The conference room is busy, with very few seats. The meeting has to be finished within 45 minutes and everyone can feel the time pressure.
Present: CG (Communications Officer), JC (Vice-President), ES (Students with Disabilities Rep), JS (Working Class Students’ Rep), SM (Postgraduate and Mature Students’ SU Rep), EJ (SU Rep), LH (SU Rep), RM (LGBT+ Rep), EM (President), MR (Ethnic Minorities Rep), MT (SU Rep)
Warm up – 1 song only
We all do Vogue dancing. I have no idea what that is and nor do most people, but it was fun. JS oozes sass, and MT enters late and struts down the catwalk.
JS: I wasn’t at the last meeting but I read the minutes. I was surprised as to how the discussion came about. When wee discussing things to bring to assembly, I don’t think we should give any opinions or indication of how we intend to vote before these meetings. Because if we present with an opinion, I feel it’s more difficult for someone to argue against rather than giving an opinion. Also, there were times when you mentioned speaking to other SU reps, and I wanted to know in what capacity that happens? Is it gauging opinions of other people’s colleges, or deciding with other reps which way you’ll vote.
CG: So we have an SU rep group chat where we discuss things we don’t like. Sometimes we have discussions like these. It’s to get more information. Sometimes I think it’s self explanatory how I’ll vote beforehand. Other SU reps also announce opinions in advance.
JS: Some motions are very different to others though. From experience, there are motions that for someone that’s welfare minded or SU minded it’s very obvious, but if we ask people in Cuth’s that doesn’t necessarily match. I think it’s important to reflect what Cuth’s as a college wants to do even if that doesn’t mesh with what we want to do.
CG: I wanted to let people know what I think so that if people don’t like that they can discuss it with me.
RM: There might have been an issue last time in that you’d annotated the notes before the meeting to say how you felt. But also there weren’t enough people to discuss it properly.
CG: Annotated notes were mainly for people who hadn’t seen assembly papers before. I also find it much easier to have physical copies of things. My notes were so people knew what I thought.
JS: It’s not a massive difference, but I think it’s good to have to put the papers into the open before the meeting so we can get opinions before arguments. I know we’re ex-officio, but it’s really helpful to be able to send thoughts if we can’t make it. I think it would be easier to frame it as ‘here are the motions and a summary, please send me any thoughts or opinions’.
SM: Also, this committee exists so that responsibility for decisions doesn’t fall directly on the communications officer.
CG: Other SU reps were saying that they should take notes of what they say and vote for in Assembly. My intention is to comment that on the original post.
RM: I think it’s great that we can have fun in the committee, but sometimes we have a tone problem in that we’re discussing things that can have a massive impact and be very serious. I think it’s important that our tone is appropriate.
CG: To clarify, you don’t want me to say beforehand how I intend to vote?
CG: I think the papers all seem fine, and there’s nothing that bothers me until the motions. Any issues with that part?
ES: I spoke to EG (Assistant Students with Disabilities Rep) about this, and we wholeheartedly agree. There’s nothing that we felt needed changing. Everything is covered. Everything representing students with disabilities is represented in this motion. We definitely really liked it. For us the most important part was the bit about the funding for diagnostic tests.
*Everyone likes the motion*
*Agreement that CG will vote for the motion*
ES: I spoke to AM (SU Welfare and Liberation Officer) yesterday about this, and there was no disparity. We agreed on everything.
CG: No-one has said anything negative to me about it.
Housing advertising motion
CG: This is by TC because all the SU reps were recently very cross with the SU because they advertise luxury student accommodation early in term despite their take your time to sign campaign. All this motion will do is stop the SU promoting accommodation in Michaelmas. We’ve emailed the SU about this and they say the need the money. Any comments?
*Everyone thinks it’s good*
*CG will vote for this motion*
Things we don’t like about assembly to mention
CG: I’ve got a list of things I don’t like about Assembly, and the SU wants to discuss this. The discussion is specifically about the format of Assembly. I’ll start with my major gripes because I think Assembly reflects a lot of that. I don’t think the SU does much to engage with students and make them want to get involved with governance. As an outsider, it just seems like a massive bureaucracy where the internal staff structure means there’s never any change. I think Assembly reflects that. Someone contacted me to say they went to Assembly to try it and found it really boring.
RM: What would you change to make it more accessible or interesting?
