Student Senate: Democracy in motion

The third Student Senate meeting of the year was held last week, discussing issues including lecture recording, the upcoming NUS Wales Conference Debate and the need to address relapsing SU policies.

The first issue on the agenda focused on the existing university policy to provide lecture recordings on Learning Central. It was noted that some lecturers may show reluctance to do so due to fears that posting footage of the lectures online may stop students from attending in person.

Speaking on behalf of the group responsible for implementing the project, VP for Education Sophie Timbers explained that lecture recording technology is being implemented in line with pre-existing policy. However, due to complications this has not been completed in all lecture halls and schools.

It was revealed that the University currently own only 180 out of the 400 lecture spaces on campus, with many academic schools controlling their own facilities. As such, Timbers suggested that the policy be reworded to note that lecture recording facilities be made available in each school and not each room.

During the meeting senators also suggested that lecturers be encouraged to request audio equipment in response to news that not all teaching staff have showed enthusiasm for the idea.

When asked if more awareness and publicity around the issue could be raised, it was concluded that as different departments adopt lecture recordings at various times, the subject remains a departmental and not university-wide issue.

The second motion of the night sought to tackle criticism towards Student Senate’s efficiency, after it was noted in the last meeting that certain policies within the Union had lapsed without being discussed by senators.

In response to this it was suggested that a committee be created from existing senators to examine policies due to expire and check whether they need to be updated or renewed.

It was argued by Usman Mahmood Bakhari that politicians “are not always the best to make legislation” and that a specific group would research the policies better and set alarm bells ringing at a faster pace.

However, after receiving substantial criticism, it was ultimately decided that the motion be dropped after noting that such responsibilities already fall under the remit of the Senate as a whole.

Of those opposing the motion, senator Jacob Ellis noted that allowing six people on a committee to take on such power would not be democratic.

Ellis stated that previous failures to identify lapsing policies was the result of the failure of staff at the Students’ Union and “administration problems” and not the work of senators.

The senator concluded that if the structure resembled a “House of Lords” scenario that he would be “completely against that”.

Others opposing the motion included Jake Smith who noted that it “only takes one senator to propose or renew a motion”.

Instead, it was suggested that the Senate meet on a regular basis to discuss and analyse policies before they expire. An away day to discuss these policies was also proposed.

It was also noted that that the Student Senate needs to improve engagement with students about relapsing motions, as Chiron Hooson stressed that few motions have been submitted by students not part of the group.

The debate ended with the suggestion by Madeline Page that the meeting move on having “wasted half an hour mandating ourselves about things we should be doing.”

The last emergency motion of the night was presented by Jacob Ellis on behalf of Students’ Union President Claire Blakeway. The motion called for the Union to lobby NUS Wales to invite both the Green Party and UKIP to take part in the National Conference debate.

The motion was created after it was announced that at the Conference planned for the 9th-10th March only Welsh Assembly candidates from Labour, Conservative, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrat parties were invited.

This follows after predictions that UKIP will gain up to nine seats in the upcoming Welsh Assembly election, whilst many students are Green supporters.

At the Senate meeting it was noted that failing to invite all parties to discuss their policies would be undemocratic, and that both parties should be invited to hold their manifestos “accountable.”

In the discussion, questions were asked about the legitimacy of the idea, as one senator noted that the current legislative body is made of a majority of Labour members and not parties such as UKIP.

In response others stressed that the debate will not solely focus on the results of the last five years but will give other parties the opportunity to have a voice.

The meeting ended with a vote to accept “external trustees” for the Students’ Union, with a note made that senators should meet the trustees in person to bridge the gap between board of trustees and students.

The last issue of the night was raised by Jake Smith who noted that “for the second time the agenda for the meeting was given far too late”. As a result, there was little time to publicise the event.

The results of the meeting will be released this week and can be found on the Gair Rhydd website.

Student Senate meetings are held approximately once a semester and all students are welcome to attend. The group is the Union’s highest regular decision-making body and consist of 21 elected students who meet with both full-time and elected officers from the Union.