The eighth Students’ Union (SU) Council took place on Tuesday 25th November. Motions debated included: the NUS’ policy on the NHS, the right to protest on campus and transparency of businesses visiting campus and a student-run lettings agency.
INVESTIGATE AN SU RUN LETTINGS AGENCY MOTION: PASSED
After a previous motion at the last SU Council on a student-run lettings agency, Scott Jennings has instead proposed that the SU should investigate in detail and produce a report on a Students Union run lettings agency. Scott has worked on this motion in conjunction with SU Community officer, Mike Olatokun.
The exercise would investigate several accreditation schemes, the logistics of the scheme, the feasibility of vetting all homes individually and whether a joint venture with Nottingham Trent Students Union could be possible. Scott pointed out that Unipol currently only vet one in five houses and this allows many unsatisfactory houses to slip through.
The proposer highlighted that a student-run lettings agency would give students democratic control over minimum standards for accommodation.
SU President, Harry Copson, highlighted that this motion is a lot more open-ended than the previous motion at the last Council which specifically wanted to set up an agency. Mike commented that “Nottingham does not have a meaningful way for intervention in the housing market’ and that ‘an investigation is a good idea”.
The motion passed unanimously.
TRANSPARENCY OF BUSINESSES VISITING CAMPUS AND RIGHT TO PROTEST MOTION: PASSED
Scott Jennings also proposed that the SU implement a policy of publishing which corporations will be operating in any way in Portland or any other SU delegated space. They also want formal acknowledgement of the right to peacefully protest anywhere on campus.
This motion was submitted in response to an incident where ATOS visited a careers fair on campus and students faced some difficulties when protesting and were asked to go outside. The protesters investigated and found no documentation referring to ATOS visiting campus and believe this to be unacceptable.
The debate discussed how transparency would allow any objections to be made in advance of a company visiting. Harry Copson pointed out that the Portland building is owned by the University and has no legal right to remove individuals, but would be able to lobby the University on individual cases.
LGBT officer, Pheebs Lau, supported this motion as LGBT network members had pointed out concerns over some companies. A panel member raised concerns that this motion could lead to a negative reputation and deter companies from visiting campus. Scott responded that, in reality,”there will not be mass protests that drive away lots of companies”. He added that student activism is more apparent at other universities and their employability has not been affected.
A facilitator pointed out that students already have a right to protest and this motion was proposed to re-affirm that right.
The motion passed with a 17-4 majority.
BOYCOTT ATOS MOTION: PASSED
The next motion proposed that the SU would with immediate effect not allow ATOS to recruit or advertise in and around Student Union buildings, and lobby the University to cut all ties with ATOS. Scott Jennings pointed out that the Computer Science department has a legacy partnership with ATOS and would like to work with the department to hopefully end that relationship.
The proposers were concerned over ATOS’ actions when they were contracted by the government to perform Work Capability Assessments, which determined whether the potentially disabled were eligible for disability benefits. There has been extensive media coverage that ATOS led to disabled individuals incorrectly being declared fit for work and subsequent financial and health difficulties.
Scott highlight that disabled students may not feel safe or comfortable on campus with ATOS operating as well. He consulted the Disabled Students’ Network and read out two anonymous comments of students’ negative experiences with ATOS, and pointed out that he was reading the comments on their behalf because “they did not feel comfortable talking about ATOS”.
The LGBT officer and Environmental and Social Justice (ESJ) officer, Emily Holmes, voiced that they were in support of this motion.
The motion passed with a 15-6 majority.
BOYCOTT NESTLE MOTION: NOT PASSED
The proposers believe that Nestle has engaged in unethical practices which have destroyed the environment, exploited vulnerable people and chased profit over wellbeing. Examples including Nestle’s aggressive marketing of artificial babies’ milk in third world countries and accusations of child labour. The proposer, Scott Jennings, said that “Nestle has had baggage for over 40 years and has not rectified the situation. Various charities have condemned Nestle for their continued marketing of artificial baby formula”.
Education officer, Adam BK, said that SU shops are a commercial trading branch and are not bound by the same policies as the SU itself. Officers would be able to lobby for SU shops to remove Nestle products. He added that SU shops sell very few Nestle products and there could be little financial implications, but ultimately the decision would be up to the directors of the SU’s commercial branch.
Sports officer, Kiri Madhani, pointed out student concerns that a boycott could limit student choice. Scott responded that a boycott would mean that if students want to purchase Nestle they could go elsewhere to purchase it and could have Nestle products on campus and did not mean censorship. Adam said that he thought an educational campaign to inform students before simply passing a boycott, could address the choice issue, inform students’ buying behaviour and make a stronger business case.
The motion failed with 2 yes votes and 19 no votes.
NUS NHS POLICY MOTION: GOES TO REFERENDUM
This debate concerned whether the SU should submit a motion on the NUS’ policy towards the NHS at the next NUS NEC (National Executive Committee) meeting. If the NUS motion is successfully passed, the NUS would join as an official supporter of the Campaign for NHS Reinstatement Bill 2015, a campaign for the repeal of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The NUS would also provide support for Student Unions campaigning against further NHS privatisation, closures and outsourcing.
Harry was concerned that submitting this policy to the NUS would inundate them in an election year and questioned whether NUS or UoNSU could be focusing on more ‘student-specific’ issues.
The motion will go to referendum as the result, as 12-9 in favour was not a strong enough majority to pass.
Image: University of Nottingham via flickr