Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Final Council and reflections (part 1)

Admit it. You're humming it now.
This is a long one.

This year I've had the thankless job of being the Chair of Student Council. Not entirely fair; I got a few thank-yous after last night's democratic marathon. However, for the most part this has been a frustrating insight into how incredibly bloody difficult it is to get students to do anything. There are 97 member of Council; last night, I saw just over 40 of them. We're all busy, but more than half of the students elected to this quite important policy-passing body couldn't bring themselves to turn up. Even though we had the shiny conference centre, with its microphones and soft lighting.

With that being said, I'm really not surprised. I did my best to run the meeting, and I'll admit I bungled the amendment that should have been attached to one of the motions. I appreciate that the people present felt we could move past it. It was a horrible error and one I'm really sorry I made.

What I didn't appreciate was the back-seat chairing from members of exec, either hurrying me, questioning my decisions, or straight up telling me to my face I don't have the right to do things I know I do.

Marc McCorkell, for example, stated baldly and plainly that the Chair of the meeting doesn't have the right to decide how the vote should be taken.


Let's put aside the (extremely valid) arguments around the matter of anonymous voting and ask what the point of having a Chair is. If it's to parrot Executive, then there would be a provision in the Constitution for Executive to chair Council. There isn't. What there is is a clause stating frankly the contrary:

Awks again.
At this point we come to - for me - the very summation of the pointlessness of a) having a Chair and b) giving the power to interpret the Constitution to the Student President.

You see, Emily prefers that we do things her way. That's not what Council's there for, it's there as a body to oversee the work Officers do and to recommend policies that the student body would like to see enacted. It's not there to just do what the Student President would like it to do.

At AGM, Emily felt she had the right to yell accusations of racism at a room full of students because a vote she was hoping for wasn't going to go the way she wanted it to. I understand that. I agree with the sentiment, a room of white folk arguing that they don't agree with quotas (unless they're for medics) is a load of bullshit. 

That's not the point here though; the point here is that she sees bureaucracy as a barrier to things going her way. So she interpreted the constitution - which reads like this, as a reminder:

To mean

And there's no recourse. That's not an interpretation; if the last four years of literature study have taught me anything then it's that. You can't interpret a text to mean literally the opposite of what it says. But the Student President can. It's laughable. It's pathetic. I hope this doesn't happen next year. I hope if it does councillors can pull together enough voices to laugh the Student President out. It's just a giant abuse of power, and it's made all the more frustrating because (realistically) there's nothing to be done about it.

Speaking of things you can do nothing about: you need 350 signatures for a referendum and 1300 votes, half of which must be unanimously in one direction or the other (ie 651+), to make such a referendum valid. This is the only way to remove a sitting Officer. Guess in how many of the races for next year's team we got 1300 people to vote.

Answer: none.

That's right. You've got to get more people to vote in a referendum to remove an Officer than you do to get them elected. Should it be this hard? 

Rob would probably say yes. Rob has survived multiple motions of disapproval laid against him this year, not least because publicly voting against an Officer you'll have to work with tomorrow is incredibly intimidating. His response to every one of these has been to laugh when he inevitable survives the vote: I imagine he would say it's because you have to let personal attacks slide off. Personally, if someone is sufficiently pissed off with the way you're acting that they want to interrupt a meeting to make it known, you might want to reflect on why. Especially if it happens twice in one meeting.

But at this point of the year, secure in jobs after they leave here, I get the feeling they've had enough of the bureaucracy of the whole thing, and in that we agree completely. It's unwieldy, it's slow, and it takes far too long. I'm excited about the democratic review and the proposed changes; the move to a more online system is an exciting one and one I hope we can bring to bear soon. As a Chair or as a tutor, I seem to be most excited about things that will lead inevitably to me becoming surplus to requirements.

There's a lot more to be said about how Council went, not least among which was the alleged torpedoing of the UOTC. I'll write about it at some point this week but for now, thank you for reading. Here's Carmen by Stromae, covered on piano, to ease you back into the real world.