Why did only 160 students turn up to that much-hyped General Assembly?

For the fourth year running, last Tuesday’s promised Union General Assembly never took place, because too few students turned up.

Though heavily advertised on Facebook as a forum for students to discuss funding for psychological services, campaigns against sexual assault on campus, and NUS membership, only 160 students attended the meeting held in the 900-seater Logan Hall.

Forty-eight more students were needed so that the meeting could go ahead, though any votes passed would have been advisory. Another 600-plus students were needed to make the votes valid.

The Union’s Democracy, Operations & Community Officer Hamza Jamshaid confessed that it was touch-and-go: “at one point I didn’t even think we’d get a hundred [people]”.

Jamshaid put great effort into advertising the event: banners were hung around the campus; it was zealously advertised on Facebook; sandwiches sold in Union cafés were emblazoned with stickers urging students to attend and vote.

Women’s Officer – Too Little Too Late

Women’s Officer Justine Canady wrote to Union societies late the previous evening, urging support for the motion she proposed, which was to reform the SU’s systems for handling sexual assault; but it was a case of too little too late.

One president of an Arts Society told The Cheese Grater that, for several weeks, she had been asking Canady to increase the urgency of her campaigning for the meeting.

Those who had attended to discuss the Union’s sexual assault systems were visibly distressed when they realised that not enough students had turned up for the meeting to go ahead.

Never Ending NUS Nightmare

The NUS motion was only on the agenda last week because of the litany of failed measures aiming to resolve the question of the Union’s disaffiliation from the national confederation. October’s referendum on NUS disaffiliation was null and void as not enough people voted.

The vote was then pushed to an Extraordinary General Assembly. That meeting on 21st November was a mere 10 people short of the required 218; and so the matter was pushed to last week’s meeting. But the General Assembly proper attracted even fewer people. Jamshaid commented that the “leave campaign was pushing […] really hard” to mobilise its supporters for the Extraordinary General Assembly, and made less effort for last week.

Quite how the NUS question will be resolved is unclear. The Union Council does not have authority to decide upon matters of this nature. Should Union officials decide to put us out of our misery, they have the option; the Steering Committee may give that responsibility to the Council.

The Steering Committee comprises just two men: Jamshaid and Union Chair Bilal Aziz. Jamshaid admitted that they are unlikely to use this kill switch option, for the undemocratic image it would paint.

Jamshaid commented that most students seemed to want to remain in the NUS anyway, so if votes continued not to be valid it would not be such a big deal. And so the vote will continue to be shuffled from one non-quorate general assembly to the next until the sun consumes the earth.

Peter FitzSimons
Additional reporting: Jason Murugesu

This article was published in CG Issue 59.