At a meeting of the SRC tonight, Emily Griffiths’ proposals to revolutionise the Athletic Union Executive Committee were just one vote away from the serious stumbling block of facing a University-wide consultative referendum on whether the changes should go ahead, as were the strong views of Director of Representation, Amanda Litherland.
A two-and-a-half-hour meeting of the Student Representative Council in the Union was attended by AU President Emily Griffiths, along with members of the current Exec Committee, ex-Web Officer James McMahon, and three of the four Union sabbatical officers. Freddie Fforde was unfortunately unable to attend. The meeting followed a week of backlash to the proposals presented to clubs and students by Griffiths last Tuesday.
After lengthy debate, which included statements from Griffiths, McMahon, Rector’s Assessor and student politics legend Chloe Hill, and several very challenging questions on the constitutional legality of the changes from prominent SSC member Max Baldi, two proposals were set before the committee. Firstly, they moved to strip the AU of their joint election rights, and secondly, to hold a consultative non-binding referendum of the student body, asking whether they felt it was the correct decision. The first one was comfortably voted down, but the second voted result in a tie of seven votes each, with three abstentions.
The casting vote fell to the Chair, Emmanuel Michelakakis, who felt that, given his knowledge of the Union President’s views on the subject and the remit of the SRC, it would be an “over-reach” of the Council to call a referendum and voted against the motion. It was a decision which, obviously, split the room. Privately afterwards, one members stressed that the whole evening and the process in its entirety felt rushed, and that he would have paused the meeting for the evening, resuming again tomorrow. Although the referendum would not technically have blocked the move, it would have left Griffiths with no choice but to scrap the changes on the basis of the student protest against it.
The meeting was the first real chance for the Union sabbatical officers to have their say on the issue, and significantly two of the three sabbatical officers who were there – Litherland and DoSDA Meg Platt – voted in favour of a referendum. During the debate, Litherland emphatically stated “I think we should have a referendum – let’s do it,” but when it transpired there would be no referendum she stated that “the AU Presidential election is now effectively a referendum,” although to reduce the upcoming campaigns to one such controversial issue seems to make a mockery of the entire process.
Students’ Association President Freddie Fforde was conspicuous by his absence from the meeting, as he has been throughout the overall debate – as a member of the Governance & Nominations Committee he will have serious influence on whether or not these changes are ratified. However, the Chair revealed at SRC that Fforde was against any referendum on the subject, and so it seems that he is unlikely to raise any objections to the constitutional amendments. He had also sent a message to the SRC asking them “not to tell him how to vote”, which seemed to remove the SRC’s voice from the process altogether.
As Litherland tweeted later on in the evening, despite the lack of action from the SRC “this will be a major issue in the upcoming elections – nominations open Monday”. This story is by no means over.
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It was originally reported that Jules Findlay, the Director of Events and Services, voted in favour of a referendum. It has since been brought to The Saint‘s attention that this was not the case. We apologise for this oversight and hope that no one has been caused any offence.