By Toby Holloway
On Thursday November 24, hundreds of students flocked to the Students’ Union, as the Great Hall hosted this year’s Annual General Meeting (AGM). The event, which is the biggest democratic meeting held by the Students’ Union (SU) and takes place once per year, will be remembered for its impassioned speeches, controversial claims and hotly contested motions.
The AMG ran from 6pm until around 9pm, and involved the proposals of five ‘tabled motions’, as well as various other items. These included the minutes (a summary of the records from a meeting) from 2015’s AGM, the Annual Report of the Students’ Union’s achievements from the 2015/16 academic year delivered by SU President Sophie Timbers, and the SU’s Financial Report from 2015/16.
The AGM began with a speech from SU President Sophie Timbers, in which she summarised the numerous achievements by Cardiff University students, as well as describing some of the schemes introduced by the SU throughout the year.
After her speech, Sophie Timbers was then asked questions by some audience members, who queried the “lies” concerning student letting agencies, profits made from student residences, and the SU not paying students who work there the full living wage. Student Senator Matthew Proctor was particularly vocal during this stage of proceedings, asking: “Why is it ok for you to force room to listen while you cherry-pick data?”.
The AGM then moved on to a speech from Chief Executive of the SU, Daniel Palmer, regarding the SU’s financial report from 2015/16, in which he described “some overspends on sports and societies”, as well as “£2.4m of loss”. Mr Palmer also answered questions from audience members at the end of his address.
The meeting then proceeded to the first of the Tabled Motions, with each person proposing the motion having four minutes to summarised their motion. The first motion, ‘Periods in Poverty’, addressed the lack of funding for menstrual products for women in hardship, and proposed a donation bins for menstrual products in University toilets. The motion passed with a significant majority.
The second proposed motion, “Student Accommodation – Equity over Profit”, resolved that the Student’s Union adopt an accommodation policy which would freeze the £20m profits made over the last five years, by reducing rent or investing more in residences. After much deliberation from people challenging the motion, it failed after a hand count of votes was necessary to determine the result.
The third motion put forward the idea of creating a part-time campaign officer in “Mental Health Campaign Officer”, who would work with the Disabilities Officer to “solely represent those who suffer from mental health”. The motion was opposed by current Disabilities Officer Charlie Knights, who argued that, “Whilst this motion comes with good intentions, it is at detriment to the student body at large”, due to the fact that it would divide the budget of the Disabilities Officer. The motion passed, with a majority of students voting for the creation of a Mental Health Campaign Officer.
The fourth motion, entitled ‘Challenge don’t Censor’, was proposed by James Daly, suggested that “all students, no matter what their views, will not be censored in so far as their actions are performed inside the law”. Following controversy surrounding academic Germaine Greer’s guest lecture at Cardiff University, the motion proposed that everyone, regardless of their standpoint, be given a platform to speak. The motion was met with some opposition, with one speaker arguing that giving people with offensive views a platform gave them “validity”. This was countered by a student in favour of the motion declaring that “silencing and squashing the views of others – that is fascism. That…is fascism.” After some deliberation, the motion eventually passed.
The final motion, ‘Being a Zero Tolerance Union’, was proposed by Emily Broad and argued to “continue to pursue” and “extend” the Union’s Zero Tolerance to Sexual Harassment policy so that it “includes harassment of any nature, not just sexual”. The motion passed with a near 100% majority.
As the 2016 AGM drew to a close, Gair Rhydd spoke to SU President Sophie Timbers, who said:
“There were some really important discussions to be had, what’s really great is that people have the opportunity to discuss their ideas. You often find that there are people who wouldn’t normally stand up at these things do because they are passionate.”
She added: “I’ve been worried about this a long time because AGM is generally quite daunting. We took a lot of criticism last year and I didn’t want to put my team through that this year, so we wanted to be as prepared as possible.
“But I think it went well and I’m definitely heading for one single gin at the Taf as soon as this is over.”