Thursday, 27 February 2014

AGM - Speeches and democracy

I ummed and ahhed about this. I especially ummed and ahhed at 3am because I'm supposed to be teaching at 9am, ie 6 hours from now. This is because I am unable to sleep, and this is as a result of having a very troubled mind about all sorts of things, including ASCA (more on that (maybe) later), abortion, relationships, and money.

I should assure my most maternal reader at this point that she does not need to worry about any of these things, and that they will pass. Honestly.

For now I want to bring the attention of UoA readers to the AGM, which took place on Tuesday and was, as ever, the glorious democratic process of 300 students stuffed on pizza being ushered through motions they either didn't know about, hadn't read, or couldn't care less about.

All of the motions were fairly uncontentious on paper and I went with the confidence that - give or take the usual argy-bargy, nitpicking nonsense from the Tory benches (who seem to be pandering to an invisible panel of Thatcherite judges) the whole lot would pass without question.

I was surprisingly wrong, but not surprised at all when it proved so.

The key point from the evening that I'd like to present is a motion by Eva Nohe, the President of Environment and Ethics, to lobby the University to divest from fossil fuels. As +Rob Henthorn pointed out, this was about the University's money. Not ours. Eva just wanted the University to stop profiting from fossil-fuel burning power stations because those same power stations are pumping out climate-changing C02 gas.

At the end of the day, that's a fairly uncontentious desire - one that would be quite easy to get AGM behind. However, Eva's third point was:
To mandate AUSA to lobby the university to stop giving honorary degrees to CEOs of fossil fuel companies 
 And this caused a susurration of...unhappiness, I will call it. A sense in the room that perhaps this was not being well received. However, I feel like it could have been rescued at that point, but in presenting the motion Eva stated that she did not believe that anyone working in oil and gas would have a career in 20 years.

To a room of UoA students, many of whom have travelled across the world to work in this sector, she may as well have stuck two fingers in the air and announced she'd be supporting England in the World Cup. You know the noise that goes through a room, a sort of low rushing breath out? If you've ever been joking about with friends and then, in a fit of madness, overstepped the invisible boundary that everyone instinctively knows is there, then you will know the sound I mean. It is always followed by a second of silence and then a buzz of chatter as each person turns to their neighbour and asks,
Did they really just say that?
The "against" speech was mostly just noises from a very annoyed Environmental Science student, but honestly I think he could have just said "I don't agree" and dropped the mic. The damage was done. The motion fell.

With a single sentence, Eva shot down her own motion. For me, its just hammered home that even if what you are proposing is the most logical thing in the world, if you cannot consider it from your opponent's point of view you might as well pack the whole thing up and go home.

So we did, shortly after. AGM was brief, briefer than it's ever been, and while that was glorious - it hasn't happened before in my memory - I was a little unsettled by the breakneck pace which left more than a couple of questions unanswered on several motions. That would be my only critique; in all other aspects the Chair did an incredibly good job and keeping the room energised (and in the case of more than one student, drunk - drinking games get harder if the Chair finds out the word that triggers a swig!).

Oh! I almost forgot! ASCA!

Not tonight. Maybe later. Promise.