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Union to Reconsider Taking Position on George Bush?

Nov 13 2003 16:49
Nia Stevens
An Emergency General Meeting to discuss such a manoeuvre may be held in response to a petition from Union members.
It's democracy, stupid!

If the EGM goes ahead then it could mandate Imperial College Union council to consider a policy that ICU should adopt an official “Anti-Bush” stance and support and publicise events that educate and inform people on the reasons for this stance. Council voted not to consider this policy at their last meeting, a fortnight ago. If 200 or more members of ICU turn up to this EGM then it may refer the matter back to council.

The petition for this EGM was handed to the Union yesterday afternoon and if it is confirmed to be valid then an EGM must be held within 5 College days of this time. To be valid the petition must have over 100 signatures from members of the Union. The (more than 100) signatories of yesterday’s petition are currently being verified via College registry and the Union’s own records to confirm whether they are members of ICU.

In addition to the verification of signatures however, a judgement must be made as to whether this petition is valid. The constitution describes the circumstances under which an EGM may be called. The only condition that might be applicable in this circumstance is to “Review and refer back policy or operational policy made by the Council or Executive Committee respectively”. However the Union currently has no policy concerning George Bush hence it is unclear whether this is indeed applicable to the current situation. Mustafa Arif, Union President, is carrying out consultations with members of the ICU executive, the proposer of the petition, Colin Smith and past-President and author of the constitution, Hamish Common prior to making a judgement on this matter.

In the meantime however, preparations are being made for an EGM to be held to discuss this matter. The provisional date for this EGM is Tuesday 18th November, which would allow this policy, if the EGM mandated it, to be considered at the next meeting of council on Wednesday 19th November. This would make it possible for the policy, which particularly focuses on Geroge Bush’s state visit to the UK, to be passed prior to this state visit.

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Discussion about “Union to Reconsider Taking Position on George Bush?”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
1. Seb   
Nov 13 2003 16:57

Fantastic! Democracy in action. Much better than storming around council and shouting insults at people.

I still do not believe that the Union should take a political stance on issues that are restricted to students. The Union is the only body that stands up for Imperial College students, when the Union starts campaigning on wider issues for which there are multiple campaigning bodies, it detracts from the Unions ability to rectify those problems for which ICU is the only recourse available to those disadvantaged members. But at least the arguments will all get an airing now.

Nov 13 2003 18:24

I'm all for democracy. I'm very anti-bush. But this takes the biscuit.

It is a waste of valuable time, that the union president and other people could be using to actually improve the things the union does SPECIFICALLY for the students of Imperial College.

Nov 13 2003 20:23

If this is what the majority wants, then Council should vote for these Tibittans.

However, with 100 signatures, is it enough to represent the whole Imperial College Students body of ~ 14000 members? I shall leave this to President Arif to decide.

Look, Tibbitans, why are you guys so desperate to take ICU to be Anti-Bush? You are wasting your time there, go out there and do something useful. Let ICU get on with their students stuff eg Fees / Visa that affect students.


Nov 13 2003 21:08

I have seen a lot of activities going around the college about being against Bush. I personally support his policies and the main message that I have for those that are actively involved in these rallies is that instead of wasting the valuable time on PROVING that Bush is BAD, why you don?t organise rallies in support of democracy in countries such as Iran or Syria etc. It seems to me that most important issues in the world such as poverty and aids in Africa or abuse of human rights in Middle East and North Korea have been dominated by being against Bush, which is dangerous for the democratic movements around the world.

Nov 13 2003 21:23

If Council listens to and votes against a motion that seeks to mandate ICU to take a political view against the policies of certain world leaders, is it not then implicitly taking a view in favour of them? By voting against hearing this motion in the previous meeting, Council was voting to remain apolitical (except for certain policies that directly affect students).

If Council is forced to vote against this motion, then it will inevitably lead some Union members to believe that Council is "right wing". That would be unfair to Council members and would do nothing to enhance student democracy.