CG: They need to have a big campaign about how to get involved with the SU. They should hype up Assembly and tell people why it’s important. Last Assembly I struggled to find the event on Facebook, and it had 30 people who had responded. I don’t think they do enough to make sure people know how Assembly works. There are already so many reasons not to go, for the one student that does go they don’t understand the structure and can’t make their voice heard. It reinforces the idea that only certain students know what’s going on and they keep making the decisions. I don’t think that it’s representative of students.
RM: I think you’re right, but if we engaged even 10% of students then we couldn’t house all of them at Assembly. The reason it’s representative democracy is because we couldn’t fit everyone.
CG: The SU ballroom can fit 100s of people
RM: That’s not accessible either
*Many rooms are suggested, we hope some are accessible and large*
SM: People won’t want to go when there’s such a rigid structure.
MR: Also there’s no raffle
SM: When there was the abortion debate, the people who spoke against abortion (I disagree with them) didn’t understand how it worked and got frustrated that they couldn’t make their voice heard.
RM: Do you think a solution might be to have more Assemblies but with less rigid timings?
MT: If there are fewer motions in each one, then people will come to the ones they’re interested in.
LH: Is it possible to have a theme for each one?
RM: I like the idea, but I think motions come up when they do.
CG: They could still do open talks on themes.
SM: Another downside of Assembly is you sit for an hour listening to people talk. If there were fewer, this would only happen in a couple a term. I’m speaking at this meeting, and we’re talking for at least an hour.
CG: I also think it should be more friendly and welcoming. JCR meetings are welcoming because we have joke motions.
EM: I’ve never been to Assembly and I have no interest in going. I think that there have been people who have gone and felt that it was a hostile environment, where there’s a core SU gang and outsiders. In Cuth’s, gov comm are meant to be impartial and not show facial expressions. At Assembly, people are very clear and obvious about whether they think a point is relevant or serious.
MT: The fact that you can applaud all the way though adds to that.
RM: We don’t police JCR members on their conduct, and the SU officers aren’t governance, they’re just voting members.
EM: There were people who felt put off and like others were being rude.
CG: There are cliques and parties.
SM: It’s bad that there’s a division of SU officers against SU reps.
RM: I think SU reps are complicit in this in that they speak to each other and act like a voting block. Sometimes it generates a feeling of SU reps against SU officers.
CG: SU reps need to work with the SU but don’t always agree with what they’re doing. Sometimes people in other colleges will be annoyed about something and they’ll all agree
EM: This interaction is taking place in one group’s stomping ground and not the other’s. Assembly is already set up and the structure is controlled by SU officers who also have perceived power. I can see how it’s intimidating if these people give a sense of cliqueness.
JS: Do you think that the nature of an SU rep does contribute to that environment? I don’t think it’s necessary.
CG: I wouldn’t say it’s a voting bloc. It sometimes feels like we have very different interests to everyone else in Assembly so it’s important for us to discuss.
SM: I wouldn’t call it a voting bloc, sometimes we’d discuss how we were voting but not agree. But often because SU reps have similar priorities they often vote together. I think perception is a massive issue because people want it to be less aggressive.
JS: As an SU rep representing one specific college, do you feel that the views raised by other SU reps influences the points that are raised in college SU comm meetings? Then it can turn from a group to an active force.
RM: Last meeting, before the motions had been presented, you said that you and other SU reps were angry about one of them.
JS: I think the majority of discussion should take place before discussing with other SU reps.
CG: I think it’s important to hear everyone’s opinions on a motion and consider the Cuth’s perspective before voting. I think it’s useful to hear what other people are saying.
JS: I understand that. But I prefer it if people make up their own minds free of influence. If you come to this meeting and say that other SU reps had an issue, that might shift the discussion differently to if someone comes in independently.
MT: Maybe we could discuss our thoughts first, then bring in other opinions.
JS: I think that would be a good way of doing things.
SM: I hate that you can’t submit amendments in Assembly.
CG: In AOB, you have to submit questions a certain number of days in advance. Last time someone had a very pressing issue, but it wasn’t on the agenda. I know people’s time is important.
RM: It seems waay too bureaucratic and very hard to get things passed.
CG: Please add any other issues with Assembly to my document.
No time for the JCR song as several of us need to leave for the exec meeting.