interview
159 views

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley

Nikolaos Manesis - May 15, 2018

Ron Chrisley is a Reader in Philosophy, on the faculty of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, and is the director of COGS (Centre for Cognitive Science).…

Adam review
Arts
224 views
Arts
224 views

Adam review

Ketan Jha - May 13, 2018

If you have been a stranger to the stage this spring and decide to see one contemporary show, let it be Adam. This reviewer went in entirely…

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
252 views
Arts
252 views

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 13, 2018

In celebration of iconic Brighton local, legendary alt-rock musician (and episodic actor) Nick Cave, TOM’s Film Club are hosting a double-bill screening of his films at The…

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review
Arts
290 views
Arts
290 views

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review

Georgia Grace - May 11, 2018

Meta-theatricality and interactivity are becoming all the more vogue in contemporary theatre, and in a world where the arts are becoming increasingly open and democratised, I find…

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks
Artist Focus
202 views
Artist Focus
202 views

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks

Alex Leissle - May 9, 2018

  [gallery type="slideshow" ids="35385,35386,35387,35388,35389,35390,35391,35392,35393,35394,35395,35396,35397,35398,35399,35400,35401,35402,35403,35404,35405,35406,35407,35408,35409,35410,35411"]

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival
Books
215 views
Books
215 views

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival

William Singh - May 9, 2018

Afua Hirsch’s 2018 book - part memoir, part polemic - provokes mixed feelings. So too did her discussion of the topic at this year’s Brighton Festival. Don’t…

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality
Science
272 views
Science
272 views

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality

Luke Richards - May 8, 2018

Bioweapons exist, while ethnic-bioweapons are whispered conspiracies. Pandemics can fairly hazardous to human life, the 1918 Flu Pandemic killed 20-50 million people. A man made pandemic could…

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced
News
275 views
News
275 views

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced

Jessica Hubbard - May 4, 2018

Students have voted to support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, reject Prevent and adopt new Gender Equality policies. Results for the Students' Union referenda were…