Student Council, Vol.3: alas a liberation officer for the working class!

Hear all the highlights of the final Student Council of the year!

Sam Norman
8th December 2023
Image Credit: RawPixel
Thursday 7 December marked the final Student Council of the year. Multiple motions and elections for vacant streets awaited those in attendance's vote, as well as the potential of creating a new working-class liberation officer.

The first order of business for the night was an unusual one, with Chair of Council George Wood absent. Education Officer Lulu opened the council, stating the need to fill the chair for the present council. Postgraduate Officer Chirag nominated himself to be temporary chair and was accepted into the role.

As per standard, the minutes of the previous meeting were the first notice, and passed without any objections. No vacant liberation officer positions were filled, leaving Marginalised Gender Officer and Student Parents, Guardians and Carers Officers still available.

The steering committee report was passed without objections, and due to council receiving no Scrutiny or Disciplinary report, they were therefore passed.

President Yaseen spoke to give the final State of the Union of the year, and also reflect on the Sabbatical Officers work this past term. Yaseen discussed how he had been meeting with local MPs; is working on emergency food vouchers to be distributed across schools and is also working on a rate your land lord system.

Yaseen highlighted Postgraduate Officer Chirag's work in his school-wide writing retreat for PGR students; networking coffee events and how he met with local MPs to discuss postgraduate issues.

Education Officer Lulu had been working on a new education strategy with the university; is in the process of organising the TEA awards and has continued to represent student issues at University Senate.

Lucy, Welfare and Equality Officer, was highlighted for representing the student union in Tyne and Wear delegate assembly, chairing the Welfare exec and meeting with local MPs to address further student issues.

The SU's Athletic Union Officer, Kimiko, was noted as continuing to engage with clubs to increase awareness; has worked with Yaseen to create Newcastle's University Challenge team and attended the NUS Our Manifesto, Our Future event.

Yaseen then moved to Alex, Activities Officer, who was in the process of the Festival of Culture (the first event, the night of council); had hosted a charity shop tour, and continued to work to meet sustainability initiatives.

Finally, Student Media Officer, Gabbi, was celebrated for obtaining funding for the NSR studio in the student disbursement fund, had began planning for student elections and printed 5 successful papers this term, four of which were with the full editorial team.

The President then rounded off the State of the Union wishing attendees of council a happy holidays!

Attendees were then invited to ask any questions to Sabbatical Officers. Liberation Officer, Jonathan, asked Student Media Officer Gabbi about the sustainability improvements with surplus print. Gabbi responded stating how the adjust to the fortnightly print was a sustainable decision, as well as decreasing copies from 1.5k to 1k and how The Courier continues to work across campus recycling papers for internal art events and recycling with NUSU's scheme.

The Liberation Officers then gave their statements into the work achieved this term. Ethnic Diversity Officer, formerly BAME Officer, Jonathan had been working with societies and improving the intersectionality of his role. Disability Officer Leo had continued to improve awareness around disability and accessibility through contacting students for perspectives. Albena, International Students Officer, had worked on a participation plan throughout the term. Tom, LGBTQ+ Officer, has been working to improve the welfare side of the LGBTQ+ experience at University.

All Officer, Executive Committee minutes and Sabbatical Officer reports passed without objection.

The first motion of council was a business motion, addressing changing to Student Election Regulations. The motion was passed and updated context around print campaigning post-COVID.

11.35% of respondents identified as working class

Welfare and Equality Officer Lucy proposed the first constitutional motion, the introduction of a Working Class Liberation Officer. Lucy discussed the research behind the role, stating it was a recommendation as a result of new findings from staff research. Lucy affirmed 11.35% of the respondents on the Student Representation Survey by NUSU had identified as working class. This was the third largest category behind marginalised genders and LGBTQ+. Lucy reiterated HESA Data from 2021 revealed Newcastle University had 8.8% of students being from low participation neighbourhoods, with 22.6% the figure for the North East as a whole - the highest of all English regions. Lucy also cited the growing PARTNERS scheme which had increased from 2.9% in 2018 through to 5.8%.

Disability Officer Leo enquired about the scope of care of the potential officer, and Lucy addressed how working-class covers several areas, but the officer would work alongside other officers to help those in need. Ethnic Diversity Officer, Jonathan, questioned a more detailed definition of working-class for the officer role. Lucy agreed with the broadness of the term, but would work with how students identify as suggested in the survey.

Those in attendance appeared to share Lucy's belief as the motion passed with 100% giving Newcastle University Student's Union a Working Class Liberation Officer!

Activities Officer Alex introduced the next constitutional motion, which would make the Student's Union sign the NCVO Fossil-free investment agreement. Whilst Alex assured the union does not use any fossil fuels currently, signing this agreement will continue to urge sustainability and climate progress. The motion was backed by the Extinction Rebellion Society, with Vice-President Ella speaking in support of the motion to co-align social responsibility with academia. The motion passed with 92.86%, meaning the union will be expected to sign the agreement.

Viv Manthri proposed the third and final constitutional motion of council, which aimed to reorganise misaligned EDI spaces for Faculty Medical Sciences and the wider university. Viv stated current EDI rooms are multi-purpose, utilised as prayer rooms, breastfeeding rooms and sensory rooms, which all have different needs. Viv addressed the amount of unused common rooms which could be looked into as a space for neurodivergent people. Many students expressed support for the motion, with Disability Officer Leo sharing possibilities to expand the space for neurodivergent and mental well-being. Activities Officer, Alex, expressed the importance of the motion and that if created, it would be a valuable space. The support translated in the votes with the motion passing with 96.77%.

Temporary Chair Chirag highlighted the availability spaces on numerous committees, with disciplinary, scrutiny, welfare and steering still having vacant seats.

For Student Notices, Disability Officer Leo informed attendees of Reach Out Community APP 2025, the framework that informs equality and diversity practices in the university. Leo stated he is trying to gage students opinions on different topics, particularly regarding transition to employment and postgraduate study.

A follow up on a motion from last year with the introduction of an amphibian pond stated after further discussion, the pond is expected to be moved to Castle Leazes, and meetings are expected for further discussion.

Student Media Officer Gabbi also announced the launch of NSR's first podcast, now available to listeners on Spotify!

Open debate then commenced, with the topic of student housing. Many students expressed feedback for how students can be in a better position through the current housing climate. Ethnic Diversity Officer Jonathan stated how "NUSU could do more on social media to signpost better for housing advice page." President Yaseen stated he is making a joint manifesto with other regional universities to present to the up-coming North East Mayor and host a debate to quiz candidates on these issues. Disability Officer Leo informed of the few accessible options, stating disabled students or often left choosing between "an expensive Park View Student Accom for the whole three years, a council house, or buying your own house and adapting it."

Students also expressed concerns on the fluctuating and inconsistent housing and accommodation prices as well as guarantor insecurity that discriminates against those who may not be close to family.

The debate was brought to a close, and with that so was the final Student Council of the year. Student Council returns after Christmas, as Student Election season also begins to pick up!

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AUTHOR: Sam Norman
Head of Current Affairs 23/24. Campus Comment Sub-editor 22/23. BA English Language and Literature Student.

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