December 19, 2005

Building a Better Tomorrow (Or 3 weeks in the Union)

Week 1:

Week 2:

Week 3:

Also check out this exciting video diary

Edit: I somehow managed to delete this entry when writing a new entry (someones a numskull). In order to make the comments below make sense I should point out that after the photos n stuff it said something like this:

On a side note true democracies require a state intervention in order to function correctly. This is why the Union has the power to veto impractical proposals like the smoking ban. RaW would have immediately ceased to be at the forefront of UK student radio next year had the smoking ban been implicated, and no longer been able to fund innovative projects like building new broadcast studios from scratch, because the money would not have been available to continue giving our members the quality of experience of which we are so proud.


- 24 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Matthew

    That is a ludicrous argument. In "true democracies", elected representatives have neither the legal nor the moral power to veto decisions made by referendum.

    The people may be stupid, but they are in charge.

    19 Dec 2005, 13:08

  2. This is why the Union has the power to veto impractical proposals like the smoking ban. RaW would have immediately ceased to be at the forefront of UK student radio next year had the smoking ban been implicated, and no longer been able to fund innovative projects like building new broadcast studios from scratch, because the money would not have been available to continue giving our members the quality of experience of which we are so proud.

    The problem is that the referendum motion clearly stated that the result would be cuts in funding to societies and events, and the motion was passed nonetheless. Our democracy made clear what it wanted, and our elected leaders have chosen to ignore the issue.

    19 Dec 2005, 13:09

  3. Surely a better solution would be to find funding elsewhere other than relying on a practice that will be banned nationwide in a few years anyway? Where will the money come from then?
    It might not be a wonderful solution and things might suffer, but it's going to happen sooner or later.

    19 Dec 2005, 13:32

  4. democracy does not involve vetoing something passed off as a referendum. If they just wanted to know what the opinion of students was, or veto the result if they didn't like it, they should have called the vote a plebiscite. "Referendum" inplies that the result is binding.

    19 Dec 2005, 15:15

  5. studio looks baddass, though.

    19 Dec 2005, 15:15

  6. CM

    It's hard to say what effect on societies the ban would have had if it were implimented fully because there's no figures actually being produced. Would the ban cut societies funding by 50% or 5%? No one knows but the union must be going off some estimates.
    If they produced these figures and tackled the problem now then the effect would be distributed better as socities would have 6months to plan for the changes a reduced budget would cause, ie. Seek out more sponsorship, fundraise in advance, raise membership fees. As it is the union has taken the easy option and played it safe when they could have used it as a great way to streamline some parts of the union (was running a referenda that was unlikely to be fully implemented a good use of funds and the efforts of the people who ran and campaigned?).
    If some figures were given so that people could work it out for themselves then I think it would be easier to swallow the undemocratic about turn.
    But at the end of the day, In the absense of facts to disprove your beliefs, you have to follow them.

    19 Dec 2005, 16:26

  7. Ad [in southern dixie drawl)

    Man you split them can o' worms right wide open there Jimmy!

    19 Dec 2005, 22:17

  8. Matt Armstrong

    I can't believe that no-one has mentioned the anti-spam question-thing.
    If you are genuinely retarded, you're gonna get spammed…
    Am I allowed to say retarded – is that bad form?
    Oh, and for a nice boy, Jimmy, your blog does attract a lot of comments from self-important tossers…
    I can definitely say that.

    20 Dec 2005, 02:45

  9. People with opinions differing to the blog-owner's, you mean?

    20 Dec 2005, 11:43

  10. The problem is that the referendum motion clearly stated that the result would be cuts in funding to societies and events, and the motion was passed nonetheless. Our democracy made clear what it wanted, and our elected leaders have chosen to ignore the issue.

    If a smoking ban can be implemented in the Union with the kind of cuts refered to in the motion that passed calling for one then it will be. The Union Executive has said this is unlikely to be possible to do this rather that we are unwilling to do it.

    Note that most of the funding for the Union's non-commercial activities doesn't come from our commerical activities and that we can't legally use money from other sources to subsidise most of our commerical services. As a result we can't just cut all the non-commerical services to fund implementing a ban and if we were able to implement a total smoking ban the cuts involved would be limited (although still significant).

    Cutting events doesn't in itself make us money; what it would do (or have done) is stop us from loosing more money if attendance at those events dropped.

    That is a ludicrous argument. In "true democracies", elected representatives have neither the legal nor the moral power to veto decisions made by referendum.

    That's true – but as we do hold that power in cases where we believe implementing a policy would cause the Union to break the law we have no choice but to use it in those cases (otherwise by letting the law be broken we would ourselves be breaking the law).

    Surely a better solution would be to find funding elsewhere other than relying on a practice that will be banned nationwide in a few years anyway? Where will the money come from then?

    I can't wait for a national ban, although when it does come it will cost the Union money. What it won't do is cost the Union as much money as a local ban would, because everywhere else (possibly even student residences) will be non-smoking too; as a result smokers won't be able to just go somewhere else. I know not all smokers will go somewhere else even with just a local ban – but evidence from elsewhere says a significant number (although probably a slightly smaller number than elsewhere) will.

    was running a referenda that was unlikely to be fully implemented a good use of funds and the efforts of the people who ran and campaigned?

