The last Student Senate meeting of the academic year took place on Tuesday, April 28th, with senators removing two of the four motions submitted.
The meeting, which was attended by nineteen of the elected senators, was chaired by Joshua Green. Prior to the discussion of the motions, senators debated a suggestion to create storage space for international students during university holidays. The motion was met with positive responses, with Students’ Union President Elliot Howells suggesting that the Union look into ‘striking a deal’ with local storage providers in order to secure a reduced price for students.
Following queries regarding transport and access to such facilities from VP Heath Park Claire Blakeway, it was decided that the matter should be re-considered at a later date.
The first motion on the agenda, submitted by Kate Delaney, proposed that the group renew existing policies ensuring the use of Fairtrade clothing within the Union. Introduced by the Senate in 2012, the original motion mandated the Union to ensure that 100% of clothes sold are certified Fairtrade or ethically sourced.
However, the validity of the policy was questioned by Postgraduate Students’ Officer Ollie Wannell, who expressed doubt over whether any of the officer team’s t-shirts are in fact ethically sourced.
It was also questioned whether clothes linked to Drink the Bar Dry and Varsity are currently Fairtrade.
Creating further doubts as to the validity of the motion, Howells expressed concerns over the feasibility of sport teams’ commitment to Fairtrade clothing, with team kits currently outsourced to suppliers ‘Rhino’.
With the Union proposing to open a clothes shop in the next academic year, the economic benefits of renewing the policy were also brought into question, as the SU President stated: ‘We now have more clothes than ever in the Union so renewing the policy will see increased costs’.
‘This will affect students, as any higher costs of supplying Fairtrade clothing will increase the price of clothes’, he said.
As a result of such complications, it was decided that the motion should be removed from the agenda in order to take more time to assess the details involved.
The second motion of the evening, proposed by Darian Okakpu, proposed that the senate campaign to raise awareness of the importance of protecting academic freedom. In the motion, Okakpu suggested that senate create a campaign to support the work of the Council of At-Risk Academics (CARA), and its provision of refuge for academics in areas including Iraq and Syria.
It was also proposed that events or conference series be helld to host guest speakers and that CARA be added to the list of charities supported by the SU.
However, the limitations of the motion were soon established, as it was pointed out by Howells that before being supported by the SU, CARA must first be scrutinised by the current fund-raising committee RAG.
In addition, it was pointed out that unless otherwise stated, the responsibilities of organising events to support CARA would automatically fall to elected sabbatical officers. Instead it was suggested that such duties be delegated to relevant societies.
As a result, the Senate concluded that the motion should be removed from the agenda, with the intention of resubmitting the proposal as a new society rather than a Union policy. It was explained that any attempts to launch campaigns and events would secure greater support under a society.
Underlining the importance of increasing student access to Cardiff Council, the third motion of the night proposed the creation of drop-in surgeries for students to meet and talk to Cardiff councillors.
Submitted by Jake Smith, the motion emphasised the dense student population of Cathays, which represents 69.9% of the area’s population. Accordingly, it was suggested that the drop-in sessions would effectively allow the local community to better raise any concerns with councillors during each semester.
According to Smith, this would allow a platform to raise concerns about council matters including the behaviour of landlords and the quality of public facilities.
The motion was met with unanimous consent, with Claire Blakeway stressing the importance of providing the same access to Heath students.
It was concluded that sessions should be held in Student Union space on the medical campus.
Having received full support, the motion was passed with all voting in favour.
The last motion to be discussed proposed that the senate lobby the University to introduce healthier vending machines in both the ASSL and Cochrane libraries.
Despite the uncontroversial nature of the motion, debate was sparked by Wannell suggesting that such matters be discussed with the VP Education directly.
‘Senate exists for discussing policy instead,’ he said.
However, Smith replied that by putting such motions on the agenda, it makes the matter a priority.
‘If it affects students, then it is a policy’, he stated.
The motion was passed without any opposing or voting to abstain.
Other subjects discussed in the meeting include the approval of new Union by-laws. Changes included altering procedure at meetings (including the AGM) with both the proposer of a motion and opposition allowed to make a summation statement.
Under current rules, only the proposer of the motion is permitted to put forward a concluding statement.
Whilst revising the by-laws, Wannell also proposed to revert the original time allocated to speakers to promote or oppose a motion back to four minutes, after it was suggested the time be halved in the interests of efficiency.
The meeting concluded with a discussion focusing on the importance of engaging students in politics. It was noted that with Welsh Assembly Government elections next year, the Union should strive to explain to students the responsibilities held by the Assembly and encourage voter turnout.
Whilst it was noted that the number of voters in the student elections held last semester saw a marked improvement in contrast to previous years, it was also suggested that the Union seek to increase turnout next year, with comparisons made to other universities with higher voting records.
Following in the wake of the NUS National Conference last week, Smith concluded that more effort should be made to involve Cardiff students in national events.