December 01, 2005

Democracy??? Screw that – our union is for Dictatorship.

If any of you have read the latest statement presented by the biased and anti-democracy union officers you might sympathise with my sentiments.

link

This is absolutely ridiculous!!!!! When I vote for a ban I expect there to be a BAN, not a fuckin compromise that is useless…...Smoking and non smoking areas DO NOT WORK!!!! Yes I seem like a dick head going on about this but smoke can travel in the air and is only contained in a room, so unless they are going to build rooms for smokers there is still no possibility of the non-smoking union.

Obviously we will not have a smoking ban in the night events!!!! What was I thinking when I thought that my vote would count! I keep thinking I am in a country that believes in democracy but then I look at the union and I am proved wrong every single time.

If the union does not put into place the ban they are being anti-democratic – and that is a FACT


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  1. did you read this?

    It should be stated that this union, its executive committee, sabbatical officers and staff, in principle, all support a total ban, unfortunately at this time, the economics of such a move forecast a devastating impact on income, & subsequent service provision across the board; an impact well beyond simply cutting budgets. As such the staged approach is the most practical & effective way of going forward. As we fully expect a nationwide ban to be introduced at some point in the next two years we are seeking to ensure that we work toward a zero smoking environment by the end of the next academic year.

    They want to and will ban it. You can't just click your fingers and say ok, lets have it banned right now. The decision to ban it was voted on, and won, but it really doesn't mean it will happen right away.

    01 Dec 2005, 15:05

  2. Mathew Mannion

    Nicholas, you're trying to convince people that our openly heavy smoking president is in favour of a ban?

    01 Dec 2005, 15:13

  3. I'm a member of the Union Executive Committee (who doesn't smoke) and I want to assure you that the point highlighted by the owner of this blog regarding the effectiveness of non-smoking areas in Union South, given the design of the building, will be in my own mind, and probably that of others, when we further consider this issue.

    I think comments suggesting that the personal habbits of the Union President would sway her decision making in that role bear no reflection to reality. Additionally the President of the Union is only one of the sixteen people who had to make this decision.

    01 Dec 2005, 16:08

  4. Greg Waight

    I'm a tad confused by what I have just read on the Union website and this seems like a place I could get an answer. From what the statement says, am I right in thinking that the Union think that they will not be able to implement the smoking ban by the April deadline due to financial reasons, and yet are proposing building a new non-smoking building. How will this building be paid for? Will it be funded by the University or internally from the Union?

    Also, is the detailed financial assesment available for viewing by students ie on the website? One of the main reasons I did not vote against the ban was that I was unconvinced by the arguments of the financial effects on other universities and I was discouraged by the apparant absence of any relevant research specific to this Union being made available for consideration. If the union will be failing to implement the policy for which the students have voted, I think it is only fair that there be full disclosure of the reasons.

    01 Dec 2005, 16:59

  5. Mathew Mannion

    I think comments suggesting that the personal habbits of the Union President would sway her decision making in that role bear no reflection to reality.

    Just like comments made by the Union President that because she doesn't agree with the democratic resolution of the Referendum that it should hold a "No stance" policy on abortion, allowing Pro-life members of the Union to express their views without oppression from their own Union, that she will hold another vote, and another, and another, until her personally-supported Pro Choice opinions are forced upon all?

    I'm not the only person who's lost all confidence in our President, and I'm sure there's a lot of people who are disillusioned. Well played on whoever on the executive committee managed to get the "Gay Times" taken off the list of "Lads Mags" that shouldn't be seen in Costcutters though. It's almost a shame, in hindsight, I would have like to have seen how long she'd have lasted if that had gone through.

    01 Dec 2005, 17:11

  6. It'd be interesting to see how long she lasts regardless..

    01 Dec 2005, 17:43

  7. A detailed financial breakdown has, of course, been produced; however, to release it publically would mean breaking contractural obligations and is not possible. I personally wish this wasn't the case and can't tell you why it is – but I don't think it takes too much imagination to work it out.

    As to the personal performance of the President – most who seem diappointed in her appear to have got their information on her from a third party. As someone who's been involved with the Union from the first year of my undergraduate degree to the final year of my PhD I can tell you that, possibly because of her prior experience as a sabbatical, Kat is probably the most effective President we've had whilst I've been here. You may not always agree with her views (I don't always) but that doesn't mean she's not doing a good job – it's not the President's job to decide what the Union does and she's not forcing her oppinions on anyone by putting them to a vote. There's also a big difference between doing something because you belive it's right and doing something because it affects you personally.

    As to who removed the "Gay Times" from the list of magazines – that was Kat Stark.

    01 Dec 2005, 17:50

  8. Mathew Mannion

    I don't claim she's inexperienced – she's obviously very experienced from her prior work in the Union, this is her second year as a sabbatical after all. My reasonings for her not doing a good job are mainly because of the bias – how can it possibly be democratic to have a vote passed (by a huge majority) in a Union referendum on the "No stance" policy, something which the vast majority of students wanted enforced, and then go to a Union Council meeting the following week and publically discredit the policy that had been passed by saying that she thinks that nobody understood what the policy entails.

    The Union President's opinion (rightly or wrongly) holds a lot of weight with the student body, and I think she's using her own personal opinions to try and enforce policies in the union that are against the weight of the student body's opinion.

    01 Dec 2005, 17:59

  9. Mat, as far as I recall Kat didn't say anything about abortion at all at Council last week (and indeed would have been barred from doing so by referendum regulations). Beyond that, as long as she complies with Union policy (and it's quite hard not to comply with a nothing-policy like 'no stance') she has every right to say what she likes. We have to accept the fact that anyone we elect as a Union officer will bring their own opinions to the job, and we (union officers) should be as free to voice them as anyone else provided that they don't violate the rules we all have to obey. Thus, Kat is perfectly within her rights to say that she maintains her pro-choice position and to campaign on the issue in her personal capacity. Unless of course you don't believe that Union officers should be allowed to voice their personal opinions in their personal capacities.

