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Students decide not to decide

The Students’ Decide Meeting (formerly Annual General Meeting – AGM) was adjourned last week as not enough students turned up to pass any motions.

Students and union members congregated last Thursday 19 January at the arranged time of 1pm, but the total number of attendees was substantially under the quote to make quorate.

According to Students’ Union (SU) policy there must be 450 people present for any motion to be passed whereas the head-count at the meeting was around 75.

A discussion took place amongst the people present about what should be done following such a small turn out.

There was much debate about whether a referendum should be held instead, which would mean that all of the student body would be offered the chance to vote on the proposed motions over the internet, either by e-mail or on the union website.

This proposal received some disapproval as a number of those present felt that it would be irresponsible to ask students who are uninformed, and who have not discussed, the topics in question to vote in favour or opposition to them.

The view was also expressed that there is a democratic value to the meetings as they enable people to discuss and debate with one another, and therefore engage more personally with the political process.

There was also an extensive discussion about the causes of the low turn-out to the meeting.

Many felt that the event should be publicised in a greater variety of ways.

In the end there was widespread, although not unanimous, agreement that the Union should re-schedule the Students Decide Meeting to election week for the Student Representatives.

Katie, a second-year student who attended the meeting, said: “I think the main reason not many people come to the meetings is that they don’t care enough about the issues.

“I fully support them because it widens participation while still allowing people who want to discuss the subjects to do so.”

This was partly because some people hoped that the political environment around campus would encourage more students to attend the meeting.

It was agreed that this meeting should be publicised as much as possible in the aim of ensuring that the necessary 450 students are present.

It was agreed that the best measure in the instance of the meeting not making curate once again would be to hold a referendum and use the meeting as a place to discuss, debate and amend any of the motions put forward.

The SU officers will take this proposal to the Union Council next Thursday 26 January for it to be approved.

The officers invited, and expressed their wish for, as many students as possible to come along to engage in the discussion with the Council about the best way of conducting the voting procedure for the motions.

In spite of the low turnout, Ariel Cohen, the Communications Officer for the SU outlined the union’s recent activity and Becca Melluish, the Operations Officer, read out the Union budget for approval from students who were present.

Ariel Cohen said: “We’re disappointed that we didn’t have enough students to make policy. Students’ Decide was created to replace the AGM that have, for decades, often struggled to be quorate.

“We made great efforts to inform students about the meeting including; two mass emails, posters, door knocking, etc…. However we recognise that there were flaws in our communication. We also realise that students have lots of commitments.

“At the next meeting we will try our best to inform students, however, as with anything, people will be most inspired by other people; their friends, colleges and course-mates.This year we got far more input from students for proposals than we’ve had in the past so we know there are issues out there that students want to discuss.”

The union plans on “dipping into its reserves” during the current academic year.

It  has  saved up a reserve of £300,000, set for outstanding circumstances in which it may be required.

They plan to use around £77,000 of it as a result of decreased revenue in the wake of the closure of the York House shop earlier this year.

The union is also currently in negotiations with the university about increasing their block grant as they feel that they do not currently receive enough to adequately cover the projects and services that they offer.

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