The motions for council opened with a business motion to change the name of Finance Committee; this was passed with no issues, common practice for a simple name change motion. The first constitutional motion to change the name of Racial Equality Officer to BAME Students Officer was proposed by Welfare & Equality Officer Sara Elkhawad and seconded by the current Racial Equality Officer Rabeeyah Cheema. The name change was proposed to make the role’s purpose clearer, and avoid any use of the sensitive term “people of colour” which some BAME students feel uncomfortable with due to the connotations of historical racial slurs. Rabeeyah spoke in favour of the motion, saying that their job is “specifically to represent and celebrate BAME people”, so the name change would clarify this. The motion passed 100% in favour, an easy win for the first proper vote.
A motion to implement fully digital submissions of written assignments was proposed by Commuting Students’ Officer Sian Dickie, intending to improve the environmental impact of printing long assignments as well as considering financial and accessibility concerns, was met with mixed opinions at first. One Maths student asked whether this proposal would include their physical only hand-ins, expressing concern as these require complicated equations that wouldn’t be possible to do digitally. A friendly procedural motion was submitted to clarify that the motion was for written assignments that required a digital and physical copy, with the proposer understanding that it would not be appropriate for all courses. Various students spoke in favour, citing the environmental concerns and frustrations of printing out 20 page reports whilst also handing in a digital copy to TurnItIn. The motion passed with 92% votes for and 8% against, showing Council’s strong preference for digital only written assignments to be introduced by Summer 2020.
The next motion was proposed by the LGBT+ Office Tobias Lawrence, to update NUSU’s Trans Policy which outlines information to support transgender students. He had updated this document himself, as the previous policy had “questionable terminology” and required Council’s approval to make these changes official. Chair of Scrutiny Alice Fish spoke in favour of the motion, saying it’s “really important to make sure all trans people are included in transgender advice and education” and was pleased that non-binary terminology and information was included by Tobias. Previous LGBT+ Officer Courtney Levin also spoke for the motion, and said she had reviewed the policy on Tobias’ request and agreed with the changes. No students spoke against the motion. This motion passed 89% for, 11% against, an overwhelming majority to update the transgender policy.
One of the motions seen at the meeting concerned the use of paper promotional materials during elections week. Education Officer Pablo Charro de Fuente put forward the motion to amend the current guidelines for paper promotion during elections week. Currently, candidates are allowed 1000 paper flyers and 50 printed posters throughout the week. However, Charro de Fuente proposed that this should be changed, restricting candidates to a maximum of 20 A3 posters and five A2 posters.
One question raised from the proposal concerned accessibility, whether or not people would be able to fully access campaign promotions online. Charro de Fuente explained that this wouldn’t be an issue and wouldn’t be a complete move to digital promotion. Owen Lukins spoke for the motion, arguing that the majority of students found the amount of paper “annoying” and the move to less paper would be appreciated. Charlotte Boulton also proposed an amendment to make sure that all the paper used would be recyclable as a lot of material is printed on glossy paper.
The motion failed to pass, with 63% voting for and 37% voting against. It needed a ⅔ majority and narrowly missed out.
The next motion proposed at Council was the implementation of free graduations, proposed by President Katie Smyth. Smyth argued passionately for free graduations, stating that graduation ceremonies contain a lot of hidden costs, including gown hire and ticketing. She described these hidden costs as a, “sour end to our university experience by paying a lot of money.”
Charlotte Boulton asked whether or not the motion would include graduation for Postgraduates in 2020. Katie said that they’d aim to implement the policy from summer 2020 onwards. An amendment was suggested to include all areas of graduation, so that it wasn’t limited to gown hire but included things like tickets.
Emily Skinner made the comment that this proposal makes students feel different from accessing the hardship fund the university have set aside. She referred to a story about knowing people who couldn’t afford professional photos because they’d paid so much for the tickets and the gown.
Matty Lacey stated that this was a “fantastic, fair and rational” as the university makes a lot of profit so this should happen. Smyth replied stating that “the point of the motion is to remove money from privilege”.
One key area of questioning was ticketing. One girl was concerned about students receiving more tickets without a financial cap in place. Smyth responded and clarified that tickets would still be limited to two extra each.
The motion passed with 86% voting for and 14% voting against.
The next Student Council is on December 5th.
By Rebecca Johnson and Charlotte Boulton.