The Problem with BULS mark II

When I began my Chairmanship at the end of May, one of my primary aims was to reach out across the political divide in the University, particularly to BULS and encourage a climate of co-operation. The impression I got from the blog and from members of both BUCF and BULS was that relations between the two societies was at a low ebb. It was and remains my firm belief that student politics should not be so entrenched and petty at this early stage in our political development. There is plenty of time for punch and judy politics.

However the actions of BULS in recent weeks has confirmed the scepticism and caution I recieved from many members of BUCF when I informed them of my intentions to reach out to BULS. This blog and the BULS blog has, in the words of Tony Blair, been the platform not for academic or cordial debate but ‘low scullduggery’ and petty squabling. Both socieities had cause for hope in the weeks following the arrival of 2 new committees. Initially it seemed that Guise had the same entusiasm for a closer working relationship between the two societies, but the business with the Guild has all but destroyed any chance of that.

When BUCF announced that we were to temporarily leave the Guild until we had consulted our membership for a final decision, BULS reacting in a heated, negative and un-neccessary manner cancelling all proposed joint events. I made it abundently clear to Tom that should he have any issues before he reacted rashly he could get in contact with me personally and I might be able to clarify a few gray areas. This seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

Relations between the guild and previous committees of BUCF had been at record lows when I took over and the new committee, it appeared, were being tarred with the same brush. I got word of ultimatums and negative attitudes coming from the guild and this allied with the fact that I was well aware of the level of hostility to Guild politics within the BUCF ranks led me to take the decision to let the members decide whether they wished BUCF to remain in the Guild.

Frankly BUCF’s membership of the Guild of Students is nothing to do with BULS. It is a matter for BUCF and BUCF alone yet out Labour counterparts have taken it upon themselves to engage in petty and pointless squabbling over an issue that doesn’t concern them. I emphasised when we announced our withdrawl that the ultimate decision would not be mine or the committees but the members. I also emphasised that we would not hold a referendum until all our options have been weighed up. BULS seem to have conveniently ignored all these statements, preferring to paint this image of me acting in a dictatoral fashion and censoring opposition.

I am disappointed and frustrated that BULS saw fit to involve themselves in a matter that had little if anything to do with them or their society. They could have quite easily ignored this issue particularly as it remains unresolved. In the ‘so called spirit of cordiality’ that was emmerging one would have hope they would have had this in mind before engaging in such critcisims. Instead their actions have only served to cement the vast majority of the BUCF membership’s, and committees past and present’s belief that guild politics is shambolic and petty.  

I believed that a spirit of co-operation between political groups could serve to encourage debate, remove the liklihood of personal attacks in political debates,  present both societies with greater understanding and make for interesting joint events. Our successful event with David Cameron encouraged this idea. Sadly BULS seem have resorted to underhand and unneccessary jibes and criticisms over a trivial issue that they could have expressed any concerns they had to me or the committee personally before publishing rash posts and engaging in character assassinations.

Maybe one day BULS will understand that they are not members of the House of Commons yet, they do not have to entrench themselves in the ‘all Tories are evil’ rhetoric and then maybe just maybe student apathy and indifference toward guild politics and politics in general can begin to change.

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4 thoughts on “The Problem with BULS mark II

  1. Dan – of course they cancelled all joint events – they knew you were going to beat them in the annual footy match. Bottlers, I reckon. ;-)

    Anyway, leave them to it and concentrate on your own game. There are plenty of other organisations in politics/the area that you can co-operate with. It’s their loss.

  2. Right.

    1. We tried to have joint events last year, too. We had a three way meeting between the BULS, CF and Lin Dem committees to get to know each other and tried to organise a question time style event. It was BUCF who failed to provide a speaker and as such no event took place.