    01 Dec 2005, 18:19

  10. Christopher Rossdale

    They should be allowed to voice personal opinions, but Kat's answer to a question regarding her response to the 'no-stance' vote was frankly insulting to anyone that abstained or voted for the motion. A president that openly and intentionally disapproves of the opinion of nearly 2 thirds of the electorate should think carefully about her position.

    Perhaps, as the union and its officers strongly support the overwhelming student opinion that there should be no smoking in union south, they can install a voluntary ban, led by example by our esteemed President. Likely?

    "I am their leader, I must follow them." Like hell

    01 Dec 2005, 19:32

  11. Chris, not wanting to quibble but the vote in favour of the abortion policy was just over 50% of the total vote, not two thirds. Also, 'no stance' still means that Union officers are allowed to be pro-choice; anyone who voted for it thinking that this would not be the case was misled. I personally was disappointed in the results of all the referenda to some extent, and even though I'm a Union officer, I should be allowed to say so if someone asks (as someone did ask Kat). What matters is what people do, and given that the current abortion policy is practically impossible to breach given the wriggle-room involved, I doubt anyone will fall foul of it unless they're either very silly or wilfully defying it.

    Re. the smoking ban, that is a much trickier position. Personally speaking, I'm more than happy to abstain from smoking in Union buildings as it wouldn't involve any sacrifice from a non-smoker such as myself. I also think that the way this was handled by the primary movers against the referendum motion was wrong from the start, if only from a tactical point of view. Beyond that, and saying that I firmly support the implementation of all Union policies which don't break the law, I don't really want to say any more as the smoking ban (thankfully) isn't my responsibility.

    01 Dec 2005, 19:59

  12. Christopher Rossdale

    Two thirds covers those who abstained and who voted for the motion – Kat Stark's clear discontent covered both. Whilst union officers should have their own opinions, the president, once the vote has been made, should represent the union position – otherwise she is not the student representative. A president who is firmly against the majority of the students on such a key issue should either be totally neutral, or push for implementation and maintenance of the student's opinion. If she doesn't represent the majority, she has no right being our president.

    01 Dec 2005, 21:39

  13. Chris, surely we can only assume that the people who voted in favour of the motion support it. Anyway, can you please tell me how Kat has violated union policy? As I said before, 'no stance' includes the right to be pro-choice so long as the Union does not campaign on such an issue. Kat's personal opinion was well known before the referendum policy was even written, and as long as she doesn't breach Union policy, the law, the Constitution, regulations, appendices, staff-student protocol, etc., she really has done nothing wrong.

    01 Dec 2005, 21:57

  14. Mathew Mannion

    Hiding behind "we haven't broken any rules" doesn't make you right, you can't use it as an argument.

    02 Dec 2005, 01:21

  15. Well getting back to the original argument – I completely disagree with Nicholas Hudgell, keeping a ban in principle – what on earth does that mean???? I dont know how much better to put this – I DONT WANT SMOKE AROUND ME , as in I REALLY DONT WANT IT, when I along with a lot of others vote for; and read this COMPLETE BAN ON SMOKING IN THE UNION, we are not voting for it to be "implemented in principle" that is absolute bollocks. What you executive committe people have done is this – decided that you know what's best for the students even though we might think otherwise and refuse to let us know why classifying the information as "confidential".
    So to get this straight – We vote for a ban, the motion passes with a huge majority, and then you don't implement it and to take it even further don't tell us why!!!!!! WOW!!! This is brilliant – just what I hoped to get out of voting…...

    With regards to what greg said – why can't I as a member of the union know where the money is going??? I want to know how the sabbs who think they are too smart for us are implementing this policy and on what basis????

    Personal Bias DOES come into the issue, I am a non-smoker and I am biased in my opinion, why would Kat startk be any different? I don't want to say anything about her presidency, I will say that at least under her presidency we are discussing relevent issues….But come on if you are going to go against democracy I'm not habing it, I am going to keep speaking my mind until what was voted for is gained, I bet the daily mail will love a headline with students union abandons the democratic process…

    02 Dec 2005, 03:23

  16. You can find out how the Union spends it's money, ask the Finance, Democracy and Stratergy Officer (formerly the Finance and Internal Affairs Officer), if you really want to know. What you can't find out is the fine detail necessary to understand the implications of a smoking ban. The reason why the accounts aren't released in this detail is that as a Union we make contracts with other companies and employ staff. Both of these activities by their nature involve agreements for confidentiality. Without that confidentiality we would have difficulty making contracts with others and couldn't employ staff; so we almost certainly wouldn't have a building for smoking to be banned in.

    I should also emphasise that the sabbatical officers did not make this decision, the Executive Committee (with a non-sabbatical majority) did. I'm certainly not against democracy and I don't believe anyone else on the committee is; sometimes you just have no choice.

    02 Dec 2005, 12:15

  17. What a load of bollocks. What the hell does this union think it is doing? It holds a referendum which it doesn’t think will get passed, then surprisingly it does, then they moan about it. Is this union a dictatorship or a democracy? The people have voted, and a majority are in favour of banning smoking – they were well aware of the consequences – and so the motion should be followed.

    It surprises me that the union are putting people’s health and welfare behind finance, let alone destroying the values of democracy.

    Building a new non-smoking building? Surely implementing the VOTED FOR ban and suffering any consequential losses will be a lot less than the construction of a new building?

    ‘In principle’ they support a smoking ban? What the fuck does that mean? How do they dare have a referendum then not follow through with it? If they didn’t want to ban smoking, then don’t hold a vote on it. If they know a nationwide ban will be introduced in the next couple of years, and they don’t want to do anything substantial before that, then don’t hold a vote on it. If it had not been passed, I’d have been disappointed at such a great opportunity missed, I’d have been pissed off, but I wouldn’t have minded – the majority of the voters would have not wanted a ban, so fair enough. But when it does get passed, I’m happy – only to find this ‘democratic’ body doesn’t believe in democracy. This is a dictatorship. Why should anyone vote EVER again? Any faith in the system is now lost – even if a motion gets passed, it doesn’t get followed. Hurray for apathy! So much for encouraging students to vote.

    ‘implementing the spirit of this policy’ – what a load of shit. How about, hmm, ‘implementing THE policy that was VOTED for’?

