Politics on campus

We live in a democracy, I am proud to live in a country where the people can voice their discontent without fear of repression. The Guild is a ‘democratic’ organisation, however, its members don’t have the same freedom. Fearing the wrath of the Guild’s sometimes artistic temper towards criticism. Now BUCF is not perfect, but as a Guild society I feel we have a right to voice our opinion on the current state of student politics.

BUCF is not alone in these beliefs there are numerous other societies and individuals who feel that the Guild has gone on a massive power trip. For example, a friend of mine (not a BUCF member) described the Guild Sab team as “intimidating”. Many however, have asked me not to mention their names or the societies they represent fearing the potential backlash from the Guild. I have also been made aware that members of the Guild team sit and google “The Guild of Students” to see whether anyone is writing critical remarks. So if anyone from the Guild officer team is reading this, firstly, Hello and secondly, “intimidating” is that really the reputation you want?

Elections; the Guild loves a good election, whether it be RA, Sabbatical, Guild Council or society AGMs. Now the sensible option would be to have one coherent policy on voting, but remember the Guild is a union and such a plan would be too easy Instead we have one rule for an election and one rule for another. An example of which would be the hypocrisy over AGMs. Last year BUCF were forced to hold an AGM due to the resignation of our secretary, according to Guild regulations we were required to have 1/3 of our membership present to make the AGM legitimate in the eyes of the Guild. However, the Guild Sabbatical team can get elected on 3% of the student population; is that representative or fair?

Still on the subject of AGMs, the Birmingham University Labour Students or BULS had their AGM this evening, in what I believe to be an entirely uncontested election (at least according to their blog). During the AGM we tried to have last January to replace one member of the committee, we decided that because we planned to have our AGM in May we would all stand in the same position and we ended up being uncontested. We were subsequently told by the powers that be that such a move would be undemocratic and we were threatened with derecognition, will the same happen to BULS, I doubt it! I would like to point out that the AGM during which this year’s BUCF committee was elected, every position was contested. However, on behalf of all of us at BUCF I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the new BULS committee on their hard-fought election victory!

We can only hope that this year’s committee makes more of an impact than last year’s; BULS and the Lib Dems seem to have truly entered the political wilderness on campus since the start of the academic year. While BUCF have met Lady Thatcher, Ann Widdecombe, Prime Minister David Cameron, held a Conference event attended by a cabinet minister, gone on a 4 day trip to Brussels and attended numerous Tory functions, the other political societies have disappeared. When we do attempt to hold a joint event, the response is either non-existent or apathetic, and then there was the encounter myself and President Sophie Shrubsole had this afternoon when we were told by BULS member that “BUCF can all go Fuck off and die” – charming!

Anyway back to the Guild around a month or two ago I read an interesting article in Redbrick, critiquing the Guild, I was surprised to find it so far back in the paper, probably a coincidence. The subject was the student protests in London, the one which the Guild funded students to go down and protest against the rise in tuition fees. I was shocked to discover that the Guild through President Dora Meredith (former chairwoman of BULS) had asked numerous trade unions with known affiliation with the Labour Party for money to help fund a protest against a Conservative/Lib Dem Government. The Guild denies any wrong doing. However, lets look at it another way shall we, lets say the situation was different, we have a Guild President who used to be President of BUCF and they had asked one of Lord Ashcroft’s trust funds for money to protest against a Labour Government. I wonder how quickly BULS and the Socialist Workers would be up in arms? I feel I should also mention that the Guild refused to support the protest on campus held by university staff members against the cuts, but why? Why support a protest in London that ends in violence but not a peaceful one on campus? The logic escapes me.

These are not isolated events and there are many more which I have not mentioned at the request of those involved. If anyone from the Guild team does read this, before they act, remember  its our guild, we the students pay for it and therefore we are entitled to our opinion. To close I think Voltaire’s remarks are appropriate; “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it.”

Tim Hasker


18 thoughts on “Politics on campus

  1. “Fearing the wrath of the Guild’s sometimes artistic temper towards criticism.”

    Sorry but what does this mean?

    “When we do attempt to hold a joint event, the response is either non-existent or apathetic”

    Well there was the general election. More effort from BUCF in that event would I’m sure have been appreciated by many, including those at City Hall.

    “President Dora Meredith (former chairwoman of BULS) had asked numerous trade unions with known affiliation with the Labour Party for money to help fund a protest against a Conservative/Lib Dem Government. ”

    You say that you were “shocked” to read that trade unions were helping to fund a protest against a Tory/Lib government. Are you being serious? I can’t see how anyone with an IQ over 75 could possibly find that ‘shocking’. And may I ask what is wrong with student unions asking other unions for their co-operation?

    “Why support a protest in London that ends in violence but not a peaceful one on campus?”

    How where they supposed to know in advance that some idiot would throw a fire extinguisher off a building?

    “However, lets look at it another way shall we, lets say the situation was different, we have a Guild President who used to be President of BUCF…” Can I just steer you back to reality before you create some hypothetical dream land as your only means of making a coherent point. Apart from anything else, if Lord Ashcroft wants to donate money to BUGS then we can discuss it nearer the time.

    “I have also been made aware that members of the Guild team sit and google “The Guild of Students” to see whether anyone is writing critical remarks.”

