BULS AGM 2013 results

Yes, it’s that time of year again where BULS has chosen it’s new committee to lead the society for the following year. The committee-elect stands as follows:

Chair-elect: Alex Swanson

Vice-Chair-elect: Ellis Stacey

Secretary-elect: Joe Armer

Treasurer-elect: Jas Kandola

Campus Campaigns co-ordinator-elect: Mike Grocott

Social Secretary-elect: Stephen Bowcott

Publicity Officer-elect: Rob Parkinson

Local Campaigns co-ordinator-elect: Tarquin Pritchard

Congratulations to the new committee-elect and comiserations to anyone who was unsuccessful.

The Death of the ‘Labour Sabb’

This year, in the Guild of Students Officer elections, for the first time in a very long time there were no ‘Labour’ candidates. Something which has become quite a regularity at students unions across the country is the domination of particular sabbatical officers that are there to simply ‘Bring Labour values of collectivism to campus’. This is not an attack on previous Sabbs who were party members, it’s a critique on the idea of the ‘Labour Sabb’. Which is something that has bugged me greatly since joining the party, so here is a blog to have a good old rant about it…

In November, I attended the annual Labour Students Political Weekend. I thought i’d give it a go. What I will say is that the message I got from NOLS was a very narrow minded one. A one of a one size fits way of thinking, which couldn’t have highlighted how out of touch they are any better. ‘Let’s campaign for Ken in London’ was high on the agenda, while absolutely no mention was made to campaigning locally in other key elections happening this May, including Birmingham. ‘Let’s get as many of you elected onto the NUS and in Unions so you can be our puppets’ was also another common theme of the talks. Or one of my personal favourites, ‘Lets all pretend to talk to our Vice Chancellor and tell them they should pay cleaners more money, which they will then amazingly easily agree to’. The weekend really could have been summarised into those three snippets.

I believe that Labour Students attempt to have too much involvement in Union politics. It’s a well known fact that they ship supporters around the country to illegitimately boost support for their candidates (http://abercourier.com/2012/03/labour-troubles-tarnish-election-campaign/). They also offer training to their candidates and successful elects before they take office, to… well I imagine to tell them the policies to push onto their students. This is not what they should be doing! And this is not what the student movement is all about. Edd Bauer, current VPE at the Guild wrote during his time as EEO about this very issue on his blog, and I think he got it spot on. I’d definitely recommend giving it a read (http://edwardbauereeo.blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/leaving-post.html)

I am currently a Labour member and supporter, and that’s fine. I have my ideological beliefs and i’ll never claim to not have them. There is no denying that we all have a position politically, because we all have an opinion. However, the problem arises when you push your party’s policies onto students. Abusing your position as an elected officer to ensure the party you support, and probably want to work for in future years gets a foot in with students on your campus. Sabbatical officers are not there to influence the students they represent. They are there to serve them. They are there to make the time that their students spend at their university as enjoyable as possible. I believe it is that simple.

As you may be aware, I was elected as Vice President (Activities & Development) in those very guild elections just a few short weeks ago. And next year, I will be tasked with helping every single student society at the Guild and I can’t wait to get started. Because it doesn’t matter what your political beliefs are, what matters is that you want to do something and celebrate what you love doing. That is why I ran for it and why I didn’t ever want to run as a ‘Labour Sabb’, because to do so would to betray what I believe is truly important in student politics. Yes, you guessed it, STUDENTS.

So this will be my 3rd and very last blog I post on BULSonline. My membership to the party expires in May and I will be letting it do so. I’m doing this because I simply have to be as neutral as possible. I represent BUCF as much as BULS and to do so whilst being a Labour party member I feel would be unprofessional. I have no idea if I will rejoin after my term in office, I guess it will depend on how the next year goes for the party and for Mr Miliband. And it will most certainly depend on whether the party (and it’s affiliated organisations) can stop being so narrow minded and unaware that a single solution will not solve all their problems.

The next year is crucial for us all, I’m just looking forward to the journey.

