Sam Fearnley reports on the latest UCLU Council meeting
The first meeting of a new UCLU Council occurred on Tuesday evening. A number of important matters were discussed by the committee, which is composed of the Union Chair, Faculty Representatives, Convenors of the Liberation Sections, and Convenors of the Academic Sections.
The Union Council holds a variety of different functions, notably to agree on a particular publicly known stance, to decide on the future work of UCLU, and to hold officers to account.
One of the first topics up for debate was that of the academic board, specifically who would take on a role within it. The academic board is chaired by the provost and includes all professors at UCL, as well as students and sabbatical officers. The role of the board is to give advice to the union regarding academic matters and academic staff.
The same process of voting in students proceeded for the Elections Committee, the Finance and Services Committee, the UCLU Steering Committee, and the External Trustee Appointments Committee.
Once all the electing had finished, and the order had been settled, the meeting moved onto the more controversial matters.
There was a motion (“Democracy SOS”) to re-open nominations for faculty representative after allegations that current representative have been elected undemocratically, and given the poor engagement with the recent Autumn elections, re-open those positions which had not been filled (the vast majority of Halls Representatives). A number of sabbatical officers expressed their dislike for the motion, citing factual inaccuracies and the increased amount of work that they would need to undertake, should another round of elections be voted in. Ultimately, the motion failed to gain a majority vote.
Another issue was that of cafés in the new Student Centre. A motion was brought forward to make UCLU push for the Cafés to be run by the union and not privatised. It seemed as though everyone in the room agreed that this should be the case, but where people differed was in their methods of tackling the issue. Some raised the point that the building was not even built yet, and so bidding for a UCLU Café would be futile, but others said that it should be high on the union’s current list of priorities.
Another motion was the issue of 24 hour libraries during exam period. This is already something which Wahida Samie, the Education and Campaigns Officer, has been lobbying for, but she enthused that it would be another piece of evidence to present if the Union Council voted to back the proposal. Important questions were raised about how UCLU would pay for the hours, but Samie made sure to say that, although the source of finance was not confirmed, funds would not be taken away from crucial student services. She also noted that the increased cost would not be substantial, because the extra hours would only be needed during Saturdays and Sundays within the summer examination period.
Another motion was regarding the National Demo on November 4th. The motion, raised by Tom Robinson, the Welfare and International Officer, proposed that UCLU should support free education and living grants for all. It mandated the Sabbatical Officers to attend the protest, where able. This motion passed with a majority.
One of the final points of the meeting was that of the Junior Doctors saga. A motion was put forward to allow the Union to publicy oppose the new changes brought in by the DDRB to change Junior Doctor contracts. Alex Maidwell-Smith proposed the motion and everyone seemed in general agreement. One voter raised the point that the union should not be interfering in matters that are only relevant to a certain group of students, but another re-iterated the notion that the union serves to protect the interests of all its members. Another voter raised the point that any member of the union who uses the NHS may be affected by the changes. The motion passed, and as such, the union joins with The British Medical Association, The United Hospitals MedGroup, and 20 Presidents of the Medical Royal Medical Colleges and associated Faculties in opposing the changes to contracts.
The next Union Council meeting will be held on the 24th November.
Featured image credit: Sam Fearnley