I urge the proposers of this motion to seriously reconsider what they are doing, withdraw this motion and stop wasting everyone?s valuable time on this pointless and damaging exercise.

Nov 13 2003 22:32

Er, no. I don't, for example, endorse religion. That doesn't mean I support and endorse athiesm, it's simply a decision I've made. Any fresher who's taken a logic course learns in the first few days that A -> B doesn't mean that !A -> !B.

7. Dave   
Nov 14 2003 01:23

But since when did any of this stuff have anything to do with logic?!

Anyway - leave the union to do union stuff. If people start using it for this kind of politics then it will become inaccessible to those who disagree (or be avoided) - and all for no good reason when people who feel the need to express such views have many available avenues to do so.

There is no GOOD reason for the union to become involved. And what's more - there's no good reason for anyone to try and involve it. Other than causing a huge mess of course.

8. Seb   
Nov 14 2003 01:36

That should, of course, read "I still do not believe that the Union should take a political stance on issues that are *not* restricted to students."

Nov 14 2003 09:16

Of course there is a good reason! If the Union supports the anti-Bush brigade then it could actually spend money on the whole affair and financially support the troupe!

But frankly I don't see the FBU spending money or taking an official stance against Bush etc but I see them taking the government on over Firemen's pay. In the same way, the union should not support an anti-bush campaign but should carry on hassling government over fees etc.

10. Seb   
Nov 14 2003 11:16

"If the Union supports the anti-Bush brigade then it could actually spend money on the whole affair and financially support the troupe!"

That is the one thing the Union *really* can't do as it is against the law.

Nov 14 2003 13:55

On a point of technicality, if the petetition is sucessful and the union can't spend any money on this as it's breaking the law, does that not mean that at the EGM all of the costs for photocopying of notes, handouts and so forth have to come out of someone else's (not the union's) pockets??

I see this whole argument very simply. The FBU, the AUT, the MU (Musician's Union) and so forth are Unions that represent the intrests of their members in their place of work. They are not (as far as I'm aware) protesting to the government as an official body concerning the Dubya visit and the war. Student is a valid form of occupation. Therefore Imperial College Union (in the only way it can act as a political body) represents the interests of Students in their place of work. It is therefore not the place of the Union to take action against something that falls outside of that duristiction in the same way that no other union that represents specific groups from specific occupations will be protesting on this matter.

More so, democracy is not just about opinion. If the commons pass a motion, the lords can reject it and that doesn't necessarily mean that they don't support the ideas, could be they don't support the specifics of the motion. If the petition is sucessful and council decides to put this paper down again, that is still democratic. The people proposing the motion and causing this fuss are wanting something for their own intrests here and not the intrests of the Union, which is how council are mandated to vote. Should they vote against it, so be it! Democracy! But the majority might want it (in terms of the student body.) Well right and wrong, doig the right thing and making the right decision is not about opinion. As a rather feeble example, for those of you who watch who wants to be a millionaire, if the question is thrown open to the audience and they vote on it (determining what the majority opinion of the right answer is) they don't always get the harder questions right, in fact sometimes a vast majority may vote for one answer, but they still get it wrong. Getting it right is not always about majority opinion. Council are mandated to get it right for the Union aside of personal agendas.

There is no *direct* effect on students ability to be students or on students in their workplace casued by the visit of Dubya, the only effects on you are thorugh your own personal choice. I beleive that attempting to force this point through (as came up before and with the JPS) purely because of your own personal choice and having nothing to do with students directly is intollerable and I sincerley hope that you are voted against by the coucil. And the hypocrisy of calling council fascist, then forcing your views on others and beleiving that because you think it is right, it is the *only* way forward is actually quite pathetic!

Nov 14 2003 14:45

What no one has pointed out is that many many student unions across the country have endorsed a similar motion. So why is IC so different, and does not want to bother with this? This is a good occasion to think about this issue.