    So what?

  2. Tim I can agree it was a complete tragedy that at the AGM tonight most of the positions were uncontested. This is unfortunately the complete inactivity and massive failures of the outgoing committee (well still current as the new one is committee-elect). I regret to whole heartedly agree that since the start of this academic year BULS has really not being pulling it’s weight, there’s been no where near enough events and the one speaker, Steve McCabe. I will have to sadly agree, since September BULS has been a shadow of it’s former self. I can only hope the new committee can take over as soon as possible and get BULS going again.

    In regards to Guild policy and “intimidating attitudes” I shamefully now little about what goes on. So I’m really not going to embarrass myself.

    I hope we can work together though,

    Max Ramsay, BULS Vice-Chair-elect

  3. ^^ In regards to the above comment as Maggie once said;

    “I like him. We can do business together”

    I am pleased that Max in particular has been elected to the BULS committee as Vice Chair because Ive always found in my dealings with him that although we profoundly disagree on many things he demonstrates far more courtesy and common sense than some of his comrades. You may have to reign in your new Chair-elect though Max, I hear hes a wild one… lol ;)

  4. Thanks Max.

    Our members in particular are really up for some cross party debates and other events, so when you guys take over I’m sure we’ll come up with something.

  5. I was present during the AGM Tim talked about and remember thinking it was unfair at the time.

    When I was “elected” VP of Welsh Soc in June 2009, there were six people present, certainly not a third of the membership. Two of those were graduating, so the remaining four of us took up the four available committee positions.

    I know that Welsh Soc is a fun society rather than one which campaigns etc so people may view it as not as important but this election was unfair and undemocratic nonetheless. But did the Guild say anything? No, not even a comment or warning!

    The Guild sticks to the rules with some societies but not with others.

    Max, I am so encouraged by your words. I think it would be great if the political groups on campus could be “friends”. After all we do all have a common interest.

  6. Cheers Max, encouraging to hear the new committee has a better attitude and we look forward to working together!

  7. We are VERY keen for some cross party debates, and have been all year. We didn’t see any members of BUCF at the guild organised debate at the Know Your World Event, but would love to discuss organising another. The problem, as we have expressed the in past, is how to advertise such an event in a way that will generate enthusiasm.

    I will admit that I’ve been less than committed in my manifesto pledge to organise a Labour v Tory football match, but that was because I broke my ankle. I’m now fit as a fiddle, so if Tim could let me know who the best person to contact would be that would be great.

    I’m disappointed that Max (who I do dearly like) feels he has such a mandate to criticise the current committee after his overwhelming defeat of RON last night…

    The main problem at BULS has not been a “complete inactivity” but rather a failure to articulate a direction and vision for the club, and I hope that in my final time as Secretary I can work with the new committee to improve this.

  8. Also, in response to Tim’s blog, I have always found the Guild Sabbs to be both helpful and approachable in what little dealings I have had with them.

    Regarding the AGM’s, I agree that society’s should be held equally accountable. As I have said on fb, as I understand it, the problem with the BUCF AGM was lack of numbers, a problem that we did not have at our AGM. However, I personally feel that the failure to have contested elections (although im some cases testimony to the support for the candidates running), although not breaking Guild rules, is a real shame, and calls into question the mandate of the new committee.

  9. This is something I genuinely forgot to include in my comment, but you are the exception to the rule Jake…as far as I know. And no, I’m not saying that because you just commented on here, but I merely forgot, my bad.

    Apart from that I agree with most of what you said.

  10. @ Jake, as the person who organised our AGM(S) last year, I admit we definitely had a bit of an issue. With numbers, however it was more down to the fact that the third of our membership (60+) required by the Guild, was simply unattainable, also ironically above the room capacity for the location.
    Also the behaviour of our former president made it impossible to establish a good relationship with the Guild.

    On a personal level I wish the new BULS committee well and hope we can work together and indeed the relationship will continue with the committee which will replace us.

    Adam Jenner

  11. I hate to be cynical but I am not surprised, Jake, that you have had no bad experiences with the Sabbs. Student unions are renowned for being sympathetic to the Left!

  12. Im sorry, but did I just read in that painful blog, that BUCF met Ann Widdecombe? And are publicising this? It is of no wonder that BUCF is seen as out of touch. A 4 day trip to Brussels, however nice this may be, has no relevance at all to campus politics.

    In response to a BULS member stating that ‘you can fuck of and die’, I find it hard to believe that this comment was unprovoked.

    In response to Max and Jake’s comments, I disagree with Max when he says that the last BULS committee were ‘a massive failure. At times it was frustrating, but national and campus events still took place. I thank the out-going committee and hope Jake can show me the ropes.

    Finally, my candidacy as Chair was contested, so your sniping here is redundant I’m afraid.

    I hope in my capacity as new BULS Chair to organise events with BUCF and the Lib Dems

    Yours in Solidarity
    Daniel Harrison

  13. @ G.O.P

    Could you please explain that comment? Because I very much hope that I’ve misunderstood it…


  14. Im saying I hope you make good on your words and don’t live to regret them. Countless BUCF and BULS committees have made murmurings toward closer working relations over the years but none of these words have ever been realised. I hope you don’t follow their example and end up “hanging” yourself with your words.

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