Last week's emergency meeting of ULU Council was a protracted and heated affair. The short story is that virtually all delegates voted in favour of a policy opposing the merger on several grounds (including its claimed role in facilitating top-up fees).
There is a long story but it is best summed-up by a few choice words from Charlotte Dawkins, ULU President. While Senthooran Ganeshwaranthan, ICU President, was proposing one of many amendments put forward by IC during the evening, Ms Dawkins retorted by saying "I can't believe that I'm hearing this from a student union officer. Sen, you sound like someone who Sir Richard Sykes would invite into his office for a glass of brandy."
I happened to disagree with the point Ms Dawkins was arguing (that a student union should be concerned about non-academic redundancies as well as those of teaching staff). Having said that, the put-down was incredibly funny and the expression on Mr Ganeshwaranathan's face absolutely priceless. The heckler from QM who shouted, "No he wants a job" was the icing on the cake. My estimation of the ULU President increased by about an order of magnitude.
Aside from having a laugh at Mr Ganeshwaranthan's expense, this episode also throws up more interesting issues. Firstly, it has to be noted that many union 'hack's at Imperial have long been whispering and muttering about whether Mr Ganeshwaranthan has been selling students short in order to curry favour with the Rector. Irrespective of whether these claims have any basis (and I have seen no evidence that the Rector has offered him a job) why is it that no-one at Imperial has the balls to say this publicly and that it falls to the ULU President to suggest it (albeit probably unwittingly)?
Secondly, the comments actually demonstrated some ignorance on Ms Dawkins part. Sir Richard Sykes is not only teetotal but vehemently 'anti-drink'. He is, furthermore, a prominent member of the British National Temperance League. So, brandy is about the last thing he would offer to someone in return for a favour. While this may seem a semantic point, irrelevant to the point Ms Dawkins was making, it nevertheless parodies the fact that much of the policy ULU was passing was not based on the facts of both merger and fees that had been made available at Imperial.
Ms Dawkins slap-line was well received by the delegates present at ULU Council, as were many of her less-than-fully-argued retorts to points made by Mr Ganeshwaranthan. This summed up the gulf between the Imperial delegation and the rest of ULU Council. Every single vote basically became IC versus everyone else. Some of my colleagues who were at that meeting (and who were getting worked up about last night's instalment of ULU Council - a meeting I, unfortunately, was unable to attend) will no doubt use this article to begin a savage discussion thread criticising all and sundry within ULU. I'd like to encourage them to stop and think.
It is certainly true that the ULU sabbaticals could have consulted a bit more over the proposed policy. The fact that the about a third of Mr Ganeshwaranthan's amendments were accepted without contention suggests that much of the heat of the dispute could have been removed if a draft had first been sent to both IC and UCL. But the fact is that ICU had a greater sight of the facts than either ULU or UCLU. We should have been able to present those in a coherent manner to argue our case. We failed. Instead, not only did we fail to adequately represent the interests of our students but we also generated some distrust among our peers from other Colleges for not sharing information. If ULU's policy is flawed, we probably ought to bear the brunt of the responsibility.