AND this is not a "political" issue, in the sense of being affiliated to a particular party or movement. The anti-bush movement is broad and popular... except if you believe the spin that it's just a "bunch of communists", and don't look around you.

Nov 14 2003 14:47

Oh and if you look on Live!'s main page, you see (every day) news about helicopters crashing, people dying etc... So it's absurd to say that we should just bury our heads in the sand and ignore these issues.

14. Dave   
Nov 14 2003 15:15

There's a big difference between ignoring issues and deciding not to adopt an official position.

As for other student unions, well, I think that's the majority thing again - just because they've done it doesn't make it right (or legal! - I have no idea on that front except what other people tell me).

And yes - it IS a political issue. You don't need a political party to have a political opinion. And of course, GW does have a political party which happens to support him.

15. Sam   
Nov 14 2003 17:19

"What no one has pointed out is that many many student unions across the country have endorsed a similar motion."

No-one has pointed it out because it is irrelevant. If other Unions jumped off a cliff should ICU do it too?

Nov 14 2003 18:25

What makes me the most angry is the people proposing this had no time for proper union issues (like last years no confidence vote in the president).

But when they don't get their own way it suddenly matters.

The Bush issue is nothing do with the union. I happen to agree with everything that he has done - the man's actually got the balls to sort things out.

But I realise that not everyone thinks that - so why force it on people in the union who don't agree?

I can choose not to go on a "Not in my name" march. But as a life member of ICU is going to, in my name by association, is going to waste time and money on something that has nothing to with the union.

There are plenty of places to have this debate...ICU Debating society is one. LIVE! is one. ICU Council is not.

Starbuck is spot on. This has to fail, because the consitution compels the council members to vote against it.

And one more thing: Council should refuse to discuss this unless every person who signed the petition turns up to council in person.

If they were genuine they should care enough to turn up to the meeting.

Henry Kissinger:

"Student politics is so vicious precisely because

the stakes are so small."

Nov 14 2003 21:26

Gua Paul. If you are on the apolotical side, I wouldn't quote anything from Kissinger - a war criminal. A king-size Facist who enjoyed killing innocent people in the name of "democracy".

Well....ok....He was also a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. :-)

18. Sam   
Nov 14 2003 23:30

I agree with Gus on one point - by association this reflects on all members of the Union, - Life, Full, Associate, Temporary (this list of categories goes on for ever it seems)

I happen to be from the "Bush is a Bastard" camp and hence possibly agree with demonstrating against this visit (sorry Gus!). I too can make a choice whether to go on a march, or not.

What I object to is the Union taking a moral position on something that is none of their business. If students want to go on this demo fine, that's their choice. I do not believe that this choice should be influenced by the Student Union.

I support this freedom of choice. Many Unions (including the NUS) recommend against the sale of Nestle products in their outlets, because Nestle is a morally reprehensible corporation. Imperial College Union has no such policy, because while it is quite proper that Students might want to abstain from Nestle products, that should be their choice. I see demonstrations and artificial and needless condemnations of foreign dignatories which do not directly affect the Student Body as a whole (in the way that fees will) as restrictions of choice.

Choice is a personal freedom. Any restriction of personal freedoms is a bad thing. I don't think I would be happy for that to happen in my name.

19. amram   
Nov 14 2003 23:59

Council dude- just because he was a Nobel "peace prize" winner doesn't mean anything so is serial murderor and terror chief Arafat and so is Jimmy peanut farmer-peanut brain Carter. In fact if Kissinger hadn't stopped Israeli forces when we reached Africa- there probably would be no dictatorship in Syria and Egypt today and MUCH MUCH less terror- so ironically I agree with you- he was awful...

as to Bush- the whole argument is simply summarised as follows: Left wing extremists want to Hijack the Union to force their views on everybody else (including the silent majority who don't agree with them). They wish to waste union time and money to further their political goals and not those of the student body. The Bush argument (whether you are for or against) is simply irrelevant. The motion should be voted down or not even allowed a vote if possible. No doubt some sad hack will post 3000 words on live! on how this is/is not technically allowed...