    Udayan, mate – no one wants to say anything about her presidency – maybe under this dictatorship they might disappear never to be seen again? You couldn’t speak your mind or vote for what you believe in – it doesn’t get passed. Let’s see how this goes down next term – I’m sure the nationals would love it.

    I once thought the union stood for something – I am no longer proud to be a member.

    02 Dec 2005, 12:39

  18. If a petition with sufficient signatures is presented to it then the Union has no option to put it to a vote. Unfortunately the space between recieving the motion and the scheduled referendum was too short to realise the policy was impossible to implement – and before anyone else says it I know we should probably do something about that timing.

    02 Dec 2005, 12:53

  19. Nicholas, what would happen if I collected a sufficient amount of signatures for a petition to shut down the Students' Union altogether? Or to rename it 'Sarah's House of Fun'? Are you seriously telling me that the Union would have no option but to put it to a vote? And how can you justify the comment about the policy being 'impossible' when, since it hasn't been tried at Warwick before, there are no statistics to back up your claim?

    02 Dec 2005, 14:53

  20. Well not having any form of Students' Union is impossible as a Union is specified in the University's Royal Charter – a motion would probably get put to a vote in some form though. Putting a motion to rename the Union 'Sarah's House of Fun' is entirely possible – there was a motion to rename the Union the "Students' Onion" a few years ago. It's not like Union Officers generally think these things are a good idea but if you want to make the Union democratic it's difficult to put in barriers without preventing things that shouldn't be prevented.

    I should have said that the motion will almost certainly be impossible to implement (given the timescale proposed); there is a small chance I'm wrong. Much as it would be nice to be able to say more about the exact reasons I can't explain any more detail than that in our public statement.

    02 Dec 2005, 15:58

  21. Hiding behind "we haven't broken any rules" doesn't make you right, you can't use it as an argument.

    I can use it as a defence when people are being accused of wrongdoing; whether you agree with someone or not, if they haven't broken the rules you can't actually say they have done something wrong.

    02 Dec 2005, 19:52

  22. Sarah I completely agree with you how can we say it is impossible to implement without even trying! Nicholas your arguments are text book answers mate….sorry

    03 Dec 2005, 06:53

  23. I remember the Onion motion. That was funny.

    They're not even trying to implement a full smoking ban as they'd lose too much money, and this years budget was done a long time ago and doesn't have the wiggle room in it to save that much money.
    At the very least implementing the ban would probably result in around 1000 people no longer using the union: the 1000 or so that voted against the ban.

    Just some food for thought: there was a lot of stuff going on last year about the possibility of the union becoming a devolved department of the university, which would have resulted in university hospitality taking over the union at the top level – they'd be in control. Fortunatly, this didn't happen, and the union wasn't in such dire financial straits that they had an alternate option.

    Now consider if this ban were implement, and profits dropped considerably (which is the most likely possibility) – union management might well go back to considering this option in order to keep it afloat – if this happened, that'd be the democracy you're so proud of gone up in smoke (pun intended). Sure it's a worse case scenario, but do you really think it's worth risking the entire union just to get smoking banned a year before the government do it anyway?

    As for the new building: yes I'd imagine this would be expensive, but likely comes out of various outside investments, and loans taken against the promise of future improved profits. Such investors would not hand over the money simply to pay for a loss that comes out of implement a no-smoking policy.

    I do think however that the union really needs to sort out all these issues of transparency as while it might not be a case of 'we've pretended to make up some reasons not to ban smoking, because we don't want to' it does look like that to the casual observer and this won't help thier reputation.

    Yes it's anti-democratic to an extent, and it is the exec body saying 'we know better than you' but hey, reality check: they do. They've been running the union, they understand how the money works, they understand the consequences far better than you or I.

    03 Dec 2005, 19:45

  24. Mathew Mannion

    Actually, Luke, the only person who has mentioned that there might have been any wrongdoing on her part is you – we simply said that her opinions ALONE and the fact that she CLEARLY MADE THEM KNOWN (which you admitted) influenced the vote. So really, you've agreed with me.

    03 Dec 2005, 23:55

  25. Mathew Mannion

    Now consider if this ban were implement, and profits dropped considerably (which is the most likely possibility)

    There's absolutely no proof of this, and it's bonkers that people are saying this as if it's a fact – Warwick is not an inner city University like Leeds or the other one that implemented a ban, it's not like all the smokers have a 2 or 3 minute walk to the next bar that allows smoking. The other point is that you could never have proved that profits had dropped because of it anyway, as it is much more likely that profits would drop from the union removing events from its' calendar and making itself a much worse venue.

    Smokers and non-smokers don't just go to the union because it's there, they go to the union to meet up with friends and socialise. Smoking is not an integral part of that.

    03 Dec 2005, 23:59

  26. Actually, Luke, the only person who has mentioned that there might have been any wrongdoing on her part is you – we simply said that her opinions ALONE and the fact that she CLEARLY MADE THEM KNOWN (which you admitted) influenced the vote. So really, you've agreed with me.

    So are you saying that Sabbs shouldn't have the right every other Union member has to campaign on referenda?

    04 Dec 2005, 00:44

  27. "it's not like all the smokers have a 2 or 3 minute walk to the next bar that allows smoking."

    Other than The Bar. And Varsity. And the 2/3rds of students that live off-campus.

    You hit the nail on the head with the 'meeting up with friends and socialising' part though. Problem is if you have just one smoker (by which I mean a regular smoker, not the purely social smokers) in a given social group, they're likely to insist the entire group go to a smoking venue. The smoker will likely not be conisiderate and say 'it's okay, I don't mind not smoking' as if they were considerate people they wouldn't be smoking in the first place.

    Maybe they wouldn't lose much money, but surely you don't believe the number of people that will be put off the union by having it none smoking, will be less than the number of people that have never been before solely due to not wanting to be in a smokey environment.

    I think the predicted surplus in the budget this year is about £1000 – that's probably a years profit from the cigarette machines in the union which will be lost straight off.

    This policy might be implementable with careful budgeting from next year, but the budget for this year was sorted long ago and there's not enough wiggle room in it to sustain even a small loss.