@OllieCosentino, Former BULS Secretary

BULS Supports a YES Vote in the Guild Referendum 2011

On Wednesday 9nd March at an open meeting, BULS held a vote as to whether we as a society should support both the UCU in any future strike action and also the two Guild Council motions relating to the issue (8a & 8b) that went to Guild Council on Tuesday 15th March 2011.

A unanimus result in favour of YES was reached and for that reason BULS fully supports the YES campaign in the Guild of Students Referendum that is currently taking place regarding the Guild’s postion and future strike action by the UCU.

We are fully aware that this is a very late declaration but this is largely down to being unaware that we as a society of the Guild of Students were able to openly support a side (which is different to usual Guild election rules).

If you havent voted yet in the referendum, we urge you to vote YES to both questions to ensure that the union movement at this University is cemented by the Guild standing side by side with our lecturers and other teaching staff in their grieviences with the University of Birmingham. The case of the UCU members can only be strengthened by assistance and support from the Guild and this will only happen with a YES vote! Finally a vote for YES is just as much in the interests of students as it is for UCU members. We need well paid and well respected professionals teaching us and helping us through our degree studies. If we have a disgruntled workforce at Birmingham, there is the possibility that teaching standards will drop. And in turn, OUR overall learning experience may suffer in the long run.

For more information on the YES campaign, please visit: http://goo.gl/i30YF

And in the interest of fairness, more information on the NO campaign can be found here: http://goo.gl/bbzsL

Voting is done at my.bham and closes at 4pm today! And remember BULS says YES in the Guild Referendum 2011!

From the BULS Committee

In response to Joe Jervis’ article in Redbrick: ‘After the campaign, the friction within’

As Chair of Birmingham University Labour Students (BULS), I was disappointed to read Joe Jervis’ biased and misinformed article on the ‘lackadaisical’ efforts of BULS during the recent Guild Elections campaign.

As I am sure Joe is aware, Guild regulation rules that there cannot be any BULS candidates for Guild positions, only candidates who also happen to be members of BULS. This therefore means that it is impossible for BULS to have in any way ‘failed’ to win the election.

It is also true that many BULS members, including myself, were out in force during the Guild campaign, spending many an hour knocking on doors in Selly Oak and the Vale. BULS members campaigned for many candidates, including those with other political persuasions, and were not blinkered by party politics.

Whilst it was a disappointing night for BULS, this was not a reflection of the hard work and commitment many members put into the campaign.

I wish the new Guild Officer team the very best, and whilst I struggle to understand Mark Harrop’s decision to vote Tory based on ‘foreign policy and environmental issues’, I sincerely hope that he follows on in the good work Dora Meredith has done for students at this University.

By Daniel Harrison, BULS Chair

Guild Council 16/3/11 Support HET Motion

Why this BULS member will be supporting the Holocaust Educational Trust motion to Guild Council – A response to Max Ramsey’s blog.

I empathise with the difficult task faced by anti semitism activists on campus. They are fighting a kind of discrimination that is at first hard to recognise unless you experience it and harder still to teach others to recognise.

 It’s manifestations are numerous, coloured by thousands of years of oppression. Whether this is the overtly offensive comparison of Israel to the Nazi’s designed to invoke the pain of memories only as old as some people’s grandmothers. Or the much older still references to stingy money lenders, a product of Christians not being allowed to lend to each other with interest, or even simply the old standards of being hairy and big nosed. Recognition of antisemitism and understanding of antisemitism often rests on good historical education. Recognition of the racism involved rests on recognising a semitic race apart from others when their numbers are so few in the UK.

I empathise with the task of these activists but it’s not to say that I will ever truly know their experience of antisemitism. I am a firm believer that we cannot know other’s true experience of their own oppression.

You may or may not know what it feels like to be a 23 year old lesbian in Britain today, you can learn a lot about it, but you either experience it or you don’t.

From the moment I leave my house in the morning to the moment I return my experience of life is coloured in many thousands of ways by this identity. Some of these the non-lesbian reader will be able to recognise, more of these people who suffer similar discrimination might recognise (such as black or disabled people), more I will recognise, but still there will be decisions about my character made by others, jobs I won’t apply for or bars I wait just that little bit longer to be served in, things that I won’t even notice. All things that impact on me simply because I’m a lesbian.

