A MOTION allowing union officers to take a stance on political issues and hold consultations on political action and matters important to the student community has passed by 37 votes to 12, in a lively debate at Thursday’s (Feb 6) General Meeting.
The Effective Union Representation motion was proposed by Avar Wilson and effectively repeals the controversial Save Our Students’ Union (SOSU) motion and the Union Officer Neutrality motion which were both passed in 2017.
Under the laws regulating charities, Student Unions are restricted in what political action they can take, although they may campaign on issues which directly affect students.
The new motion states that the proposers believe returning the political capacity to the union will improve its strength, and criticises the SOSU motion for “hampering the ability of officers to respond to events affecting the student body.”
It also states that Union Officer Neutrality has caused ‘tension’ between politically active student officers and the Union.
Speaking at the General Meeting, Wilson said the new motion would, “allow the union to put out statements that reflect the student body” and “tackle the ambiguity of the neutrality policy.”
Daniel Deery, one of the NUS Representatives and a political activist, seconded the motion, stating, “this [motion] improves the mess left behind by the SOSU motion.”
However, questions have been raised regarding the clarity of the new resolution, and whether 24 hours is enough time for a consultation.
Stuart McLuckie, the original author of the SOSU motion, and the most vocal speaker against the new resolution, argued that the purpose of the original motion was to prevent union officials for bullying and harassing political opponents.
He criticised the proposers for failing to answer questions put to them about the motion.
He also argued that the motion removes safeguards for favouritism for certain political groups and, “will open the floodgate to bullying and harassment from people backed by the union.”
He continued to argue that in previous years union officials had used their positions to endorse political views and shout down opponents, and even accused former sabbatical officers of bullying and harassment of political opponents.
Speaking to the group backing the Effective Representation Motion he said: “I’m sorry, but I don’t trust any of you to not abuse this motion.”
During the heated debate, VP Communities Joshua Muirhead had to remind members to show respect after members shouted at McLuckie during his speech.
Also raising concerns was International Officer Marie Stadtler, who said: “As a union officer we are elected to represent all students, even though we all have our own ideologies. Someone who represents all students should remain neutral.”
Stadtler also questioned the proposers about how student engagement in the consultations can be ensured.
Wilson responded by stating that at this moment the purpose of the motion was to repeal the previous motions.
Two further amendments were passed to extend the consultation period to 48 hours and to make the quoracy* for consultation the same as a general meeting.
The vote turnout was reduced to from 110 to 70 for these motions, as many students left before the Effective Union Representation motion was passed.
*Having enough members to carry out business and cast votes