What Happened at Senate: February 7th

The first Senate of 2019 was full of debate and I’m here to give you the highlights! Once again, I am the Trans Students’ Part-Time Officer and I attend every Senate. I’ll be continuing to report the goings on of Senate until I graduate!

Supporting a 'Yes' Vote in the UCU Ballot for Strike Action

The first motion debated was an emergency motion put forward to support our lecturers in voting ‘yes’ for further UCU strike action. There were many concerns about this policy, including the seeming lack of research present in the policy and the disruption caused by last year’s strike action.

This emergency motion was submitted by a member of Save Our Staff Manchester (SOS), a student group dedicated to supporting the staff of UoM in fighting for their rights, pay and recognition. SOS isn’t usually part of senate, so the proposal didn’t include the necessary references. A procedural motion was suggested to push this motion to next senate when the references could be provided, but due to time sensitivity [the ballot closes on Friday 22nd February] this was voted down.

It was also mentioned that the SU already has a policy to support the striking lecturers but it was discussed that this extra motion was needed due to the lack of student support during previous strikes. The strikes may seem inconvenient and disruptive but they are necessary. As someone who stood on the pickets with the lecturers last year, I can assure you that they don’t want to disrupt your learning - there’s just no other option. If the lecturers don’t receive the support they need in fighting cuts, they won’t be around to provide the amazing teaching you receive.

In the end, this motion was passed and the SU now officially endorses a ‘yes’ vote in the UCU ballot.

No Cuts to Liberation: A Motion of No Confidence in NUS President, Shakira Martin

As previously reported, the NUS has proposed cuts to liberation campaigns, leaving it in a tight spot and NUS President, Shakira Martin, is handling things very poorly. This motion is being presented at most NUS affiliated universities and colleges to pass a vote of no confidence in Shakira as President.

Despite passionate speeches for this motion from the Trans Campaign and International Students’ Officer, Riddi Viswanathan - representatives of the most directly hit liberation campaigns by the proposed cuts - this motion was heavily contested.

Members of senate stated that a vote of no confidence in one person would have no effect and wouldn’t help the NUS get out of debt. In response it was mentioned that this would simply be the first step in a wider campaign to reform the NUS and show that we do not stand for Shakira Martin's disregard for democracy and liberation.

To the disappointment of most of the Liberation Committee, this policy did not pass. It gained 50% of the vote [policies need a two-third majority to pass at Senate]. The Liberation campaigns such as the Trans Campaign and the LGBTQ+ Campaign will continue to work with NUS LGBT+ and other groups to help save the Trans, International and Parents and Carers Campaigns and Officers.

Supporting EU and EEA Students in Ongoing Events Regarding Brexit

This policy addressed the confusion caused for international students in regards to their changing status and rights as the UK prepares to exit the EU. It was suggested that the International Officer should produce regular factual updates to the best of her ability.

This policy seems great at first but Riddi discussed how difficult it can be to curate this information when things can change over the course of just 24 hours. She recently posted an update on the SU website regarding this exact topic and intends to continue doing so, which makes the policy feel slightly redundant. Nevertheless, members of senate felt it would be extremely helpful for students to receive such information via email on a regular basis.

This policy passed with 95% in favour.

The SU Should Take the Plastic Pledge

Once again, the Plastic Pledge made its way to senate. This policy has changed slightly since its initial submission as the University is now working with the University of Leeds to follow their implementation of this policy. The Plastic Pledge now means that the Union will work to phase out all non-essential single use plastic. This means that plastic straws for accessibility reasons can stay, solving the Vegware straws issue raised in December.

This policy finally passed!

The SU Should Officially Support the Extinction Rebellion

This second environmentally centred policy from Activities and Development Officer, Lizzy Haughton, focused on the growing presence of Extinction Rebellion, a direct action environmentalist group that takes inspiration from the uprisings in the 60s. They encourage ‘civil disobedience’ to ensure their point is heard and Lizzy herself is an active member - she even got arrested as part of a demonstration in late 2018.

Many members of the Liberation committee have issues with Extinction Rebellion and their apparent encouragement of arrest. Getting arrested may be a viable option for some members of the movement, but police involvement actively discourages LGBTQ+ activists and people of colour from participating. Arrest for the average white, middle class member of Extinction Rebellion may mean a night in a cell, but for POC and LGBTQ+ people, police violence and mistreatment is a real concern. Lizzy argued that this desire to get arrested wasn’t an essential part of the movement but that they support those who choose to do it.

Lizzy was also criticised by Sara Khan, the Liberation and Access Officer, for comparing the campaign tactics of Extinction Rebellion to the black civil rights movement. She said that this claim was unfounded and the issues are completely different. Black people who were arrested in the civil rights movements were definitely not treated as kindly as the white people being arrested today.

After a heated debate, the motion to support Extinction Rebellion passed.

Remember, Senate is open to all students and the policies being discussed are posted on the SU website a week or so before the event. Minutes of previous Senates are also available to read there so please take a look if you are interested!