Discrimination is a hard thing to pin down for yourself let alone trying to educate others to recognise it.

As an activist on campus then you have some difficult choices to make. There are types of discrimination that better education has led to better recognition of, however homophobia and anti semitism are two categories of discrimination that we are far behind on. Most people today could point to a limp wristed gesture at a gay man as homophobia, however they may struggle to pinpoint the problem with straight women saying they don’t mind lesbians as long as they don’t fancy them.

Similarly most people can understand the antisemitism in stereotypes about big noses, but many fail to see the latent antisemitism in referring to Jewish activists as secretive, sneaky Zionist lobbyists.

The delicate choice is what particular piece of discrimination do I choose to target first.

How much is too much to soon? What will blow up in my face? If I raise this particular issue will the retaliative discrimination be too much for me personally? Will my actions backfire on my already too reticent community? Will I cope? Is it worth it anyway?

But you have to be brave.

Max’s question about why we should pay for one type of education over another is misplaced. When chair of the LGBTQ I had many an argument with various guild officers about getting funding for various kinds of training for LGBTQ activists. On one occasion I spent 3 hours arguing for a one day course that literally cost £10. The prevailing argument against my efforts was what would they do if BEMA, women’s, disabled, international, home etc…students came along and asked for the same. But they weren’t asking and no one was giving. This is because the guild has no proactive plan for furthering equality and diversity on campus. We can therefore in the very least actually react when discrimination presents itself and we have an opportunity to act.

 I had a conversation with a guild officer recently about how I never go to Fab’n’Fresh (the guild’s club night) apart from for results nights. I calmly explained to a shocked officer how every time I go I am aggressively verbally abused by people only too keen to get up in my personal space and point out to me I am a lesbian. This happens every time I go without fail. This is something I have told guild officers many times over the years and every time they tell me it’s a disgrace. And every time they do nothing.

This week I am at NUS Women’s Conference as our LGBT rep paid for by money raised by the Women’s Association’s doughnut sale. My varying experiences of hate because of gender and because of my sexuality apparently aren’t even worth £50 of the Guild’s money.

The motion in question asks for a lot of funding, but frankly it’s needed. Last year alone 639 incidents of antisemitism were recorded by the Community Security Trust, which when you consider the British Jewish community is estimated to be a population of no more than 350 000 and just how much hate crime is never reported, is a considerable amount. Come to think of it, I have never reported a hate crime against myself to any official recording body. The most important thing to note here though is that antisemitism is on the rise, both 2009 and 2010 were record highs since the records of the CST began in 1984.

This is not a kind of discrimination that is quietly stagnating whilst we do nothing about it, it is getting bigger and it is coming to campus.

The Holocaust Education Trust provides numerous and different approaches in it’s educational programmes. It possesses masses of resources on contemporary genocide not just the Holocaust. It plays an integral role in areas of the UK affected by racial tension seeking to educate against all kinds of racial hatred not just antisemitism.

I think also the point about paying particular attention to the Holocaust on occasion is not due to it’s proximity to the UK as Max suggested, but because there is simply no comparable example of genocide on that scale, because it was mechanised and systematic and because it was the defining and damning event of the last century.

We spend more time scrutinising every possible opportunity for progress in finding equality on campus till we end up doing nothing at all.

We stop numerous initiatives by individuals and groups in favour of a better, more multilateral, more equitable option that nobody ever offers instead. Equality will not be achieved by all, in equal measures, at the same time. This is a nice idea in theory but it is fantasy none the less.

The proposers of this motion are giving us a chance to put our money where our mouth is and be proactive, if we choose to wait for the ‘better’ proposal or for when we all think it’s ‘worth’ the expenditure, we will be waiting for something degrading, disgusting and downright dangerous to happen on campus before we do anything. That is shameful.

If you want to be part of a Guild that takes real action on equality support this motion at Guild Council.

By Emma O’Dwyer – BULS Member