March 28th’s Senate was possibly one of the most anticipated political events in recent UoM history. Following the controversy surrounding the Union’s executive elections in early March – in which two candidates accused of cheating were elected as General Secretary and Postgraduate Officer – many were eager to see how this was going to be addressed by the SU. By my estimate, they were probably disappointed.
Executive Team Election Controversy
Two policies were submitted to this month’s Senate regarding the elections; one was to submit a Vote of No Confidence (VNC) in the officers elected and the other was to reopen nominations for the relevant positions. Neither of these policy proposals made it past the Steering Committee (a committee designed to ensure that policies are both legal and viable). Both policies were found to be legally inadequate.
In layman’s terms, you cannot submit a VNC in officers’ elections until they actually take up their positions. This will happen in July. Fatima Abid, the current General Secretary, explained to senate that we could not submit a VNC. However, suggestions were given of things that could be done. One suggestion was to vote for Fatima to write a letter which would enable them to become the Independent Returning Officer. In this role they would oversee the elections and could reopen nominations for the two positions. Senate passed this motion and now we are waiting to hear Fatima’s decision.
Questioning the Women’s Officer About Reclaim the Night
When it came to questioning the current Exec team, the Trans Campaign asked Women’s Officer Sara Heddi why Reclaim the Night has been organised differently during her tenure. In 2016/17, Reclaim the Night had several blocs for minority groups, including Women of Colour, LGBTQ+ and Disabled Women. In Sara’s term in office, these have been simplified to Women, Mixed and Other.
The Trans Campaign wanted to know why liberation groups had been left to organise their own blocs with little aid from the Exec team or the organisers of Reclaim The Night. Sara’s response was that it was due to backlash from activists in previous years. The activists argued that a straight cis woman shouldn’t be in charge of organising the LGBTQ+ bloc.
When Daz asked the Women’s Officer about the more general blocs in Reclaim The Night she assured Senate that she ran it this way due to backlash from activists saying that they should organise the blocs relevant to them
— u⚧m trans campaign (@UoMtrans) March 28, 2019
We are unsure where this backlash came from but we wholeheartedly disagree. Activists should not be left unaided to do the labour of organising an event as large as RTN. Official representation should be provided and aid should be offered by the relevant Officer.
— u⚧m trans campaign (@UoMtrans) March 28, 2019
Trans Inclusion in Sport
Ayden from the Trans Campaign presented a new policy on trans inclusion in sport. This would ensure the Union worked with the sports societies, BUCS and the Athletics Union to make sports more accessible to trans and nonbinary students.
An audience member questioned the need for such a policy as he said that in his survey of the sports facilities there had been no issues surrounding trans students. Ayden countered this with his own personal experience of sports societies and anecdotal evidence from other trans students at the University. The trans inclusion in sport policy was passed.
Funding of The Mancunion
The biggest debate by far of the evening surrounded a policy concerning The Mancunion’s funding. A procedural motion was taken at the beginning of senate to move this policy up in the order as it was deemed time sensitive.
The Liberation and Access Committee proposed an amendment to this policy to ensure that The Mancunion was well trained in media law, inclusion policy and was representative of the student body. This amendment was proposed based on claims of poor conduct from the paper in the past in regards to personal Facebook posts, misgendering people and using outdated terminology to refer to minority groups.
The Mancunion editorial team, who were all present at Senate, claimed that one of the amendment points – the addition of a sensitivity reader to the staff – would override their editorial independence. The Liberation and Access Committee tried to explain that this is not the role of a sensitivity reader and that they were commonly used in the publication industry, but this was ignored. The Mancunion further stated that they had received inclusion and media law training as part of their roles as editors. The amendment to the policy fell but the original policy to ringfence funding for the paper passed.
The rest of senate passed relatively quickly, with four policies passing:
- Making Freshers Fair More Accessible passed, meaning that all future Freshers Fairs will have measures in place to ensure that disabled students have equal access to knowledge about societies and support services as able students. It will also take into account the needs of students running the stalls.
- Another policy which passed was to continue publicising and facilitating the H.O.P.E Project. Similarly, to publicise and facilitate Survivors Unite. Both of these were proposed by Part Time Women’s Officer Emilia Jenkins, and both passed with 100%, something rarely seen in senate.
- The final policy to be passed was to become accredited under the NUS’ Alcohol Impact Scheme.
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. There’s one more Senate left this academic year so keep your eyes peeled for more piping hot student politics tea.