Why the Guild of Students isn’t ready for a General Meeting and why you should (eventually..) vote against this years motions.
Firstly, Its worth pointing out I am in favour of both the election of student trustees and the General Meeting being held on an annual level in principle.
However, in practice the Guild and indeed the ReclaimTheGuild group have only showed why such moves are impractical, even dangerous, at present.
There is no point in extending the existing channels of democracy in the Guild when such democracy is already seriously flawed. The priority should be on improving not only contestion for Guild elections but also student turnout BEFORE seeking to create even more elected positions. Voter apathy is rife and the suggested cures will only make it worse.
Elected Student Trustees are a good idea, if they were to be contested by a wide variety of students and elected by a large voter base. But they wont be – as in almost all Guild elections they will be filled with the same old ‘Guildies’ and voted in with tiny mandates.
Similarly, an Annual General Meeting is a sound idea, but we were told this years GM was bought about by a petition of thousands of interested and supportive students. So where were they last time around? Having attended the GM it was almost solely occupied with the same faces from Guild Council meetings. The sheer number of pizzas left over obviously showed turnout was far lower than hoped! Out of 28,000 students, barely a hundred actually turned up. Given the important decisions that were to be made the legitimacy of such a meeting is seriously questionable. The adjournment and now cancellation also begs the question is the Guild even equipped enough to run a meeting under company law? The GM has so far been nothing short of a comical shambles.
The foundations of democracy in the Guild need to be secured before being built upon. This years Officer positions only cement my point even further. The Vice President of DEMOCRACY and resources is only being contested by ONE person, who happens to be good friends with the current VPDR, which while not a problem in itself does bring up possible feelings of cronyism, elitism and a general shut door look to onlookers. You have to ask yourself, why was only one person willing to step up for a job offering £17k?
If the Guild can prove that elected positions can work, can be contested, can be widely voted in and are engaging with the whole student body, then the such motions are the next step, but until then much more groundwork needs to be done.
(President – Birmingam University Conservative Future)