Students’ Union finances called into question at AGM 2018

Student concerns raised and heard: The Annual General Meeting (AGM) 2018 revealed worries of students over the SU's funding, treatment of societies, inequality and more. Photo Credit: Jess Warren
Financial troubles of the SU were highlighted by trustees among other issues raised by tabled motions and questions from students.

By Sam Tilley, Matt Tomlin & Jess Warren

On Thursday, November 22, Cardiff University Students’ Union held their Annual General Meeting (AGM), where students debated six motions, and listened to updates from the Union regarding their annual spending between the academic year of 2017 and 2018 alongside other important announcements.

Students in the audience also had the opportunity to ask questions to trustees about the spending and operations of the Union. Trustees were under scrutiny about how the SU would be funded in a sustainable manner following revelations in the 2017/2018 financial report that it had been operating at a loss of almost £2 million in 2016/2017.

This was followed by a profit of a mere £262,000 in 2017/2018. Trustees stated more than once that the Union had faced financial obstacles in recent years. No exact solutions were made clear.

Within the Student Union budget, it was predicted that they will soon also face income cuts, as the University need to make £20 million in expenditure cuts, a move that will likely affect the Union.

Daniel Palmer, Chief Executive of the Union stated: “When the University catches a cold, we start sneezing” in reference to the potential economic consequences this will have on the Union finances. Followed up by Fadhila Al Dhahouri, SU President: “We can’t predict the cuts or savings [within the Union] until March when we hear from the University.”

The most divisive motion of the evening was proposed by Amr Alwishah, the VP for Welfare and Campaign and called for more protection for Palestinian and Jewish students in Cardiff. This motion was one of the more emotional topics that was brought up during the AGM and featured interventions from a variety of students.

One of the primary concerns by opponents of the motion was an alleged lack of consultation between proposers and the Jewish Society, a subject which saw a number of accusations from both speakers and members of the delegation, with speakers calling it “disappointing” and “detrimental” to the wider debate. After a lengthy double recount, the motion was defeated.

A motion calling for the establishing of a full-time Welsh Language Officer was also passed, bringing Cardiff University into line with other leading Welsh institutions. Will Rees, President of the Welsh Student’s Union, proposed this motion and, as it would have required a change in the CUSU’s Memorandum articles, it required a two-thirds majority to pass; a target it more than achieved.

The first motion to be defeated was one that was also unsuccessfully proposed last year. A move to make CUSU pay employees the Living Wage failed to pass after interventions by the VP Societies and Volunteering and the Mental Health Campaign Officer. The opponents to the motion successfully argued that the £120,000 that would be needed to cover the increase in pay could be better spent within other initiatives within the CUSU.

One of the motions, calling for mandatory mental health training for all personal tutors, was a lapsed motion. This meant that the motion was previously passed by another AGM (2015) and required a revote to maintain it as CUSU policy dictates. The motion passed overwhelmingly.

Motions calling for an extension in funding numerous sexual assault initiatives and lobbying the university to connect with ‘Electronics Watch’, a charity that helps locate supplies using sweatshop labour, were passed without oppositions.

It was announced by Henri Page, VP Societies and Volunteering that in the Autumn Elections just gone, there was a: “record breaking voter turnout on the first day of the elections”, with 6,205 voters in total.

When the complaint surrounding Society Committee members having to queue to access their own stands in the Societies fair this September, and the disrupt this caused was brought to the trustees, a vague response was offered by by Henri Page, VP Societies and Volunteering, stating: “We’re looking forward to doing better next year”. The VP admitted that the running of the societies fair had been different from previous years due to her decision-making and she expressed gratitude for the feedback societies gave about the event under her management.

On the topic of pay, it was also announced that Jobshop had seen a 10% increase in students signing up to their service, resulting in £1.6 million being paid to student members of staff last academic year.

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