The seventh Students’ Union (SU) council took place on Tuesday 7th October. Motions debated included: Freedom of Expression, the Union’s support of Free Education and a proposal for a Student-Run Lettings Agency.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION MOTION: PASSED
Mike Olatokun, SU Community Officer, brought a motion on behalf of the officer team on providing freedom of expression at the Students’ Union. He stressed the importance of freedom of expression, but said that this would obviously be carefully balanced with the Union’s other policies, such as the ‘Respecting Religion’ and ‘Safe Space’ policies. SU President, Harry Copson, also spoke up in support of this motion which passed unanimously.
MOTION TO CREATE A STUDENT-RUN LETTINGS AGENCY: NOT PASSED
The proposers, students Scotty Jennings and Duncan Davis, stressed that Unipol, the current regulator, fell short of providing the service students need. They cited the fact that only one in five houses accredited by Unipol are inspected by the body, meaning some landlords have a few good quality houses for inspection, whilst others fall short. They set out their vision for a student-run lettings agency, run by an SU officer working in conjunction with a committee of elected students, which would individually accredit each house.
However, Mike Olatokun, SU Community Officer, questioned the ability of a Students’ Union to provide both accommodation and impartial advice on landlords at the Students’ Advice Centre. He also questioned the issues Duncan and Scotty flagged up with Unipol and stated that this policy would damage the relationship with Unipol which had just been renewed for one year. Mike concluded that he was already looking into a “compulsory landlords register” and that this motion would undermine the work he was doing, “putting the students’ union in a very difficult place”.
Duncan said there was pre-existing Students’ Union research demonstrating problems with student housing in Nottingham. Scotty argued that at the moment “a lot of the lettings agencies are really c**p” and cited past successes in Leicester, which had been able to force rogue landlords out of the market.
Harry, SU President, also spoke against the motion, stating that the Students’ Union had previously provided a lettings agency which was scrapped because it made a serious loss for the union. The Equal Opportunities and Welfare Officer, Chloe Averill, echoed his concerns, calling the agency “detrimental to the work we’re already doing”.
The motion failed to pass with five people voting in favour and and fourteen voting against.
MOTION TO ADOPT A UNION POSITION WHICH SUPPORTS FREE EDUCATION: GOING TO REFERENDUM
Scotty and Duncan also proposed a motion whereby the official position of the Union would be to support free education. Duncan said that “saddling Students with debt which may or may not be sold off to loan sharks” was not in their interests, and the SU should support free education.
Harry Copson said that the SU currently had no policy regarding the cost of undergraduate education, meaning the Union was bound to act in the best interests of students. Mike Olatokun agreed that this mandated him “not to listen to the views of the students, but to those of the people who brought this motion” at which Scotty gestured at the panellists who got to vote, on behalf of students, on the issues.
After much discussion, an amendment was proposed, and accepted, to change the motion from “adopt a Union position which supports free education” to “adopt a Union position which strives towards free education” so that the officers would have flexibility to lobby for cheaper education if that was the best option.
The issue was taken to a vote and nine panellists voted in favour and ten voted against. The motion will now be put to the student body to vote on in a referendum in the coming months.
After the meeting had finished, Impact interviewed Duncan about the Free Education motion. He said that he “was disappointed that the full-time officers were trying to argue over the fact of whether specific wording contradicted other specific wording, rather than arguing over whether or not they agree with the issues. My opinion is that they don’t agree with free education and are just using this as a tactic”.
Impact also spoke to the SU President, Harry Copson. He said that he “welcomes students coming to the Union council” and he “encouraged students to come along and make their voice heard”.
Image: University of Nottingham via Flickr