'Being advocates for student voices has never been more important': A rundown of this years first Student Council

Coverage of this years first sudent council meeting, with details of votes and motions put forward.

Kayleigh Fraser
25th October 2021
Image Credit: Newcastle University Student's Union
Newcastle University's Student Council met for the first time this academic year on the 21st October. Here's what happened in the meeting, and what it could mean for you in the coming months.

Finally, the Student Council for 2021/2022 were able to hold a meeting. Amidst the pizza and squash, representatives from across campus came together to discuss the most pressing issues to student life and welfare.

Led by Abbie Hutchinson, this years President of the Student Union, all sabbatical officers were present for the meeting and were very eager to get started.

The meeting started in a rather unexpected fashion with the elections for vacant places upon council. First up were the nominations for 'open places', of which there were eight. One nomination for these places was from Alex Walker, who was quickly opposed by Elizabeth Meade of the Media Executive Committee. When asked why, Elizabeth stated he is not suitable because of his "irresponsible behaviour that makes him unsuitable for such a position". Because of this objection, elections for open places must now take place online.

Following this, Ali Zuhad was elected as Campaigns Representative alongside George Wood as the new LGBT+ officer. There were no objections to either candidate.

After the elections came the State of the Union report led by Hutchinson. In her report, she thanked the council for being so adaptable during the pandemic. "Being advocates for student voices has never been more important" the President said, stating that "We as a SABB team are so happy to be here."

The report detailed how the union has specifically been focusing on Students' return to campus from June. Specifically, how the university will be made to learn from the pandemic in the coming years.

Alongside this, the president specifically mentioned issues regarding spiking, mental health, Black History month, student safety and COP26. She assured the council that all of these issues are on their radar and they're working hard to find ways to support the student population during this time.

The Courier's success was mentioned too. Hutchinson applauded the success of Editor-in-Chief George Boatfield for the introduction of Student Media Afternoons and the roll out of thousands of copies of The Courier in Freshers Week.

After a short recess, the meeting returned to an open floor where members could ask specific questions to a sabbatical officer of their choice. One question was directed to Briana Gordhan, the Welfare and Equality Officer. this was regarding national reports of spiking and what the student union is doing to spread awareness as well as what they're doing to support victims.

Clearly prepared for such a question, Briana assured the council there is work going on behind the scenes on this pressing matter. She asserted "It shouldn't be anyone's responsibility to change the way they're living their lives" and endorsed the 'Girls Night in' Campaign taking place across the country next week. It was then confirmed that all of the sabbatical officers stand in solidarity with the movement.

Then, it was time for individual motions to be put forward for voting.

The first motion detailed plans to move the NUS referendum from this academic year to the next. The referendum itself asks students whether NUSU should be associated with the National Union of Students (NUS). Concerns arose asking why the referendum should be postponed, with some asking if it was a choice by the Sabbatical Officers themselves choosing to have a political agenda of sorts by postponing the election when they would be out of their posts.

President Abbie Hutchinson spoke for the motion, stating that the referendum would cause huge changes within the union itself and there are more important issues to focus on rather than this. The motion passed 67% to 32%.

The next motion was from Alex Walker asking the university to change their definition of anti-antisemitism so that quote everybody is "Singing off the same hymn sheet." The motion asked for anti-semitism to be incorporated into the hate crime policy, to which there was some confusion as many believed it was already included. The motion passed 65% to 34%.

One of the most important motions of the night regarded a possible poll upon UCU strike action. The motion would mean a poll would be conducted asking weather students support the strikes. Lewis Telford raised questions about the validity of the results if there was a lack of turn out. Despite this, the motion overwhelmingly passed with 88% to 12%.

Lastly, Elizabeth Meade made a motion for the union to stand with the People and Planet Society of which she is the President. She specifically detailed the unfair policy towards international students' attendance. The rules state that international students must upkeep an attendance over 80% or may be faced with deportation. The motion passed, but to a rather split majority of 56% to 43%.

That concluded the meeting, where everyone thanked Chair of Council Haaris Qureshi as well as each other for the successful nature of the meeting. The next Student Council Meeting takes place in November.

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AUTHOR: Kayleigh Fraser
Campus Comment Sub Editor for 2021/22 and Head of News at NSR. English Literature Student heavily obsessed with politics, bath and body works and making positive change. Also slightly infatuated with iced coffee, guinea pigs, my dog and binging The Simpsons.

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