    04 Dec 2005, 02:28

  28. Mathew Mannion

    So are you saying that Sabbs shouldn't have the right every other Union member has to campaign on referenda?

    Definitely.

    04 Dec 2005, 11:32

  29. Definitely.

    So you're saying that the Sabbs, who have the primary responsibility for implementing the policy a referendum passes, shouldn't have a say in what that policy is? Does this extend to other Union officers? Should I not have said anything about the referenda? I think there's a misunderstanding here of the nature of political office in the Union. Union officers are servants of the student body, yes, but our job is not to wait mutely for our instructions. If you say that certain classes of Union member can't campaign on certain issues, you're effectively creating an institutionalised divide between 'them' and 'us' before anything even happens.

    04 Dec 2005, 11:48

  30. He has a point though – if The Boar are limited to being 'neutral' on all referenda issues (by providing equal coverage) on the basis that they are the only large-scale news outlet on campus, perhaps the saabs should be limited as they themselves are high-profile public figures that I would argue have a simmilar sway to The Boar. Or perhaps the saabs should be forced to provide equal support to both sides of any refereda motion, so for instance if Kat wants to campaign on the pro-choice motion, one of the other saabs has to campaign for no-platform.

    Yes I realise that's ridiculous but it's what The Boar's writers have to put up with.

    No Luke, you wouldn't be included in the 'gagging' order as, no disrespect, no-one knows who you are. Hmm, but this creates more problems, what if one of the Top B DJs were to use the event as an outlet to push thier opinion in between tracks on a monday night…

    The sensible option of course, is to drop all such gagging and let people speak out however they want, and have faith in our members to read the for and against motions and make a choice based upon the arguements presented, instead of protecting them from the evil Boar.

    04 Dec 2005, 17:27

  31. Dean, there are sound reasons why the Boar is restricted as to what it can print about referenda; not least because there is some form of comeback against Union officers if they break the rules, whereas there is little against the Boar short of destruction which is far too drastic to contemplate. The Sabbs, by the nature of their jobs, are involved in Union politics, and so they should be allowed to bear the same part as any other Union member. As far as I'm aware, they're not allowed to campaign on Union time anyway; they're only allowed to campaign in their personal capacities. I think part of the problem is that there is some kind of expectation that Union officers when elected somehow lose all their own political opinions and the right to voice them overnight; this is not the case. We are limited by collective responsibility from actively campaigning against Union policy except as a part of the Union's political process, but beyond that, we all have the right (and should keep the right) to have and voice our own opinions, and that should go for every Union officer including the sabbs. The sabbs should also be allowed input on policies they will be required to enforce.

    04 Dec 2005, 18:03

  32. The sooner we realise that the whole notion of the union as anything other than a business is a farce the better.

    04 Dec 2005, 23:55

  33. Paul, the Union isn't a business because its primary motive isn't to turn a profit.

    05 Dec 2005, 00:19

  34. Neil

    Unions are classes as charities

    05 Dec 2005, 10:23

  35. The Union is a charity; that status comes from the University's Royal Charter and (I think but could be wrong) the 1994 Education Act, rather than the more normal registration process. This is why the Union doesn't have the registered charity number you may be used to seeing on the publications of most charities.

    Some of the Union's services have to be run to make a profit, although not necessarily a large one; you can't, for example, use charity money to subsidise selling alcohol. Profits from these parts of the Union are used to pay for the services we provide as a charity.

    05 Dec 2005, 11:46

  36. Colin

    "The sabbs should also be allowed input on policies they will be required to enforce."

    Lol, isn't that a bit like hypocracy when the Boar weren't allowed to give input to a policy that they were require to implement?

    05 Dec 2005, 11:59

  37. Colin, the policy in question was available on the Union's website for about six hours before the meeting; I know because I read it at lunch time on the day of the meeting. And it would only be hypocrisy on my part had I been involved in the policy in question anyway, which I wasn't.

    05 Dec 2005, 13:05

  38. Dave Sparrow

    "that she will hold another vote, and another, and another, until her personally-supported Pro Choice opinions are forced upon all?"

    Isn't that what the pro-life people (sorry I mean "No-stance" people, silly me!) have done already?

    05 Dec 2005, 15:00

  39. Wow, surely not a whole six hours? Since, of course, we all know that everybody checks the Union website to see what amazing policies have been put up for voting this time!

    Some of you guys should run for prime minister, since you clearly have all the tools under your belt to dodge every bullet and get things passed by 'playing the system'. Surely it is not beyond the realms of belief to suggest that the Union perhaps e-mail the editoral staff at the Boar to give them a chance to defend their position? Of course not. That would just be common courtsey after all, which is clearly not something involed with the decision making process.

    The particular policy in question was passed in one of the most underminding and dirtiest ways that I have seen for a long time. Six hours is frankly not long enough for people to check what motions are up and give them some sensible thought.

    I'm sorry, Luke, because I know that you're probably not involved in this at all. That being said, I am at my absolute wits end with the Union. Being a mathematician, I've seen some pretty hand-wavy arguments in my time. However, nothing compares to the utter selfishness and ignorance of the people currently in positions of power at the Union.

    Here's a thought for you: get rid of all the power-hungry egotistical idiots who think that they know what the 'right thing' to do for the student populace is, and let us decide instead. That way, you might actually get some respect instead of being (rightly) slated by the rest of us.

    05 Dec 2005, 16:41

  40. Given there is at least one more meeting of Union Council before the dates on which the policy on the Boar actually does anything significant, it was almost certainly a mistake to vote on a policy on the Boar without informing them first. However, it should be pointed out that support for the policy seemed overwealming amongst those who's only link with the Union is to sit on Union Council – and who have no individual power. Some did voted against, but there were also Union Officers (like me) who voted against.

    Union Council is elected to represent students and, given the time and cost of a fair cross-campus vote, it's about as good an accruate reflection as you will get. It's true that it sometimes seems dominated by certain political groups – but that's only because they put forward a lot of well researched motions. The results of votes always seem to me much more likely to follow with the strength of the arguments for and against.

