The Student Senate met on Tuesday, 3rd February to vote on a number of contentious motions – including the Union’s stance on the upcoming Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill and its Zero Tolerance policy on sexual harassment.
The meeting, comprising twenty-five of the forty individuals entitled to vote, was also attended by an unusually large audience in light of the controversial subjects up for discussion.
With daily tabloid ‘The Sun’ having recently refused to end their practice of publishing pictures of naked glamour models, the first motion of the night saw senators vote not to allow the Students’ Union to sell the newspaper, along with the Daily Star or any pornographic publication by unanimous agreement, twenty-five votes to zero.
The motion, submitted by Women’s Officer Laura Carter and Kate Delaney, also emphasised the need to remind Union service providers of the ‘Anti-Lad’ policy in force within the premises and the importance of avoiding the broadcast of music that encourages “sexual violence or misogyny”.
One campaigner, who did not wish for their name to appear in print, told Gair Rhydd that the move was “a consolidation of where we are” but added that “we’re still a long way off of tackling institutional sexism”.
Following a National Union of Students survey that revealed that around 60% of students were ‘unaware’ of the policies concerning lad culture within their institution, the second motion proposed an intensification of the Union’s own ‘Zero Tolerance’ approach.
The motion, submitted by Laura Caret and Kate Delaney, suggested improving the Union and University websites in order to include promotional material promoting and summarising the institution’s Zero Tolerance approach.
The motion also emphasised the need to provide “at least 50%” of Students’ Union staff with full training with regards to the policy, and to update current disciplinary and complaints procedures to fall in line with established standards. It passed by a margin of twenty-four to one.
The third motion of the night, again submitted by Kate Delaney, drew attention to the fact that female sanitary products are currently subject of a 5% tax. Described as an “outdated and unethical” levy, the motion suggested that “women should not have to pay for their period” – summarised by one attendee as “I bleed, I pay”.
It was again unanimously agreed that the Students’ Union sell sanitary products as ‘not-for-profit’ goods in order to render such items more affordable, with the senate also ruling that the Union emphasize their commitment to environmentally sustainable sanitary products by reducing their retail price.
Whilst the measure found favour amongst the voting members, one member of the audience wondered “whether anyone actually comes to the Union to buy their sanitary products”.
Arguably the main draw of the evening was the ‘Students Not Suspects’ motion submitted by Nadine Dahan, which sought to provoke resistance to the ‘Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill’ currently being debated in parliament.
The bill incorporates the ‘Prevent and Channel Strategy’ proposed by Home Secretary Theresa May, which would see academics obliged to actively police students who they suspect of participating in radical practices and discouraging any thought which might be conducive to such behaviour.
The debate drew audience participation, with Fadhila Ali telling Gair Rhydd that the measure “targeted particular demographics within the university committee” and “was not compatible with the ideal of free speech”.
The motion, which again passed unanimously, resolved to support a Union enquiry into the legality of the bill and to lobby the University to be more transparent over their engagement with such initiatives.
The final motion of the evening also proved the most contentious, with Vidya Brainerd’s effort to see the title of the ‘Disabilities Officer’ to ‘Accessibility Officer’ in order to remove any negative connotations that the former label might hold.
Brainerd claimed that the current title “poses a problem, in that many people do not understand what the word ‘disability’ means. I am guilty of having done the same in the past, which is assuming that all disabled students are in a wheelchair. This is not the case.”
Although it met with some opposition, the motion eventually passed with thirteen ‘Yes’ votes to six ‘No’ votes. There were a further six abstentions.
The senate also considered five items in relation to bye-laws, many of which concerned the structure of the Senate itself.
Most intriguing was the motion to prevent an automatic by-election in the event of an elected officer’s resignation – with the voting members opting to support a motion that means three quarters of the senate must vote for such a poll in the event of an unexpected vacancy.
Students not suspects 25-0-0
Policy on sexist media 24-1-0
Zero tolerance 25-0-0
Santiary products 25-0-0
By-law 1 (council) 25-0-0
By-law 2 (elections) 25-0-0
By-law 3 (membership) 5-20-0 (Option 2)
By-law 4 (officers) 25-0-0
By-law 5 (officers) 25-0-0