Tuesday 14th of December saw the 3rd meeting of Council with a paper on behalf of the ?Free Babar Ahmad? campaign which was proposed by Kareem Osman and seconded by many others. From the outset this paper looked like it was going to cause controversy and the high turnout of supporters confirmed that passions might be running high on the issue, and indeed, a lively debate followed with many amendments proposed. Some amendments were passed, some not and the debate rattled on for about two hours.
At this point I would like to make it clear that I fully support debate on issues that provide interest and it made a pleasant change to see so many ordinary students offering their views.
A member of Council then proposed that Council votes on whether it should be voting on the issue at all due to its overly political nature. The usual show of hands from the elected members was taken and the vast majority voted that council should not be setting policy either way on the paper and thus that Council should not vote on the paper. As Council appeared to be voting in favour of this procedural motion, Colin Smith (Welfare Campaigns Officer and seconder to the paper) shouted out a string of expletives and abuse aimed at Council and was thus asked to leave by Council Chair Danny Sharpe. Mr Smith refused to leave and thus Council was adjourned before the votes had been counted. Following intervention by several security guards and various intimidation of officers including myself by some of the supporters of this paper, the meeting recommenced without Mr Smith and some of the union officers who had left in the confusion believing the meeting to be over for the evening.
Following several small discussions on the constitution and due to technical reasons, Council reconvened under the umbrella of an emergency meeting which was only just quorate. This emergency meeting classed as being separate from the original meeting and thus proxy votes, of which there were several on this particular issue, could not be included which along with the members who had left led to a very different turnout when it came to voting with the procedural motion rejected, 15 votes to 13. The paper was then passed, although the majority of voters actually abstained.
This result is clearly directly the opposite of the original vote and is a direct result of Mr Smith?s outburst disrupting the running of Council, allowing intimidation outside of the debate to take place for which there is no justification. The adjournment and reconvening as an emergency meeting, which was the only action the chair could take, directly affected who was able to vote and thus the result is not the will of the Council.
The Student Union is a democracy with elected members to represent the students, and where every member has the right to go to Council and question the officers on what they are doing and to raise points. We cannot allow it to become a forum where he who swears the loudest wins as was the case at this meeting and then where officers are intimidated from representing the students that have elected them to do the job.
It is particularly unforgivable that Mr Smith, who is an elected member of Council, should be responsible for such an outburst and failure of democracy. Mr Smith will now be given the chance to apologise and Council will be given the opportunity to readmit him to the sovereign body at the next meeting. To allow this to happen would be a travesty for democracy. If it were to occur how can we know that such an occurrence will not happen again lumbering the Union with policies that are not the view of the majority of members of the body elected to set policy?
I therefore plan to vote against readmitting anyone who disrupts meetings in such a way, regardless of the cause, in order that the democracy of the union is upheld.