    05 Dec 2005, 18:00

  41. Neil

    If there is a Council before the dates the policy takes effect, could someone from the BOAR challange it? That way they could get some kind of say.

    06 Dec 2005, 00:26

  42. karen Lomax

    Yes neil, they could come to union council in week 3 of next term with a policy

    06 Dec 2005, 10:08

  43. I definetely think Sabbs should have no power in influencing the vote…..take the smoking one for example – they had a billion posters up everywhere, made up statistical lies and did indeed influence (wrongly so) a large number of votes (amazingly ….. they lost!!! ) I am happy they were not successful but thts only cox it proves that as individuals we have our own views and are not influences as easily by stupid arguments .
    The reasons Sabbs should not endorse a policy is simple – they have too much power over it. I did not even know how to counter the stupid posters put up by sabbs, I did not know how I could campaing and the campaigns committe was unsurprisignly not doing anything about it. How come people object to one sided-ness in the Boar (one lousy letter) and no objected to the campaig on the smoking issue which did not even have 1/20th od posters and leaflets and information for the people widhing to ban smoking – again the union being hypocritical as always.
    Officers should and must not have the power to influence…..of course they can comment on it but should be refrained from going mental on issues.

    06 Dec 2005, 11:24

  44. The posters campaigning against the smoking ban weren't lies; although the one about societies was designed to be slightly exagerated (and in retrospect was a mistake) it wasn't actually a lie. Mostly the posters weren't designed by sabbaticals; in fact, with one exception, they were designed by me. The origional idea of our campaign was to give people a sense of the costs (as we estimated in terms of services) of saying yes to the motion and let them make an informed decision – whatever that decision was.

    Having gone and talked to people about the motion it seemed to me that most realised that there would be a downside and were prepared to put up with cuts to Union services in order to have a smoking ban; people didn't disbelieve our publicity, they just didn't think it mattered. I think just about everyone on the Executive Committee would have accepted that decision had our initial estimates of the cost been right. Unfortunately our initial estimates seem likely to be wrong and it looks likely that it just isn't possible to implement a smoking ban immediately. One sensible criticism of Union Officers is that collectively we failed to put enough effort into getting a better idea of the true effects before the matter was put to the vote; we might not have been able to get a full sense of the costs, but we could have probably have got a better idea.

    In general if you didn't let those people who know most about the effect of a motion (normally the sabbaticals) give their views on it then a lot of very bad decisions could be made puerly through ignorance – and the Union has no choice but to implement those decisions unless it really is impossible to do so (as seems likely in the case of the smoking ban). Officers aren't allowed to use any resources unavailable to other students whilst campaining (and are more restricted in elections where their views are considered less important).

    Finally, and most importantly: the campaigns for and against a referendum motion are given exactly the same ammount of money to spend by the Union and allowed to spend no more than that. If one campaign didn't use all of their budget or didn't use it effectively then you can't blame those campaigning the other way for that.

    06 Dec 2005, 12:06

  45. Karen Lomax

    "and the campaigns committe was unsurprisignly not doing anything about it. "

    The campaigns committee have nothing to do with referenda. Their job is to run campaigns the union have already backed. If they had done anything during the referenda they would be in a bit of bother right now.

    Also, the sabbs aren't the only people who know how to campaign and it's beyond ridiculous to suggest they are. There are loads of people on campus who are competant enough to put posters up, give out leaflets, go round halls and talk to lectures. If you weren't sure what to do you can ask the elections group or someone from the democratic services office.

    06 Dec 2005, 12:35

  46. Well, the sabbs may not be the only people who "know" how to campaign but they certainly know how to print the posters, get the message across , they have all the information etc. I understand that the campaigns committee cannot campaign – my bad, but they certainly can inform ppl on how to do so….

    Yes I know, I should have spoken to people, but I only found that out on the wednesday (and then end of elections was friday) , you see this sort of information isn't common knowledge ( I guess i asked the wrong ppl)

    Nicholas – you keep saying that the executive committe knows best, you make it sound like a board of directors that have a higher brain power than the other lowly students. But face it, if you tell us how much we will lose and how exactly so , then we also can make an informed decision – yes we hire people and have their contracts blah blah, but surely you can give us an estimate of how much we spend totally on salaries, on societies on other services. You may not be at liberty to tell me who gets what but surely give me some information as to WHY you have taken this decision – I hope you realize that the union runs more like a company with all its secrecy and importance of finance than the university.
    What will I lose if you implement this ban?? Can you answer this question in detail??? If you can't then why would you expect me to sympathise with your views?

    06 Dec 2005, 13:51

  47. In answer to those points:

    There were people campaigning for the motion and they should have been (and I presume were) provided with information on how to print posters, etc. by the Elections Group – it's nothing to do with the campaigns committee.

    As the Union's trustees the Executive Committee are the closest thing the Union as a whole has to a board of directors (it's subsiduary companies have their own) but I don't think we have higher brain power than other students; we do sometimes have more information. Having served on both the governing body of the University of Warwick and as a trustee of the University of Warwick Students' Union it's been my experience that the University is far more like a corporation than the Union is (although even the University is guided by a strong public service ethos). I think the University would be very pleased if the Union did act more like a coroporation sometimes.

    You can't get information on how much we spend on saleries but you can get a broad overview of how much we spend on the various parts of the Union (including societies); just ask the Finance Democracy and Stratergy Officer. The information that isn't avaliable is on how much a smoking ban would cost us; I can't tell you exactly why that wasn't released as I had to leave the relevant meeting after we decided on what to do but before we decided exactly what to say about it (as I had to catch a train to be somewhere I had to be in order to do my PhD). I imagine we will give some more information at a later date; however, no information can be released until the Executive Committee meets again and that won't happen until January.

    Whilst I can't give you detail about this particular situation, I can tell you that in order not to implement a policy (and so far we've only said it's likely we won't implement this one) we would have to be prevented from doing so by law or by our Constitution, and breaking that is itself illegal. Thus in order to implement such a policy would mean the Union doing something it expected to result in a breach of the law. If the Union did that that then those who had made the decision to do so would probably be replaced fairly quickly; if the Union then continued to take the same course of action (say by continuing to implement a certain policy) it would probably cease to exist in it's current form and be replaced. So, in answer to your question, if we persistently implemented a policy we expected would force us to break the law you would probably lose the chance to have a union for a period; followed by a future with a union that didn't implement that policy anyway.

