THE BLOG

Student Conference-Gate.

09/05/2013 13:34 BST | Updated 08/07/2013 10:12 BST
PA

In March, I was thrown out of USI Congress by my union delegation (Queen's University Students' Union) for voting in a few that contradicted my students' union policy. I wrote about it at the time, and if you're reading this having not heard about what's happened, I'd advise you to read it so we're on the same page for the rest of the post.

When we got back, there was some clarity needed on how I was going to be 'punished'. Again, I wrote about it at the time, and again, I'd recommend you read that post, too.

Last night, the President of QUBSU proposed two motions at the Annual Business Meeting of QUBSU Council (our last meeting of the academic year) to ban me from standing as a QUBSU delegate for national conferences. One would ban me for standing next year, and the second, for the following year.

The vote was cast by secret ballot, with the President and I both given the chance to make two statements each. No one else was allowed to speak on the proposed motion.

The QUBSU Council voted down the motion to ban me for the year 2014/2015 (29 votes against, 24 votes in favour) and voted in favour of the motion to ban me for the year 2013/2014 (31 votes in favour, 23 votes against). They've told me that I cannot stand as a QUBSU national conference delegate for next year.

They can't do this.

In our union's constitution, it stipulates that delegates to NUS Conference and USI Congress shall be elected by cross campus ballot as in the Council elections (page 38). It also states that "any student may offer themselves as a candidate in any Executive Management Committee Election provided that they complete a Nomination Form and return it in person to the Returning Officer before the close of nominations for the Executive Management Committee Election". The elections for conference delegations are held in a similar way to elections for Council and elections for the Executive Management Committee (ie, the sabbatical officers).

The Equality and Diversity Policy of the union states that the SU seeks to provide equality to all, irrespective of political opinion, and that the policy applies to all members of the students' union. There is also a mention of a complaints procedure (but nothing saying what it actually is) for those who feel that they have "suffered any form of discrimination through the use of the union's representation services". Rule 4, Appendix 1 of the constitution states that "elected student officers (ie. the President and the other sabbaticals) shall be bound by the University's Student Conduct Regulations, the Equality and Diversity Statement and other Equality Policies of the University and Students' Union ".

Secondly, there is no process in the constitution to punish someone for voting against live policy at national conferences. No process. No mention of it. And considering it takes a special meeting and a 2/3 majority of student councillors or EMC members to remove an elected officer from their position, the move taken last night was unfounded, without precedent, and unconstitutional.

To sum up, the constitution of QUBSU, and in particular:

1. The combination of Rule 2 10.8 (which says that delegate elections will be held in the same manner as elections for the Executive Management Committee); Rule 2 10.4 (which says that nominations for delegate elections are like those for EMC); and Rule 2 9.6.1 (which says that anyone can run in an election for EMC);

2. Chapter 1 8.2 (which says that the government of the union shall be based on the democratic principle that every ordinary member shall have the fullest opportunity to participate in union affairs);

3. Rule 10 2.2.4 (which says that political belief is a protected characteristic under the Equality & Diversity Policy;

4. Chapter 1 3.2, 3.9.2 & 3.9.4 (which states the aims of QUBSU as supporting equality of opportunity, freedom to participate in union elections, and the freedom of expression);

They had no grounds to do what they did, and I'll be happily handing in my nomination forms next year when nominations open for delegate elections to national conferences.

What was an important issue (that of mandates at national conferences) has turned into a personal attack from the President of my students' union.

What can you do to help? Get in contact with me via Twitter or email (agallagher896@qub.ac.uk). Contact my students' union and tell them that this decision was undemocratic. Details on how to contact each of the union sabbatical officers are also on the website. An open letter & model motion for unions to sign/send will be available soon.

Throughout the UK, our students' unions democratic structures are being attacked, more often by their university rather than their elected student officers. It's time to tell QUBSU that they can't simply ignore the rules.