About the Guild’s General Meeting, 4/6/2013 (and why you should be there)

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Edit: This General Meeting was adjourned during its original sitting and will recommence on Tuesday the 26th of February.

Edit 2: Both General Meetings have been cancelled by the Guild, will be rescheduled – date tbc

Edit 3: This has now been rescheduled again to Tuesday the 4th of June.

Hey everyone,

a few weeks ago (circa 29th April) you would have gotten an email to your University account (@bham.ac.uk) about the General Meeting being held by the Guild on Monday the 28th of January Tuesday the 26th of February Tuesday the 4th of June.

Below i’ll explain what the points being debated/considered/voted upon there are, the arguments in favour and opposition to the points (‘special resolutions’) and how i’ll be voting.

The General Meeting is open to all members of the Guild and I strongly recommend attending and using their vote, because what happens there could substantially affect the way the Guild functions in the future and its effectiveness in representing its students.
For anyone who can’t attend on the day, there’s also the option to submit a proxy vote, and to either pre-submit your vote or get someone else to vote on your behalf.
While i’ll only be attending to vote on my behalf (not in any BEMA capacity) i’d be happy to be a proxy to anyone if they so wish, just let me know at axs278@bham.ac.uk – proxy vote submission deadline is  Sunday the 2nd of June, 6pm.

N.B. As it stands i’ll be voting FOR every special resolution myself, and so noting this you may find that this colours my perspective on the resolutions, as presented below. I’ve tried to include the counterarguments as i’ve found them, but I can’t claim to be impartial here without being disingenuous.
Hope this allows people to make a somewhat more informed decision, still.

General Meeting
6-9pm
Tuesday 4th June
(deadline for proxy voting nominations: 6pm Sunday 2nd June)
Avon Room, University Centre (R23 on campus map)
Open to all members of the Guild (i.e. everyone, unless you explictly opted out of membership at any point)

Special resolution #

What it does

How I intend to vote

1

Guild required to hold a General Meeting at least once a year.

FOR

2

Lower threshold of student demand required to hold a General Meeting to 2% of student body.

FOR

3

Change make-up of Board of Trustees, to constitute a student majority (i.e. by including more elected Sabbatical Officers of the Guild and students sitting on it).

FOR

4

Remove the position of University Trustee from the Board of Trustees.

FOR

5

Make student Trustee elections open to a cross-campus elections.

FOR

6

Cleaning up/making necessary amendments to Guild documents.

FOR

*Notes:
-This General Meeting is being held to consider a number of significant changes to the way the Guild works, and its members are being invited to vote upon these changes.
-This General Meeting has come about after a campaign last year called ‘Reclaim the Guild’ managed to collect the 1500 signatures (~5% of the student population) required to force the Board of Trustees of the Guild to call it.
-General Meetings of this type (‘General Meeting under Company Law’) are the most powerful democratic structure in the Guild – that is to say, it is not bound by or constrained by any other body in the Guild, and so it’s successful resolutions are binding (unlike for e.g. Guild Council, whose successful motions are subject to scrutiny/can be overturned by the Guild’s Board of Trustees)

This General Meeting is being called primarily to look into a radical reorganisation of the Guild, and could (hopefully) see the Guild’s autonomy and robustness as a student-run organisation restored.

 ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————-
**All resolutions require a 75% majority of For votes to pass.**

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

*Special resolution 1:
Guild required to hold a General Meeting at least once a year.

Argument for:
-A General Meeting allows all students/members of the Guild to exercise direct control over how the Guild works, democratically; this is something that ought to become more commonplace and accepted as the norm.

Argument against:
-None I can think of really.

How I’ll be voting:
FOR

 ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

*Special resolution 2:
Lower threshold of student demand required to hold a General Meeting.

Argument for:
-Reclaim the Guild took an extended amount of campaigning to get the signatures required and was time-consuming for all involved; lowering the threshold for signatures needed (to be more in line with the requirements of many other Student Unions) seems only fair for anyone wishing to do something similar in the future.
-The ~500 (2%) signatures that would be required if this resolution passed would still rule out the issue of General Meetings being called by any and all; it’d still take some commitment on their part to realise it.