    06 Dec 2005, 21:01

  48. David M., it's in the nature of emergency business that it is proposed after the deadline for normal business; indeed, I've known emergency business which has only been available at the meeting itself. Compared with that, six hours provides a pretty good amount of time for consideration. Having said that, the Boar should have been told, but I very much believe that it was likely to be an oversight rather than a deliberate act.

    Union officers aren't the sort of cloak and dagger manipulators you seem to think we are; apart from the Sabbs (who do a lot of work for comparatively little pay), the rest of us (the majority) are simply students who take on whatever position in addition to our studies. Most of us have neither the time nor the skill to engage in backdoor chicanery. We as officers have no power over Union policy (except in rare cases when the Exec make policy) except by virtue of being on Union Council, where the Constitution demands we be outnumbered by at least 2:1. My view of being an officer is that we all hold our positions as a sort of trust not just from students now, but students in the future as well, so that we can work to improve their experience at Warwick when they get here. Doubtless that'll sound horribly trite to you, but unless you sincerely believe in what you're doing, there isn't much else reward in being a Union officer as in many positions it consists of going to dull meetings and either explaining to people why they can't do anything about the library right now or being told by the university why they can't do anything about the library right now.

    There's also a good reason why each and every decision isn't put to referendum or a General Meeting. Leaving aside the issue of cost, there's the fact that there are some policies which are unsuitable for that kind of mass discussion as they need a smaller group of people in order to ensure that any necessary amendments or points of consideration don't get lost amid the hubub. In addition to that, there's the fact that a lot of the decisions Council in particular makes are routine and dull and wouldn't get sufficient turnout if delegated to a higher body in order adequately to gauge student opinion. Further to this, on some issues, such as Warwick in Asia, it's not possible to get a fully informed student opinion because there are certain things we can't make public. Just to take Warwick in Asia as an example (because I represent students on university council and so had a part in the decision-making), the Union had (and has) no collective decision on whether Warwick in Asia would have been a good thing or not. Indeed, there's a fair amount of disagreement on that even among our Senate and Council reps. The reason there wasn't that we didn't take student opinions into account, it was that some crucial elements of the decision were covered by a confidentiality agreement the university asked us to sign, and as such it wasn't possible for the Union to come to a sufficiently informed view as a collective body.

    Re. your point about respect, I don't expect respect just because I'm a union officer; I don't think I'm due any more respect than any other stranger. I'm a student and a Union member first, just like any other part-time officer. And if I'm wrong I do expect to be told I'm wrong; fortunately my personal part in this affair is very small, but I am bound by the collective responsibility of Union Council to accept my share for the policy.

    Anyway, apologies both for the amount of time I took to get back to you and for the length of this reply. I'll shut up now.

    08 Dec 2005, 00:31

  49. Nicholas I know you or the people in general are not to blame but you have to agree the system is screwed up. Yes you cannot get me or others info on salaries, but you still have not said how you came to the decision that the policy is going to be detrimental. How did you come up with the expected loss??? Did you make the figures up? Based on past records- Xanana is doing better after going non-smoking.....so I am keen to know how and why this decision was taken and based on what?? If personal opinions were not at play (Impossible to believe, I go to union meetings myself) then what was???? Andy Dire says that we will make a big loss because other unis did, he is a useless bugger (Not as in stupid – but avoids answering questions directly, a pukka politician) gives me no information.

    08 Dec 2005, 08:25

  50. Neil

    From what I remember, Xananas got made twice as big a couple of years ago. I thought that would be why its making more money now.

    08 Dec 2005, 09:32

  51. Well, ok…...but surely size isn't the only reason, I'm not sayin non smoking = more profits, but I am saying non smoking does not = less profits

    08 Dec 2005, 11:01

  52. Dave Sparrow

    but with only xananas non-smoking, smokers can go to the rest of the union. having different areas for smoking and non-smoking is a pretty good idea, having the whole Union non-smoking is a different matter. Also, xanana's and union south are very different types of venue.

    08 Dec 2005, 11:46

  53. I'd guess Andy is avoiding answering questions directly for exactly the same reason I am; neither of us can make public information we've recieved in confidence without the necessary authorisation. Of course personal opions matter to an extent, but going into the relevant meetings I think that personal opinions were probably mostly in favour of implementing the ban.

    I just wrote a fairly long hypothetical situation on another blog in order to explain why it's sometimes not possible to give any useful information about how predictions are made.

    Xanana's income dropped (fairly significantly if I remember correctly) when a smoking ban was introduced there around a year after it opened. Over the six years following that it did, on average, increase – but that increase wasn't dramatic and probably only reflects the likely increase in income in a new venue as management improves. After those six years it was doubled in size and, as a result, income is now higher than it was before smoking was banned.

    08 Dec 2005, 15:03

  54. Udayan, at the end of the day I think you have to look to Occom's Razor and go with the most likely explanation. Sure, on the basis of the evidence and the information we're not being given, it would appear something more is going on.
    But the only possibility for that 'something more' is that there's a secret cabel of smoking union officers conspiring to keep the union as a smoking area for thier own convenience.
    That strikes me as a little ridiculous. Sure it doesn't help that the SU president smokes, though I don't know about any of the other saabs. Statistically a larger proportion of any particular group of union officers will be non smokers than will be smokers. Yes, we don't have the actual figures, we can't see where they got the predicted losses from, but why would they make them up? What do they have to gain, when most of them don't smoke, so the only direct effect the policy would have on them would be a healthy environment?
    I really don't see what you're getting at, do you think they're being paid off by tobbaco companies or something?

