Wednesday night saw a packed Room 101 play host to an Extraordinary meeting of ULU Council, the University of London Union’s governing body. The meeting was petitioned to discuss the future of the University of London’s boathouse, in Chiswick. The boathouse is UL property, managed by ULU. It is primarily there for the UL Boat Club but is also used by several College clubs (including the Imperial Medics boat club). The boathouse’s future has been in doubt for several years as it is desperately needs renovation but the University has so fair failed to find funds to pay for it. ULU, to date, does not have a policy on the future of the boathouse, although it has been pressing the University to find a solution.
Sarah Chapman UCLU’s “Clubs, Societies & Student Development Officer” (it’s a sabbatical post – UCLU don’t have a President…) tabled a motion effectively proposing that ULU to shut down the UL Boat Club and calls on the University to sell the Boat Club. Unsurprisingly, this did not draw a positive reaction from many of the Clubs and Unions who make use of the UL Boathouse. The matter was a subject of protracted debate at the ICU Exec meeting the night before, with President, Senthooran Ganeshwaranthan, keen to ensure that future provision for the ICSM boat club at Chiswick is secure. Andy Heeps (for it is he) noted that since “UCL Union never gives a f*** about its students” the proposal was likely to be driven by internal politics at UCL.
Many of the people attending the meeting were ordinary students (you know, the ones who sometimes come to the first couple of ICU Council meetings and run away…) who were concerned about their Boathouse. This all bode well for a productive meeting. Neil Rogers, ULU’s Vice-President (Sports) began by producing a statement from the University, which made clear that it is now committed to ensuring that the boathouse is refurbished and remains under University ownership.
Unfortunately it went downhill from there. Ms Chapman got up to speak to her motion and, after ranting about ULU not doing anything, announced she was withdrawing the motion. While receiving a cheer from other UCL hacks, the rest of the room was left astounded. Peter Taylor, the rather “Crispy”, Council Chair decided that a motion could not be withdrawn during a meeting. So we continued to proceed with discussing a couple of amendments (from other UCL Union officers) watering down the original motion.
On we went to the “big” amendment. This had been proposed by the ULU sabbs (ans curiously was also seconded by Imperial Medics President, Shazia Munir). It essentially deleted the entire motion and replaced it with something generally supportive of the boathouse and ULU’s approach. A point order was raised by Sumon Banerjee, a Kings College delegate claiming that such an amendment was too substantive and could not be discussed, technically, as an amendment.
(At this moment, while we were busy voting down the point of order, a couple of random students sitting next to me asked what was going on. I used a hand gesture to indicate something derogatory and they seemed to understand. They said they were rowers from St Georges’ Medical School and thought the whole thing was a complete farce with no relation to what actually mattered to them.)
Some other UCL hack then decided to call quorum. Curiously enough, a couple of UCL people seemed to have vanished by this time. While the room was packed, two successive recounts showed that only 34 delegates were present – one short of quorum. The meeting was duly closed. Mr Rogers at this point lost his cool and shouted abuse at the departing UCL delegates accusing them of not considering their students.
So that was the end of it. No policy passed. An evening wasted. Although Mr Ganeshwaranathan commented it was important that Ms Chapman’s motion had not been passed, as it would only have got in the way of the University finding a solution to the issue. He also pointed out that it was good news for Rob Davnport, ULU VP (Sport)-elect, as it meant "he doesn't have to do anything".
The meeting was later described by one QMUL delegate as "the worst I've seen in five years - and that's really saying something." Another (graduating) hack present mused, “at least that Council has made me happy in my own mind that I've got better things to do with my life than still be involved with student politics”. Although I do wonder how the same individual managed to put up with RCS Gen Coms.
The only consolation was that on the way home, Mr Davenport found he had a spare doughnut left over from a club/society training session he’d run that afternoon, which he kindly offered to me. Mmmmm. Doughnuts. Mmmmmmm.