Controversial motion sparks debate at Student Council meeting

Elected representatives and members of the student body debated three motions last week at a contentious Student Council meeting.

The meeting, held at Pleasance Theatre, addressed motions to make elected officials’ voting records available to students, reduce single use plastic in Edinburgh University Students’ Association venues, and support an open letter criticising Universal Credit.

The motion to publish the voting records of elected officials at Student Council meetings on the Students’ Association website proved particularly contentious, even after an amendment jointly proposed by the sabbatical officers was passed.

The amendment introduced a consultation period conducted by the Students’ Association Representation and Democracy team before the implementation of the scheme to ensure it does not interfere with the ability of elected representatives to fulfil their roles, but did not prevent vocal opposition, particularly from the Liberation Officers.

Speaking to The Student, Women’s Officer Martha Reilly said: “As Liberation Officers we are already held incredibly accountable to our constituents. We should only be held accountable to those constituents.

“I feel like our roles are very distinct from all other elected reps in that they are more politicised and more highly visible.

“We should, if anything, be supporting more marginalised students to put their heads above the parapet. Two of our roles weren’t even contested last year and that at least partly reflects that we are not supporting marginalised students to be able to voice their concerns more.

“The only [outcome] that I can physically or realistically see is people not feeling safe to voice their concerns.”

Also speaking to The Student, Political Activities Representative and motion proposer Jordan Dowd said: “This specifically came up last year in the motion to create the Trans and Non-Binary Officer, because we know that a handful of elected reps with their added 50 percent ballot weight voted against that motion.

“It demonstrated to us that within the ranks of the elected reps there was some concrete transphobic individuals who were letting that influence their vote on really politically important motions.

“The contents of the motions are public and often times the ones that are contentious directly relate to things people have published manifestos on. It’s already a matter of public record that you’ve taken this standpoint, so people who are right-wing trolls and are going to harass you over that, by and large already know who you are and know what your public position is on that.”

Speaking to The Student, Students’ Association Vice President Community Rosheen Wallace said: “As a team we thought that the idea of being able to better represent your constituents is a good one and we want to support that.

“We support the amendment because it will take into account how it might affect other representatives that are not sabbatical officers because they are in very different position.

“I would hope that the amendment would accommodate that and that we wouldn’t just pass some motion holding everyone to account without thinking about it first.”

The motion to end usage of single use plastic cups at Students’ Association venues was successfully amended so that the reliance of people with certain disabilities on single use plastic products was accounted for by Disabled Students’ Officer Ellen Blunsdon.

On the subject of this motion, Vice President Community Rosheen Wallace added: “I’m supportive of any kind of initiative that looks to improving our environmental impact and if that’s reducing the use of single use plastics then I think that’s positive, but I do really take into account that we need to consider students who might rely on single use plastics like disabled students, which came up through the motion.

“Anything that does both those things is a good thing.”

Speaking to The Student on the motion criticising the effect of Universal Credit, Students’ Association President Andrew Wilson said: “I thought [the campaign] was a really good thing that we as a Students’ Association should get behind because we exist to fight for the interest of students, and this is something that disproportionately affects students.”

Among the other talking points of the meeting was the revelation from the Association President that, despite their objections, the university was planning to increase the rates students are charged for rent next year.


Image: LWYang via Flickr

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