    No it wasn't (and some of that effort was mine) – but our Consititution says we have to run such a referendum if a sufficient number of people ask for it and I think it is right to do so. If we could veto motions before they were put to a vote, when scrutiny is lower, it would be far too easy to get away with vetoing motions when we had insufficient reason to do so.

    If they just wanted to know what the opinion of students was, or veto the result if they didn't like it, they should have called the vote a plebiscite.

    That's a valid point of view – but to change it would mean changing the Union's Constitution which requires another referendum (although if voting on such a motion reached the quorum then I'd guess it would almost certainly pass). If you care enough about it then I'd suggest putting it to a vote yourself, as you have as much right to do so as any other student; ask in the Democratic Services Office on level two of Union North to find out how.

    20 Dec 2005, 14:59

  11. Matthew

    That's true but as we do hold that power in cases where we believe implementing a policy would cause the Union to break the law we have no choice but to use it in those cases (otherwise by letting the law be broken we would ourselves be breaking the law).

    Nicholas, that is also a ludicrous argument. Letting a policy be put before the membership in a referendum that you know in advance would be illegal to implement is a seriously negligent practice. Holding referenda where the outcome is known in advance brings Union democracy into disrepute.

    The appropriate method of dealing with such a situation would be for the Union's legal advisors to sit down with the proposers of the motion to help them to draft a policy that would not be illegal to implement, thus giving the membership a real choice. Did this happen?

    20 Dec 2005, 17:39

  12. Nicholas, no I don't really care that much about it. It's just a little student's union after all. I just find it slightly pathetic that people in such "positons" can't get their terminology right. If such a level of incompetence does continue, maybe I will have to propose something like that (in addition to removal of embarrassing "lad's mag" policy), but I'd prefer the people who write the things to take it upon themselves to use words in a more correct fashion.

    20 Dec 2005, 19:30

  13. Nicholas, that is also a ludicrous argument. Letting a policy be put before the membership in a referendum that you know in advance would be illegal to implement is a seriously negligent practice. Holding referenda where the outcome is known in advance brings Union democracy into disrepute.

    Well firstly we didn't actually know that the policy would be impossible to implement in advance; it took longer to get sufficient information than the time we had. Secondly, even if we did have that information, our Constitution says we have to put something presented to us with sufficient support to a vote and in that case we have no choice but to do so at the pre-aranged time. The way in which this kind of problem is normally resolved is to ammend the policy to something which it is possible to implement – but, if it takes longer than we have before the referendum to work out what is possible, this can't be done.

    Now the obvious solution to this is to lengthen the time between the deadlines for motions being submitted and the final motions being produced. Whilst I was in favour of this prior to the recent referenda, most haven't been because lengthening the process of submitting and campaigning in favor of a motion has the effect of discouraging people from getting involved. I hope that, given recent events, opinion will have changed.

    Finally whilst I can't say exactly why we are unlikely to be able to implement this policy I will say that the reason isn't some complex legal point on which we would necessarily need to take legal advice. As we indicated in our statement it comes down to a case of the finances not adding up; if we try to do something we know we can't afford to do, we will inevitably end up breaking laws.

    And, on the topic of the origional post, it looks a nice studio.

    20 Dec 2005, 19:56

  14. Nicholas, no I don't really care that much about it. It's just a little student's union after all. I just find it slightly pathetic that people in such "positons" can't get their terminology right.

    Well it is just a students' union (although rather a big one as they go) but my point was that any member can propose changes to our rules – there are no such "positions". People with a lot of involvement will probably do their best to correct or reject any important points, but the name referendum or plebiscite isn't really an important point.

    20 Dec 2005, 20:04

  15. Jimmy, how do you manage it? A heated debate and spam all on the same blog about pictures of the new studio!
    The studio's looking great tho, can't wait to see it next term.

    20 Dec 2005, 22:13

  16. One does one's best…

    21 Dec 2005, 10:56

  17. "This is why the Union has the power to veto impractical proposals like the smoking ban".

    It doesn't. It just ignored the rules. Big J.B. fan though.

    21 Dec 2005, 18:03

  18. "This is why the Union has the power to veto impractical proposals like the smoking ban". It doesn't.

    That's technically true and symbolically important, but not that important when determining what actually happens. To quote the Union's Constitution:

    11.2 There will be an Executive Committee whose membership will be Sabbatical Officers, Chairs of Union Standing Committees and the Executive Committee Officers. There will be more positions for non-Sabbatical Officers than for Sabbatical Officers. The Executive Committee:

    (c)will be the Trustees of the Union

    (h)will have sole responsibility for the financial matters and procedures of the Union.

    (c) makes us (the Executive) legally responsible for everything the Union does; that responsibility includes a duty to not do anything which will lead to a breach of the law.
    (h) allows gives us sole control of the Union's money – and thus control over everything the Union does that requires expenditure.

    So it's true that we can't veto anything – but we are obligated to not implement any policy which we believe to be financially impossible (or otherwise illegal) and we have the power to make sure that the Union's finances aren't used to implement such a policy.