    08 Dec 2005, 20:34

  55. No , I do realize that Tobacco companies aren't bribing our beloved Sabbs (not to say it did not cross my mind), but what I am saying is that (if you read the title of the blog) that the system of deciding is by no means democratic. as you say "it would appear something more is going on", but it can also appear that nothing more really is going on and that all sabbs are smokers (yes I know that is not true). But you cannot refute that view unless all the information is availaible. Surely the union reached an agreement on this issue in some manner….... I want to know the facts and as a union member I have every right to do so. I do not think its by any means ok for a few people to decide how a referenda is to be implemented, surely you cannot disagree with me…

    09 Dec 2005, 04:37

  56. Absolutely I'd prefer to see exactly how the arrangement was made, but I accept that in bussiness sometimes confidentiality clauses make such disclosure impossible – and in these cases we have to trust in our duly elected representatives to make the decision for us.

    09 Dec 2005, 17:52

  57. I don't trust them…...

    10 Dec 2005, 02:25

  58. Then again I have to ask, why do you think they'd be decieving you, what do they have to gain?
    And I believe the majority of the members of the commitee are elected so were chosen democratically by students to perform exactly this function – they've been given a vote of confidence that holds as much weight as the results of this referendum.
    In the same way that you claim they should be forced to uphold the ban due to it being voted in, surely so should one uphold the decisions these people make as they were simmilary voted in.

    12 Dec 2005, 06:08

  59. Fair enough you have a valid point, they were elected democratically. And yes they will not take a decision to willfully harm the union, but I don't like the fact that they are being secretive in implementing the ban and are not telling us why or exactly why they cannot do so. I want to know what it is that I will lose if th eban comes into force, how they reached this decision and what impact they know for sure it will have…...All very reasonable requests.
    Do remember the referendum was also a democratic process.

    12 Dec 2005, 06:31

  60. Some things missing here, lads:
    Luke Parks
    "I can use it as a defence when people are being accused of wrongdoing; whether you agree with someone or not, if they haven't broken the rules you can't actually say they have done something wrong."

    Don't be ridiculous. The suggestion was that she is doing something wrong, not against any rules you people have. Therefore, the fact that she has "not broken any rules" isn't really relevant to this discussion, is it? You are being very obtuse if you consider "breaking rules" the only thing to be wrond in life. Chris and Mat had very reasonable (and easily defensible) positions, which you don't.

    Dave Sparrow
    "...pro-life people (sorry I mean "No-stance" people, silly me!)"
    You are using terms interchangeably that should not be used in that way. Sort it out. Do they mean the same? Are all "no-stance" "pro-life", or vice-versa? Think first, yeah?

    In conclusion, then, I resolve to look at this blgo often, because it is fun.

    13 Dec 2005, 00:19

  61. Vincent, there's a difference between doing something wrong and doing something one disagrees with. The only accepted standard of what is actually wrong in this case is what the rules say, whereas what people disagree with is far more all-encompassing. For example, I disagreed with Kat's support for lapsing the ban on the military and the Sports Officer's attempt to end our sponsorship bans, but I don't claim for a moment that they were actually doing anything wrong; just something which I disagreed with.

    13 Dec 2005, 00:35

  62. Maybe that's the problem, friend.

    13 Dec 2005, 01:48

  63. Luke you are right in your definition but surely she cannot do something right, which the majority disagree with and then force us to accept it…... it may be right according to the rules but may not be what most of us want

    13 Dec 2005, 07:03

  64. Udayan, I too would like to know the exact details as to how the decision was reached, but the union deals with many large bussineses and individuals and when doing so you're sometimes forced to agree not to disclose certain information publically – in which case thier hands are tied.
    I think I'm going to bow out of this one for now but it's been a pleasure debating with you!

    15 Dec 2005, 22:13

  65. Fair enough…...
    Are u being sarcastic????sorry can't really tell….

    16 Dec 2005, 12:12

  66. Nope, not at all!

    17 Dec 2005, 01:17

  67. wow, just found this discussion now. Ok, I know, all arguments are kind of said. But from here all back in Germany, I think the reason Udayan (and I) are angry, is not only (or mainly) because the ban was not implemented, but that
    a) it was put to vote though now it is said to breach law. I cannot vote upon sth which breaks other laws…unless i chnage the law…
    b) the behaviour of some sabbs(the vast majority is really good, they were really helpful!!; i think some= 2)

    "The right to do something does not mean that doing it is right."

    In the Union Council, Councillors are sometimes not convinced by what is said but by whom! It is annoying not only to see what is ((often) passed but also how…

    22 Dec 2005, 01:13

  68. Thanks Ali!!! glad to see u find my blog!

    22 Dec 2005, 10:29

  69. I think the reason Udayan (and I) are angry, is not only (or mainly) because the ban was not implemented, but that
    a) it was put to vote though now it is said to breach law.

    That annoyed me too (especially as I spent quite a lot of my time on it) but under the Union's current rules I don't think anything could have been done about it. The policy doesn't in itself break the law and it was only on taking a lot of time to look at the full implications that it was apparent that some of them would result in a breach of the law. Given that it takes people a while to understand the full implications of something like a smoking ban I don't think this analysis could have been done in the week between the motion being submitted and the point at which ammendments had to be made.

    The relevant Union rules (which the Executive and the sabbaticals have to follow just like everyone else and which are set by others) give this timing and say that once a final motion is produced it has to be put to a vote. Whilst I think that recent events are a good argument for changing some of the rules that doesn't mean they didn't have to be followed.

    It's also not fair to blame most of the current Union officers for these rules. Reviewing rules is very time consuming and isn't the responsibility of most officers (their responsibility is actually providing services to students). For whose whose responsiblity it is, it takes over a year to do a full review and most of the relevant officers had been officers for less than one University term at the start of the referendum period. As I've been involved for a lot longer I don't have that excuse – I have previously argued for longer election and referendum periods but possibly I should have argued harder.

    "The right to do something does not mean that doing it is right."

    That's absolutely true – but in this case the Executive only have the right to take action if we feel we have no choice but to take action.

    In the Union Council, Councillors are sometimes not convinced by what is said but by whom! It is annoying not only to see what is ((often) passed but also how…

    I can see why you might think that and to an extent it is always true – but there was a point a few years ago where almost nothing proposed by a sabbatical at Union Council ever passed. What's changed since then isn't the behaviour of Union Council. What we didn't have that year and do have now, is sabbaticals who, even if you disagree with their views (and there are some I frequently disagree with), are all competent and are almost all extreemly good at doing their day to day jobs. If people, sabbatical or not, turn up to Union Council and fully understand what they are talking about they are more likely than not to win the debate.

