By Sam Tilley
An Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) has been called after a student-led petition reached the required 500 signatures. The petition, launched by James Wallice, aimed to reopen discussions around the support given to the UCU strikes by the Students’ Union.
Previously in November, the Students’ Union was mandated by the student body to “mandate elected officers to stand in solidarity with UCU and [to] publish a public statement of support for 2018/19 action, before the 25th November”. Speaking to Gair Rhydd, Wallice said “First of all, I want to thank everyone who signed our petition. What’s been outstandingly clear is that students want to re-open discussions surrounding the Cardiff UCU strike action and the issues that industrial action has caused. We called the petition last week to trigger a discussion and it’s achieved exactly that.
“Since the last AGM the impact of the UCU strike action has significantly changed and we’re seeing a larger detrimental impact on students as a result. We’re seeing contact hours drastically cut, confusion over deadlines and essays and the genuine possibility that those in their last year of University, will be unable to graduate due to the number of cancelled lectures.
“The extra-ordinary meeting of the Students Union has been scheduled for the 10th March, at the meeting I’ll be presenting a motion that sees the interests of all students protected, encouraging UCU and Cardiff University to thrash out an amicable agreement so that everyone can return to their lecture theatres as soon as possible.”
However not all reaction to the announcement has been positive. Both Cardiff Labour Students and Cardiff Students Support the Strikes have expressed doubts over the true nature behind the petition. A statement from Cardiff Students Support the Strikes stated:
“The President of the Conservative Society’s petition for another opportunity to debate the Student Union’s stance on the ongoing UCU Industrial action has reached 500 signatures, and an Extraordinary General Meeting has been called, giving Cardiff students another chance to support striking staff and their fellow post-graduate students. We will be submitting a motion to the EGM asking once again for the SU to adopt a position which supports our staff and students who are striking.
“As the industrial action continues, taking its toll on members of staff and students, now seems even more important than before to use our voice as a student’s union to lobby management to resolve many of the local issues, as well as transparency on how they’re acting at a national level. For too long have lecturers and students been at the whims of the university. There is a huge gender pay gap, evidence of institutional racism and sexism, and a lack of funding for vital mental health services that help hundreds of students and staff on an annual basis.
— Strike Info for Cardiff Students (@cardiffstrike) February 25, 2020
“This EGM – whilst interestingly timed to fall towards the end of the current industrial action and proposed by those who did not support the motion in November – gives us an opportunity to go even further than before. We will be asking the SU to take specific actions to support the cause of the striking lecturers. Also taking action to support the cause in the summer months, as this will be prime time for the SU to state its position for new students coming to the Uni, as well as support those who may be going through complaints procedures. This is once again our chance to reclaim the university, showing solidarity with staff members who are striking as a final resort.
“The majority of students will always be stood side by side with the lecturers, as their fight is our fight. In the meantime, we will be continuing to support students through our social media, co-ordinated complaints team, and “Strike Desk” in the SU, enabling conversations around the impact of the strike and how to support our staff in order to better our learning conditions.”
Gair Rhydd asked Student Union President Jackie Yip on her own thoughts surrounding the calling of an EGM, to which she responded “With a mixture of strong feelings across the student population, and with a developing political environment, I think it is positive that students have the opportunity to come together to discuss this topic”. When pressed if it was undemocratic for an EGM to be called with the possible motive of overturning the mandate given to the SU to support the UCU strikes, Yip said “If the student body wishes to change their stance, they have a choice to do so. I don’t believe it is undemocratic to let our voting population consider a decision made previously and change their mind if they wish. This process is allowed within our rules and I’d encourage all students to engage in the process to have their say and shape the future stance of the Union.”
Student Senate Chair Joshua Prior would likely chair the EGM and told Gair Rhydd “I think it’s important for students from all sides of the political debate to come along and engage with student democracy. We need to hear a wide variety of voices so that the students Union can pursue the course of action that the majority of students are in favour of.”
When asked how students are able to engage with the EGM, a spokesperson for the SU said “Students can engage with the Members Meeting by submitting motions about the current and future UCU strike action by 12:00 on Tuesday 3rd March to [email protected]. When the agenda and proposed motions are released, we would encourage students to talk about and engage with their fellow students about the proposals made. All students are welcome to attend the meeting on 10th March, all students will need student card in order to gain access to the meeting.”