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.”