    22 Dec 2005, 16:47

  70. Sukhdeep Singh

    What, ok i just read through a hell of a lot of stuff and im sorry (being thick), but what!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    None of it makes any sense, the union cant do what was voted for because the thing they voted for wasn't checked in the time they had to vote for it (huh). The reasons why the union cant do it, cant be shown to union members because of things its arranged with non-members (companies). Union laws have to be changed for things to happen and votes will carry on untill the union officers choice is the final result.

    This is what i get from reading this blog entry, this conclusion and a headache. I am sorry nicholas but you dont come off very good in this debate at all and its probably because of my naivity towards the union process thats the cause but maybe thats the problem. No-one understands how things work and thats why people have a lack of trust with some officers and the union. Maybe you should try and work on that before trying to convince people that your doing whats best within your capabilities. Dont say people should make an effort all the information is there because thats ridiculous. i am sure its available, remind me where please, i am also sure there is a reason sabbs are full time workers (its a lot to do). i do not pretend that i would understand everything, but dont just say something and expect me to accept it (you do do this [you as in union officers]), its condisending and offensive.
    All i ask is this: WHY CANT THE UNION DO WHAT IT WAS VOTED TO DO, AND WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE (we have not tried it so how do you know)?

    this is not a personal attack on you nicholas (the you means union), its easier to convey my feelings taht way.

    23 Dec 2005, 17:43

  71. WHY CANT THE UNION DO WHAT IT WAS VOTED TO DO

    In general there are two reasons why a referendum (or any other) policy may not be implemented:

    1. If implementation would breach the law or the Union's obligation to maintain a healthy financial situation.
    2. If an amendment to the Constitution is passed at referendum but rejected by University Senate and Council.

    The reason Exec. is entrusted with the power not to implement such policies is that they are the people who are legally responsible and under section 11.2(h) of the Constitution would face the music if the Union a.) got into financial difficulties, or b.) got sued. It's a small body like Exec. because some issues have an impact on staff working conditions or on confidential commercial acitivities and therefore have to be discussed in closed session as per section 11.3 of the Constitution. Having said that, Exec. are fully accountable for their actions to the Union membership by 'question, censure, or no condfidence' (sections 9.6(a) and 10.4(b) of the Constitution) at meetings of Union Council or General Meetings (the AGM will be in week 14) and will ultimately have to explain to the membership why the policy wasn't implemented in greater detail than thus far. My speculation, though, is that they don't want to say any more until they've decided exactly what they're going to do and that the Sabbs and others needed the Christmas vacation to come up with a full proposal.

    FYI (because it can be tricky to find if you don't know where it is): the Constitution

    23 Dec 2005, 18:29

  72. As I was Sukhdeep asked me a resonable question I'll try to answer it, although I'm not going to do so in great detail as I've already done that elsewhere.

    WHY CANT THE UNION DO WHAT IT WAS VOTED TO DO, AND WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE (we have not tried it so how do you know)?

    Luke's comment above explains the technical situation and why the details are confidential. To get an idea of why there might be a financial problem consider the following very rough numbers (rather than the confidential and accurate ones the Executive has):

    • The Union has a commercial income of over 4 million pounds.
    • Other large venues introducing smoking bans have usually lost at least 7% of their income.
    • 7% of the Union's commerical income is around three hundred thousand pounds.
    • For comparison we give around forty thousand pounds to societies each year.

    As to why the question of a test period, I can't remember if we said anything about this in Executive but I can you my view. Where other students' union's have run a short period their losses have been far greater than 7%. This is almost certainly just because people are trying to influence result of the test period but it means that a test period would probably cost us a lot of money and not tell us much.

    23 Dec 2005, 20:20

  73. That figure I gave for socities is probably wrong (misread something – oops) but the real figure is of the same order of magnitude and still sigificantly under one hundred thousand pounds.

    24 Dec 2005, 00:21

  74. thanks for your replies and luke cheers for the technical explination and the constitution link. i wonder how you know all this, and i am glad that you aknowledge that it can be tricky to find the constitution, maybe that should be changed. You quoted 11.2(h) (its actually 11.5(h) and to that i quote 2 “This Union is directed by its MEMBERS and aims to enhance the experience of students whilst at the University of Warwick.”. Now i understand that if people feel the unions work is not great they can do the no confidence thing but i only know about that now, i wonder who else knows.
    I doubt anyone will do the no confidence thing because to be fair to the union people, they are in a difficult situtation and it seems a no win situation. they are doing a generally good job but this smoking stuff is just leaving a bitter taste in the members mouths (pun intended).
    PS whats this about another vote on the abortion stuff.

    24 Dec 2005, 23:52

  75. Well I still feel that the union is being secretive – I want to know HOW EXACTLY u arrived at the stupid decision as to why we will face monetary difficulties and how much…......If I dont know that then as I have said before the union is being undemocratic

    25 Dec 2005, 06:15

  76. Hi (and merry Chistmas) Sukhdeep. The main reason I know all this is because I'm a Union officer (although not a member of the Exec.) and have been taking an interest and getting involved in Union politics from my first year at Warwick (am in my third now). Re. making documents more accessible, the problem there is that there are so many documents available that as soon as they're posted one becomes barraged with documents and no one has really yet found a satisfactory way of labelling them to make it easy to work out what is where. Apologies for highlighting the wrong section of the Constitution (that'll teach me not to post things in a hurry without checking them). As for the thing about abortion coming around again at the next referendum period, I don't know anything specific, but I won't be surprised if it does. As for who know about what sanctions are available against officers who fail to perform, I'm afraid it's in the nature of things that people only know who care about what's going on.

    25 Dec 2005, 22:11

  77. i wonder how you know all this

    This being my seventh year of involvement (I'm now a PhD student) helps. I didn't know that much when I started and most people who know a lot now didn't only last year. If you ask about something most (hopefully all) Union Officers should tell you about it as well as they can.

    04 Jan 2006, 23:36


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