Why the Guild isn’t ready for a General Meeting

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.

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Charlie Winch

(President – Birmingam University Conservative Future)

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3 thoughts on “Why the Guild isn’t ready for a General Meeting

  1. Tell me comrade, how does one go about improving student participation? Would it not be a good idea to offer the student body an arena within which they can exercise real power? Also, would it not be a good idea to improve the reponsiveness of the Guild through a democratisation achieved through, say, a General Meeting so as to re-engage students? Does it not seem apparent to you that students do not participate in the Guild because they view it as an ultimately impotent (if you will excuse the gendered language) and sclerotic institution? A sandbox for student politicians to play going at each other with the sophistication and intellectual rigour of zoo-animals? It manifests all the symptoms of a closed-off, inward looking waste of time. Popular participation would improve the Guild, but that can only happen once you make it more responsive and more student-led. Mind you, considering that this is a Conservative blog, it boggles the mind as to why you lot should give much of a shit about participation anyway. This article provides no concrete criticisms of the GM at all, confuses the issue of participation almost entirely, and is a perfect example of the backwards thinking of Conservatives and politicos more generally. I mean, what the fuck is “[t]he foundations of democracy in the Guild need to be secured before being built upon” even mean? Platitudes my friend. And a very poor post. Could you at least do some thinking about political participation before shitting out an article like this? It is a serious issue which requires some actual reflection.

  2. Why the Guild isn’t ready for democracy…
    ~
    A troll by Ben Aylott
    ~
    In principle I am not opposed to democracy and students selecting the people who represent them and ultimately run the Guild at the University of Birmingham, but students have clearly demonstrated to us that they are incapable of behaving like mature and sensible adults and should have this franchise withdrawn.

    One only needs to observe the antics that go on in Selly Oak and Fab ‘n’ Fresh (apologies to fans if I haven’t spelled that correctly) to know that this isn’t a demographic which should be responsible for running a multi-million pound organisation. What’s more, the only people who show any interest in the Guild are the ones who I disagree with – lefty types with an interest in ‘equality’ and ‘welfare’ and all that mumbo jumbo.

    The proponents of this ‘student democracy’ point out that every other student union in the Russell Group (yep we are still in it) apart from ours is ultimately controlled by its students (i.e. majority student trustee board/general meetings galore), however one only needs to look at the crumbling edifices of these student unions to bury that socialist dream (ignore the several winning loads of civic awards, having a positive impact on peoples lives, and/or raking in millions of pounds in revenues, they dont count).

    Also, students are clearly too lazy/stupid to ever actually turn up to & understand one of these ‘general meeting’ things and/or be able to vote for the student trustees, even if we do stick them on the same ballot paper as the one they all vote on at the moment. They have had huge problems at other student unions with all sorts getting elected onto the trustee board (election turnout notwithstanding).

    My proposal is simple – as loads of people who are (over-)interested in the Guild are involved in the Guild and loads of people who are are (under-)interested in participating are not then the only logical thing we can do is hand over all control of it to the University. No more elections or nonsense like that. It can be the ‘student experience’ department. They will probably do a great job for all we know! Even better we could establish a tendering process where external companies compete to offer ‘students union services’! If the lefties want ‘representation’ and ‘welfare’ they can form a society or something, but definitely don’t spend any money on that kind of thing.

  3. Well said! 99% students don’t care about Guild politics for the reason its irrelevant to them and highly egotistical. These motions offer more of the same, not real change. Real change would see mainstream students take an interest, rather than the usual rent-a-mob “fight the fees, fight the cuts” children. Either way. I’m sure the GM motions will fail. Literally everyone I have talked to is opposing them (if they care at all).

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