Originally from his blog, Steven Hunter’s thoughts on the AMM motions (President of banking and investment society) .
I felt obliged to write this blog, such was my disagreement with some of the motions proposed for the UBU AGM (or Annual Members Meeting, which apparently avoids any ambiguity, how it does so beats me).
Our vision: ‘Bristol University students creating a world class student life, for themselves’
Our mission: To ensure that we create opportunities for you to:
- Improve your educational and wider university experience
- Have your say about the way your union is run
- Get advice and be heard through clear channels of communication
- Campaign on issues that are important to you
- Develop your hobbies and interests
- Have the space you need to carry out your activities
- Have a great social life and make university more fun
- Positively engage with the wider community
Keep the above in mind when considering what I have to say. Think about the enabling, libertarian non-restrictive nature of the Union’s value framework. Creating – not restricting opportunities – improving, advising, developing for ourselves.
Meat free Mondays (to read click here)
First of all, Vegetarians make up 2% of both adults and children and Vegans less than 1%. I presume that the statistic holds for University students, and that if not, the discrepancy is no more than de minimus (Source: http://www.vegsoc.org/page.aspx?pid=753).
Mandate the VP Community to work with the food outlets at both UoB and UBU to persuade them to refrain from selling meat on a Monday
This is the ultimate aim of the motion. To use our precious lobbying time with the University to persuade them not to sell meat products on a Monday. That is a ridiculous restriction of liberty. As a meat eater, I feel positively aghast at not having any produce that I feel able to eat on one of my 5 weekdays in University. Imagine the reaction, were the Union to lobby for Fruit and Veg free Fridays? The vegetarians would be up in arms, discrimination they would cry, how dare you suggest that we can only participate in lunch on Union premises if we choose to bring our own pack lunch! Persecution of the minority, in contravention of the Union safe space policy (read here)!
The principle values are to ensure an accessible environment in which every student feels comfortable, safe and able to get involved in all aspects of the organisation free from intimidation or judgement.
Tell me which part of the motion complies with that? This is persecution of the meat eating majority, catering to the small, small minority of activist vegetable eating campaigners. In a call to arms akin to Delia Smith’s Norwich rant: Apathetic carnivores where are you? The dressage of Global warming in an attempt to smuggle this motion under our noses as an environmental duty of care that we all owe to the planet is ridiculous. The logic is fallacious. Meat products cause more environmental damage than vegetarian alternatives (questionable at best) therefore we should ban meat products on one day of the week to help the planet. It follows then that we should ban all food all together for one day a week, in order to minimise damage to our planet. If students want to eat, then they can bring a pack lunch. But heaven or high water forbid that they so much as munch on a lettuce leaf belonging to mother earth! It is a disproportionate measure and restriction of the free choice of the majority of students. Those who would propose the restriction of liberty are affected by it the least, convenient no? That said, it wouldn’t have any effect anyway, people will still eat meat, all that you will do is drive them away from the already sparsely populated union buildings. Great outreach folks, re-energising and re-involving the student body! It is alarming that the motion was proposed by UBU representatives, aren’t there much better and more relevant issues to be tackling?
As an aside, I fully support vegetarians, they are entitled to eat or not eat what they like. Just let me do the same. A much better motion; liberal, enabling, and proportionate is ‘Better variety of dietary Options on Campus’ (read here).
Oppose and Ban Arms Companies with Poor Human Rights Records from University of Bristol Students’ Union Events (to read click here)
1. To support, whether that be with resources or representation or other means, any action that seeks to raise awareness of these issues pertaining to business practices, particularly with regard to human rights or environmental abuses, in the future.
2. To follow the example of Warwick Students’ Union and prevent these companies from advertising themselves and from recruiting in all UBU space.
3. To put pressure, by means of the systems already available to the Vice Presidents and President, on university management to ban these companies from future Careers Fairs.
This motion is one which particularly grinds my gears. Again, proposed by those who it will affect the least (a small minority of human rights activists). It attempts to hide behind its title, the real kicker is in the pressure, once more to use our precious lobbying time with the University, to ban companies from future Career fairs.
Again, I do not in the least object to Human Rights, their protection, nor the provision of information about prospective employers (whether that be negative or positive). Some firms, do have questionable records on issues of human rights and environmental abuse, and students should be aware of these. However the right I hold in most high regard is the right to freedom of expression. A ban on companies from fairs, is completely disproportionate in its violation of that right. Freedom of choice for students to make their own mind up about future employers, once more is something to be valued, not diminished by the Union making the decision for us. Censorship is not the answer.
Considering that Engineering at Bristol is one of the best courses in the country, I should hope we want to retain the best students and the attentions of the best employers. The claim of human rights breaches must be proven and made out before we disadvantage an entire cohort of some of the world’s best Engineering talent. No other University that I could find has a ban in place. Bristol would be portrayed in a very negative light to the advantage of other very good Engineering schools. Anything that impacts the opportunity for employment in economic austerity is not something I support. Don’t make things harder for students, make them easier. In any case, there is nothing to prevent Engineering firms holding events external to the University which would likely be well attended. As a question of what firms to ban, and what is ethical, see my blog post for some of the practical and abstract difficulties with the term. Moralising, neo-parental control over what employers students can speak with on campus is not welcomed by the vast majority of students. Respect their right to choose.
If you choose to ban advertising income to UBU from these companies (as 2. would), good luck finding funding. Decreased monetary support is really what our Union needs.
As a thought experiment. Have a think about banning the Labour party from all UBU space and University premises. Didn’t they have a leader not so long ago who had a very dubious record on international human rights (think Iraq, Afghanistan, Crimes against humanity etc.). I think if we adopt policy we should at the very least be consistent. Sure Tony Blair has left the party for more profitable pursuits, but doesn’t the analogy hold for Engineering firms with erring employees who are subsequently sacked. At least Engineering firms or petroleum giants say sorry and try to reform. I am yet to hear anything of the sort from Mr Miliband on behalf of his party.
Have leaflets, stalls and online promotion of dubious companies and their indiscretions, but don’t ban them, it is against the whole ethos of the Union’s values and the concept of equal representation for all, not just the few. Any policy decision to ban could also lead to legal action and future liabilities for our Union, think defamation for starters.
It is about time that the UBU, NUS (inanimate carbon rod campaign is another blog altogether) and those who submit these motions consider the student body as a whole. Stop spending 90% of the time worrying about 1% of the students. The Union exists to represent all. Why not spend time, resources and our lobbying efforts on issues which affect almost all students? Space in the ASS library, reduced resources, timetabling nightmares, online lectures, feedback and University spending over the next 10 years all are more pressing issues.
In the end, even if these motions are passed, the likelihood of them having any effect upon University policy are minimal. The University will not put its reputation on the line by banning Engineering firms, nor is it likely to prevent the sale of meat products on an arbitrary day of the week. In my view, quite rightly so.