    21 Dec 2005, 21:18

  19. Matthew

    Nicholas, I'm sure I'm not the only person looking at your arguments with incredulity. Your position appears to rest on three bizarre premises:

    1. Banning smoking in the Union would be illegal.
    2. You didn't find this out until after the referendum motion had been passed.
    3. You can't tell anybody why it would be illegal.

    I simply don't believe point 1. Point 2 indicates a certain amount of incompetence on the Executive's part. And, with regards to point 3, you need to brush up on your PR skills if you think the best way of handling this situation is by saying "I can't do what I've been mandated to do, and I'm not going to tell you why".

    The real question you need to answer is: What is the point of me wasting my time participating in Union democracy if the Executive feels free to ignore the results of votes?

    The answer is that there isn't any point.

    22 Dec 2005, 13:11

  20. Matthew, your analysis is mostly correct – the major flaw being that I'm not saying that banning smoking in the Union would itself be illegal (it obviously wouldn't). What I am saying is that, if it would in some way cost us more money to ban smoking than the money we have then it would be illegal to do so – as spending money you don't own generally is.

    I'd also say that whilst I don't think the handling of this situation was in any way incompetent, it would certainly have been better had more effort been put into determining the true costs of a smoking ban before the motion was voted upon. However, even if that had been done I don't think the time avaliable would have allowed such a determination prior to the finalisation of the motions to be put to a vote and as such the same motion would have been voted on. Given that we can't give details of our costings and the (fair) assumption by most that publicity arguing for one side of a motion is biased, I think the result of the vote would probably have been the same. Also note that the Executive can't ignore the relevant rules on referenda timings any more than anyone else can (as following them isn't going to lead to the Union breaking any laws).

    I am (and I'd guess everyone else on the Executive is) well aware that not being able to say exactly why the Executive can't implement something doesn't look very good. I also can't give many details of why we can't say any more beyond that doing so would break commercial confidence or reveal personal information on individual students or Union staff; my answers to specfic questions in this blog might tell you a little more.

    You would be abolutely correct in saying that there would be no point voting if your vote was going to be ignored, but it isn't (although I can see that you might not believe this right now). Even in this highly unusual case where we are unlikely to be able to fully implement the results of a referendum, I believe that we will go far futher towards getting at least some parts of the Union smoke free than would otherwise have been the case. More generally voting in elections is actually picking those who will make this kind of decision next year – and those results aren't subject to any kind of veto by current Union officers.

    22 Dec 2005, 15:54

  21. Nicholas,
    I find it problematic that you don't think the use of "referendum" or "plebiscite" is important at all. They imply totally different things, so would make a difference.

    22 Dec 2005, 21:38

  22. Vincent said:

    I find it problematic that you don't think the use of "referendum" or "plebiscite" is important at all. They imply totally different things, so would make a difference.

    It's not exactly true that I don't care; I mostly just think there are many more important things for the Union to worry about.

    I in the following text when I say "possible" I mean "possible without making it highly likely that the Union will end up breaking the law" but typing that out every time would result in incomprehensible text.

    As you ask, my actual oppinion I think that what we call a referendum is technically a referendum; the result is binding on us and will have an effect if it is possible for it to have an effect. A plebiscite would imply that it is possible to ignore the result even if it was possible to implement it and that would be incorrect. I also think students here are intelligent enough to realise that if something they vote for turns out not to be possible then it's not going to happen (although many may argue that it should be possible).

    Even in the recent case of a smoking ban the Executive can't actually veto the results – we are required to implement a smoking ban if it is, or if it becomes, possible to do so. On the basis of this motion I'd rather change the process of running a referendum to make it more unlikely (it's never going to be impossible) that something that can't be implemented is put to a vote than to change the name of the process.

    23 Dec 2005, 15:10

  23. Vincent said:

    I find it problematic that you don't think the use of "referendum" or "plebiscite" is important at all. They imply totally different things, so would make a difference.

    It's not exactly true that I don't care; I mostly just think there are many more important things for the Union to worry about.

    I in the following text when I say "possible" I mean "possible without making it highly likely that the Union will end up breaking the law" but typing that out every time would result in incomprehensible text.

    As you ask, my actual oppinion I think that what we call a referendum is technically a referendum; the result is binding on us and will have an effect if it is possible for it to have an effect. A plebiscite would imply that it is possible to ignore the result even if it was possible to implement it and that would be incorrect. I also think students here are intelligent enough to realise that if something they vote for turns out not to be possible then it's not going to happen (although many may argue that it should be possible).

    Even in the recent case of a smoking ban the Executive can't actually veto the results – we are required to implement a smoking ban if it is, or if it becomes, possible to do so. On the basis of this motion I'd rather change the process of running a referendum to make it more unlikely (it's never going to be impossible) that something that can't be implemented is put to a vote than to change the name of the process.

    23 Dec 2005, 15:11

  24. Oo I haven't seen shiny new RaW. But I do know that James King left my little umbrella in there somewhere…

    Too busy at work to read all the comments, but studio looks amazing from the pictures!

    22 Feb 2006, 17:31


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