Kerry13 May 2016 14:28
SUSU AGM: The real story
On Wednesday this week we held the SUSU Annual General Meeting- where every single student can submit and vote on policies. Amazingly, we had a record breaking year with the highest ever number of: ideas submitted by students (161); policies submitted by students (19); and proxy voters (563), which is a 46.2% increase on last year.
We also had a great level of debate at the meeting about the policies- some of which have proved to be a little controversial! I’m so proud that students are submitting brave policies, and that they are being debated and discussed on such a huge scale across the student body.
One thing that does disappoint me a little though, is when I see a minority of students saying things like ‘SUSU have passed x policy’- normally with a negative statement attached about their personal opinion of that policy. I’m one hundred percent supportive of students voicing their opinions about policies, but it does frustrate me a little when students imply that ‘SUSU’ is the one who’s forcing policies onto students.
We need to remember who SUSU is. SUSU quite literally is its members – every single student at the University of Southampton- and if you’re complaining about this faceless entity of ‘SUSU’, I’ve got news for you: you are SUSU too, just the same as the volunteers, sabbs, and staff who put so much work into it. See my comment on this Wessex Scene article as an example/for further shade.
I’m not saying we’re perfect, or that I necessarily agree with all the policies that passed, but they passed because they won the majority of votes from students. Those who didn’t vote are just as responsible for the policy passing as those who did. Of course this shows we all (especially my position) need to do more to communicate about the AGM and get students to engage, but I think we are at least making positive steps with the amazing figures and debates we had this year, and hopefully with the improved system next year, things will be much better.
I do want to give my huge respect for all those who did take the time to submit an idea, submit a policy, vote online, and attend the meeting- you were all part of the change.
And most importantly for me, the Democratic Reform passed! So for all those who complained about the ineffectiveness of policy- I agree, and that has now been changed! As of the start of the next academic year, we’ll be saying bye-bye to policy and Union Council, and hello to a more online, simple, and engaging democratic system. Find the full changes here.
And now without further ado, what actually happened at the AGM: (full outcomes here)
Democracy Reform- Passed
This was the proposal that will completely rewrite our democratic structures. We did have an amendment submitted about gender balancing, which was very hotly debated, but eventually the amendment was referred out to democracy zone. That means that for now, the original proposal stays- meaning that at least half of the open places on each zone will be reserved for women.
Membership Reform- Passed
Making changes to legislation about membership, including the addition that we will now be able to expel members
More water fountains on campus- Passed
There was hardly any contest against this, it passed with 281 for, and just 6 against
Stop Selling Bottled Water on Campus- Passed
This passed, but with the important change that we voted to remove the section that said ‘To stop selling bottled water in all Union-controlled outlets’. So the policy now basically means we will lobby the University to stop selling it, and sell reusable bottles more in our own outlets.
Ban Plastic Now! – Passed
Someone tried to refer the question out to another body (so it wouldn’t be voted on in the AGM), but this attempt failed. Although there was much debate against the policy in the room, the overall votes meant that the policy passed. It was also quite close, with 126 votes for and 106 against.
Module Choices- Passed
This policy passed with 163 votes for and 25 against, meaning we will lobby the university to improve the system for selecting module choices.
Pay-as-you-go gym membership with increased overall access-Passed
This motion also overwhelmingly passed, meaning we will lobby the university to introduce a pay-as-you-go gym system, and the Sustainability zone will work to increase participation, especially supporting students from lower income backgrounds.
Improve on-campus food menus in all food outlets- Passed
This policy passed by a clear majority as well. It particularly spoke about having more choice for vegetarian, vegan, and halal diets, as well as better overall choice for a variety of dietary needs.
Sustainable promotion for student groups- Passed
This policy means that SUSU will no longer fund student group flyers/leaflets, but it doesn’t stop them funding their own.
Make SUSU the cat an honorary president of the students’ union- Passed
As you may have seen in the BBC, Telegraph, Daily Echo, or Wessex Scene, this policy did indeed pass, but was perhaps surprisingly controversial with 176 for and 86 against. This was only the initial stage in the rule change process, so for this to be completely passed, it will have to come as a rule change to Democracy Zone and Union Council .
Student-run Allotments – Passed
This policy passed with 172 votes for, and 44 against.
Stop using products that contain palm oil- Passed
It’s important to note that before the overall policy passed, we passed a motion to remove the part of the policy that specifically prohibits the Union from selling products containing palm oil. So this means we will still lobby the University to stop using products containing palm oil, and work with our suppliers to find alternatives, but for now we can still sell products that contain palm oil.
Sleeping Pods- Passed
This policy proved to be quite controversial in the room, with lots of students commenting on the large resource implications involved. Someone tried to pass a motion to remove the part mandating SUSU to invest in the sleeping pods, but that failed, so overall the policy passed.
Make the Stags seating more efficient- Referred to Trustee Board.
This means we should get rid of the booths and replace with stools/tables, so that we can fit more seating in. The issue will now be discussed by Trustee Board.
Students shouldn’t be suspects- Passed
This means we will be doing consultation about the effects of the Prevent agenda on our students, and forming a Union stance on the issue based on what our students want.
Celebrate, recognise and raise awareness of all types of major cultural and religious festivals and holidays throughout the year – Passed
This pretty much does what it says in the heading, and it passed with 174 votes for, and 47 against.
Offer December graduation to all Masters students – Passed
So now we are mandated to lobby the University to offer December graduation to masters students, many of whom are international students who would have to re-apply for visas/pay for travel etc to return back to the UK for their graduation.
Redevelop the Boat Hard site so that there is more car parking, space and better facilities for all the clubs that use it- Passed
VP Sports Development will now lobby the University to invest more in redeveloping the boat hard site.
Numbering of Southampton University buildings should be clear logical – Not passed
Someone proposed a motion to withdraw the question, which passed, meaning the policy was withdrawn and did not pass.