On Thursday 15th November, Students’ Union UCL will be hosting an All Student Meeting.
This will be an opportunity for UCL students to come together to discuss and debate a number of resolutions affecting the way in which the Union is currently run.
The discussion will focus on three special resolutions put forward by the Union Council. These will include motions about the minimum turnout for a valid student meeting, the length of office terms for Sabbatical Trustees, and a shake-up of the committees of the Board of Trustees.An additional motion has also been submitted regarding an official Union position on a People’s Vote.
An option has been included to vote online on the Union website for any students who are unable to attend. Below is a comprehensive run-down of the motions up for discussion.
- Special Resolution: Quorum for Student Meetings
According to current Union guidelines, the results of any votes conducted at a Union Members’ meeting will be invalid unless a ‘quorum’ is present, meaning that at least 2% of the total membership of the Union must be present. The current Union membership is approximately 38,900, so in order for a meeting to be deemed valid, 778 members must be present.
The resolution calls for the cut-off for a quorum to be decreased to 1%, or approximately 430 members. The resolution argues that a quoracy of 2% “makes the provision for all student meetings redundant due to its impracticality”, citing a number of other universities with significantly lower quora. The University of Manchester, the only university with a larger student population than UCL, requires 100 members for a valid company general meeting. The University of Leeds requires only 10.
The main concern around lowering the quoracy is the potential for larger societies to skew the outcome of the meetings in favour of certain motions. An example came last year, when it was claimed that the Islamic Society stacked a meeting when the issue of iPad use in elections was being discussed. Representation within the Union has been a recurring issue, and it is possible that this resolution could affect this.
- Special Resolution: Sabbatical Trustees Terms of Office
Aside from the Sabbatical Officers, the Union is governed by a Board of Trustees whose job, according to the Union website, is to “ensure the Union has the necessary financial and structural stability to carry out its aims effectively”. The board is made up of four Student Trustees, elected in October and representing “the demographic of the whole student body”, three External trustees, appointed for four-year terms, and Sabbatical Trustees, four of the elected Sabbatical Officers. Currently, whilst Sabbatical Officers are able to maintain a position for two terms, Sabbatical Trustees may only hold their role for one term. This resolution seeks to change that.
The resolution described the one-year term as “limiting for officers who have long term aims that require a further year to see through their proposed changes”, and calls for trustees to be re-elected, subject to a “transitional change in the year of office”. Opposition to this resolution have expressed their concern that it could leave control of the Union in the hands of a small, potentially non-representative, group.
- Special Resolution: Committees of the Board of Trustees
Within the Board of Trustees, there are a number of committees within which work is delegated, including Human Resources, Finance and Services, the Steering Committee, and the Sports Ground Committee, dedicated to the upkeep of Shenley Sports Ground. The resolution calls for the creation of four new committees: Finance, Governance, Remuneration, and Risk and Audit, with the upkeep of Shenley Sports Ground the responsibility of all Trustees. The specific roles of each of these committees are yet to be detailed.
- Motion: People’s Vote on the Final Brexit Deal
An additional motion proposed by Nathaniel Shaughnessy, the UCL lead for the ‘Our Future, Our Choice’ movement, is calling for the Union to take action in supporting and campaigning for a People’s Vote. The motion proposes that the Union works alongside current student-run People’s Vote campaigns, and mandates Sabbatical Officers to write to Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour MP and Shadow Brexit secretary, to support a second vote with a specific option to remain within the European Union.
The motion cites a recent Survation poll estimating that 75% of 18-24 year olds support Remain, and notes that the university leadership, most significantly the Provost, have stated that Brexit could harm UCL’s research income. It has been argued that supporting a People’s Vote does not align with the Union’s duty to represent a student population with a wide range of political views, and that diverting resources away from other causes could be deemed irresponsible. Nevertheless, the National Union of Students have already stated their support for a People’s Vote.
Voting for these motions will occur at the meeting on Thursday 15th November at 6pm in Logan Hall, Institute of Education. If you are unable to attend this meeting you can vote from here.