    2. This is hilarious. The author writes “I made it abundently clear to Tom that should he have any issues before he reacted rashly he could get in contact with me personally and I might be able to clarify a few gray areas.” Which was exactly the sort of discourse BULS advised BUCF to have with the Guild, and indeed what the Vice President responsible for student groups at the Guild advised BUCF to do. As reported here. http://buls.org/2008/06/17/guilds-response/

    3. You are right, your decision to leave does not affect us. Doesn’t mean we can’t have an opinion on it though, and the jibes you threw at “guild types” in your original post on leaving the Guild were often based on no more than hearsay and were hurtful to many of our members. We have every reason to blog on it and to hold an opinion, since your decision is at least partly based on the way you seem to think officers of the Guild and Guild Councillors act, which includes an awful lot of our members. We merely desired to set the record straight.

    4. We have done nothing if not try to help you! We asked questions to the VP SAD at Guild Council about your disafiliation and offered to help you change the rules you so disliked. I guess it’s because we’re Labour, we just like to help people ;) But when you said you were off we offered you help and support to stay, a point Dominic seems to have missed also.

    Sorry for wading into the debate you don’t want. But I don’t like to see the efforts and reputations of our members, and other people involved in the Guild for that matter, sullied unjustly. The “rash comments and character assinations” began when you accused the Guild of being a clique which systematically discriminated against BUCF.

  3. Brigid admittedly you have offered more assistance than most of your BULS counterparts who seem to offer nothing more than sarcasm and criticism. However I think you miss a fundamental point. The Guild IS cliquey. So my attacks on guild types was justified and an opinion held by the vast majority at Birmingham.

    Admittedly my dealings with the guild have been minimal however I found the fact that the guild made no effort to contact me personally and discuss any grievances they had with the previous committee irritating. My contact details are easily available, the blog directs you on how to contact us, the previous chair has all my details on hand. As far as I am concernned the guild should have seen a new committee as a chance for a ‘fresh start’ and should have adopted a far more flexible approach, instead they resulted to ‘bully boy’ tactics by issuing ultimatums.

    You are right attending a few meetings is not alot to ask but why should we be forced to attend any? Surely the guild should be a choice and not an imposition? In short I believe guild politics can be positive but currently it is a source of negativity. Student socieities should work with the guild but not for the guild as is currently the case. You seem to find a strong central authority in the guild positive. I and many conservatives find it negative. I believe the guild should be a discussion platform as and when we decide to use it not when we are told to.

    In addition to the bureaucratic problems with the guild, as your own society has admitted guild council is often fruitless and certain members are intolerable. No matter how much you try to deny it the guild IS hostile to BUCF, in part because members of your society have a know hostility toward us and hold many positions on the guild. Brigid I personally believe the guild needs to change.

    In any case this is a debate that could and should have been held off for a later date (hence why comments were turned off the original post) The decision was temporary and not final. We believe we will be holding the now infamolus referendum on Aug 1st once all our options have been decided. I do think that the committe will win simply because of the members who have heard about our disaffiliation I have had many mesages of congratulations! admittedly there are a couple who do have reservations and that is why they will have the opportunity to have their say.

    BUCF’s desire to leave the guild has many levels. 1) We have never had good working relations with the guild and I cannot see that changing 2) We recieve no funding, admittedly by choice, so I see no material benefit 3) All previous committees have had many issues with the guild: being unhelpful in regrds to events, cliquey, full of red tape etc 4) We have had many local conservative associations offering assistance, funding, advertisment etc. They can also put us in touch with a stronger younger support base in the local areas.

    In the end we will do what we can to make our society stronger and if we are stronger without the guild then so be it. (Incidently I also offered your society the chance to do a pro guild guest blog… which also seems to have fallen on deaf ears, one can only assume there isnt enough positive points to blog about ;))

  4. Thankyou for your response. As you know, I also believe the Guild is flawed and needs to change, and I also think that most of the people who use it would agree.

    Many societies resent being made to sit on Guild council… Still want to hook up and write that motion to change it? :) I should be around most of the summer…

    Good luck with the referendum!

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