They would be better of spending more time on their studies (in materials/biology no doubt) and reading something other than the Guardian...

Nov 15 2003 11:47

The various rules affecting the Union in this case make a great deal of sense.

What would be the reason, or advantage, of ICU having an official line on this? Actually, the best reason to reject the whole thing is that the policy itself is the most atrociously worded document I've ever read. All the points mentioned in "This Union Notes" cannot be proved, they are beliefs; thus by adopting the policy the Union and College then open themselves to charges of libel.

Then, take the "Union Resolves" aspect. Taking aside the rules on Union funds being spent on issues which do not directly affect student lives at Imperial College (and yes, I've read all the arguments for this on the other thread, and don't agree with any of them). It would be Union policy to take an "anti-Bush" stance. So, beside stripping the quad of any foliage without a trunk, all decisions for the next three years should be in line with that "anti-Bush" stance. Suddenly, you'd get left-wing idiots in hats arguing that, for example, Labour Soc at Imperial shouldn't get funding because it is a party which supports Blair (and hence Bush).

The final aspect to this, of course, is whether you believe this policy would actually reflect the views of the majority of students at Imperial College. I actually don't think it would. Imperial students are generally conservative with a small 'c' - so to pass this policy would just alienate them from the decision-making process of the Union, and make it even more irrelevent to their lives. That, I would argue would be the simple biggest reason to put the Cat in the Hat out for the night.

Nov 15 2003 15:46

Andy I thought you had left us? Seems you need to learn to let go...

Nov 15 2003 21:52

99% of people who I've spoken to about this think that council (well, the union really, most people don't give a toss about the structure of it all) wastes enough time anyway, and the people that are taking this to council are tossers. And some of these people are extremely opinionated about the subject, but they also see what a waste of time this whole thing is.

23. tom t   
Nov 17 2003 11:42

As I've said before, I never expected this paper to pass Council. However, we did expect it to raise awareness amongst the student body of the issues surrounding the Bush visit to London, which will affect students at this University as practically all of us live in London.

Success then.

I would also like to point out that the version of the paper that I agreed to second IS NOT the version that has been published on the website. This is somewhat annoying as I feel misrepresented.

Finally, I have, to my knowledge, not insulted or intentionally offended any Council member so I'm somewhat bemused by the torrent of abuse from some (some of whom are of course anonymous) contributors to this discussion forum.

PS 99% of statisitics are lies ;-)

24. alex C   
Nov 17 2003 13:13

For those of you that don't read a proper news source, I feel that i should refer you to an up-to-date news item on this matter....

25. Nia   
Nov 17 2003 14:03

Those who read a reliable and accurate news source might want to remember that Union Council is on Wednesday not tomorrow as claimed by Felix.

26. cat   
Nov 17 2003 14:49

<hiss> scratch scratch MIAOW



Nov 19 2003 23:16

Tom Tibbet, out of everyone I have asked or spoken to about this, one has expressed a positive attitude towards this time wasting motion. The rest don't know/care, or are actively against it.

It really hasn't done that much to raise awareness. I'll say what I've said before; very few people in college know or care about the internal structure of the union. So people don't really know what's going on if you raise anything at council.

Felix does a stunning job (no sarcasm) of portraying it all as a big waste of time.

Nov 20 2003 00:19

alex C - shame no one reads Felix really. 39 responces to zero and counting... not jealous are you?

29. Paul J   
Nov 21 2003 18:50

Just one point to add: In order that I might become a member of certain clubs within Imperial College Union, I am required to present a Union card (denoting my membership of the Union). The disclaimer regarding signing my life away aside, I do not sign agreeing to associate myself with a political opinion represented by the majority of the afore mentioned group. It is my understanding that such a signing is inclusive, i.e. I agree only to that presented to me and everything else defaults. Therefore, Union constitution aside, it would be illegal (although I could not quote what human rights law facilitates my saying that) for the Union to take a political stance.

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