Argument against:
-Some might feel that other democratic bodies – Guild Council or a cross-campus referendum – are better mediums to exercise Guild democracy than General Meetings, so it’s not worth investing in GMs.

How I’ll be voting:
FOR

  ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

*Special resolution 3:
Change make-up of Board of Trustees, to constitute a student majority (i.e. by including more elected Sabbatical Officers of the Guild and students sitting on it)

Argument for:
-Having student representatives as the majority of a Board that governs a student-run organisation in the interest of students is the best option to ensure that the Guild does indeed function for the benefit of us: its members.
-The Board of Trustees has on occasions blocked, denied and/or altered successful Guild Council motions on tenuous grounds, in what some see as an abuse of their powers at the expense of student empowerment.
Having more representation to defend the student voice would go some way towards ameliorating this problem.
*As it stands the Board of Trustees consists of 50% Student representatives (i.e. Sabbatical Officers of the Guild) and 50% non-students (University representative, civilian Trustees) with a non-student Chair (giving them the deciding vote in event of a tie).
-Our Board of Trustees is one of very few that has such a composition; the vast majority have student representatives as the majority.

Argument against:
-None that I can think of; even ignoring the politics behind it, this can be taken as a sensible suggestion to democratise the Guild.

How I’ll be voting:
FOR

  ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

*Special resolution 4:
Remove the position of University Trustee from the Board of Trustees

Argument for:
-Having a University representative on the Guild’s Trustee Board is a conflict of interest and hinders the Guild’s autonomy.
To put this in context, it would be like allowing a company to have their management representing them on an employee Union’s governance body – whose actions may not fit, and may even conflict with, the company management’s aims, but represent its members’.
-Where the Guild would need to function in opposition to the University (say, in protest against course closures, strike action, or other actions in the interest of its students) having the University privy to and influential in the decision making process weakens the Guild’s position and robustness.
-Given our University’s recent record on course closures and staff redundancies (that is to say, actions that benefit their economic or ideological interests at the expense of us students), such opposition is/may become necessary often.
-It is practice in other Student Unions to have no University representatives on their Board of Trustees/ban University staff from them.

Argument against:
-Having the University representative present would allow for exchange of information between them and the Guild, and the University could provide legal/other insight that could influence the Guild’s actions.

How I’ll be voting:
FOR

  ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

*Special resolution 5:
Make student Trustee elections open to a cross-campus elections

Argument for:
*Currently the selection of student Trustees to the Board is a decision made by a small Appointments Panel, who choose between themselves who is the best candidate from the self-selected nominations. Their decision is ratified in Guild Council by councillors.
-Opening this process up to the student population allows a wider range of views to weigh in on the decision.
-Trustees in effect command a lot of power over the Guild’s functioning, so it’s important to have its members deliberate and decide upon them.
-The last appointment of a Student Trustee was controversial, with accusations that Guild staff were interfering with or subverting the process. The scrutiny and openness afforded by democratic elections is important if the Guild is to be accountable to its members.

Argument against:
-The Trustee position shouldn’t be a political one, but a neutral one.
This brings into question what platform candidates can actually run on.
-With no minority representation on the Board protected, elections may not do anything to ensure this representation

How i’ll be voting:
FOR

  ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

*Special resolution 6:
Cleaning up/making necessary amendments to Guild documents

Argument for:
-It’s necessary admin

Argument against:
None

How I’ll be voting:
FOR

Hope to see people come down – if there any any questions about the Meeting or proxy voting, please comment below or email me at axs278@bham.ac.uk

-Azfar

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4 responses »

  1. Pingback: Voting intention for Guild Council 21/2/2013 « BEMA

  2. Pingback: Voting intention for Guild Council 16/5/2013 | BEMA

  3. Pingback: Voting intentions for Guild Council 22/5/2014 | BEMA

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