Banning abortions and freeing Wednesdays – Union Council convenes

Banning abortions and freeing Wednesdays – Union Council convenes

This is what democracy looks like.

In an ambitiously large room, deep in the corner of UCL, the great and the good of UCLU student politics (now sadly lacking Michael Chessum) gathered at the first Union Council meeting of the year on Tuesday 28th October.

The first meeting of the year is to elect members onto several UCLU committees, such as the Elections Committee and the Finance and Services Committee, as well as vote on motions old and new. While officially open to all students to attend and debate, it’s perhaps not surprising that the room was comprised of two groups: council members, and the self-established press area at the back of the room. Civilians were not spotted.

With motions ranging from one proposing that the position ‘Halls Accommodation Representative’ be changed to ‘Halls and Accommodation Officer’ due to it being a “right mouthful”, to a motion on democracy in Hong Kong, to motions for UCLU to condemn abortions based on sex-selection and disability, it was always going be a contentious meeting. And so it was: the first motion was withdrawn.

Starting with the question, ‘Did you vote in the recent UCLU elections?’, the meeting turned awkward as it turned out that, despite everyone in the council being elected, four didn’t bother to vote. Just as mysterious, one person refused to answer the question, deciding to abstain, if one, indeed, can abstain on a simple yes or now question. Democracy is a complex beast.


After a rousing speech by Halls Accommodation Representative, David Dahlborn, Union Council voted to back the campaign to lower rents, with only one vote against. Someone in Council, it appears, has a mischievous member.

A debate on supporting the protesters in Hong Kong drew debate as some members thought the motion should be extended to support other oppressed groups, like the Tibetans. While another member questioned whether the motion would be offensive to the thousands of Chinese students at UCL since some of the protesters are allegedly using the protests as an excuse to abuse mainland Chinese.

The next motion, proposed by DCO and big NCAFC fan Hannah Sketchley, was to support free education for all, and, specifically, the protest being organised on the 19th November. With 26 votes in favour, no votes against and three in abstention, it transpires that students aren’t fans of tuition fees.

The following motion concerned whether to support higher wages for student workers. Essentially, the motion would primarily benefit postgrads doing teaching work within the university and any other students working on campus. However, a gasp of shock was heard as one student opposed the motion on the grounds that there wasn’t enough money to pay the living wage, and it would lead to higher inflation.

This did not go down well.

Ultimately, the motion passed with 25 votes in favour, with one against and presumably the same three people who are abstaining on everything.

On his third motion of the night, David Dahlborn proposes keeping Wednesdays free for sport and Sports Night. Having also submitted two amendments to his own notion (understandable as he seems to have been juggling quite a few balls at once), he laid down the gauntlet to any opposers and demanded they speak rather than merely vote against. And, indeed, one student felt obliged to voice their lack of fondness for the idea to boycott Wednesday afternoon lectures. Dahlborn brought this opposition upon himself.

A surprising amount of passion was generated in this debate, with some people’s frustration being particularly clear.

Dahlborn decided to accept the first amendment (his first amendment), and wanted debate on the second. This led to considerable confusion and the complete digression of the meeting onto the topic of what we are voting for and how we are doing it. There was a flowchart.

The second motion narrowly passed with 13 votes for and 12 votes against.

The motion reads:

wednesday sport second amendment

What this amendment, essentially, means is that it goes against compulsory attendance of lectures and seminars, while the second half of the amendment would make it Union policy to support occupations. Actually big stuff.

Motion following the one on increased cooperation of UCLU and RNLI, was on Union stating its opposition to sex-specific abortions. Tipped to be one of the most controversial motions of the night. Women’s Officer Annie Tidbury was very quick to speak for the opposition, arguing that banning sex-specific abortions isn’t the key to ending them, but instead eliminating misogyny would solve the problem.

The motion to oppose sex-selective abortion was the first to fail, with 16 votes against, six for and seven abstentions.

Next motion was another abortion one, suggesting UCLU publicly opposes disability discrimination in UK abortion law. It was opposed with 19 votes against and eight for.

Time ran out just before the final motion, which was Annie Tidbury Women’s Officer’s motion on Zero Tolerance for Sexual Harassment. However, due to it being such a popular motion, the people rebelled and forced the Union Chair to hear the motion.

Motion passed with 25 votes in favour, and two against.

And that was that! Democracy done for another day.


1 Comment

  1. Anonymous
    November 1, 2014 / 10:49 am

    Just a correcition – there were 2 observes in the room from what I could see. & also I don’t know if the people suggesting the abortion motions were voting members anyway so technically they’re observers.
    Also not all the officers there are electing members. Eg aeo or eco or the eoo (pt).

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