Sketch: Everything you got to miss at last night’s Student Council meeting
Putting the ‘fun’ in ‘fundamental democratic structures’
Student Council. Two words to strike terror into university administrators across the city of Bristol. This thrice yearly riot of ritual posturing and politicking sees heads of societies, JCR Presidents, course and faculty representatives and sports captains casting votes to decide the official SU stance on a number of motions.
Usually such 'issues' include at least one of the following: boycotts, Israel, free speech and the interminable internal wranglings of SU policy making. For the lucky seventy odd representatives who packed in to Student Council last night, all these and more were on the agenda in a veritable smorgasbord of good intentions and bad politics. Such an onerous prospect was, however, brightened by the prospect of free prosecco and pizza.
Statements from the sabbatical officers kicked off proceedings, with the only exciting moment being an invariable jab at Israel from outgoing Undergraduate Education Officer Mason Ammar. Motions from Annual Members' Meeting in February were rolled over with the assembled big wigs, BNOCs, rogues and charlatans voting to "boycott the border industry on campus" and "establish a Multifaith Network". Presided over by fourth year Hari Sood- described by one attendee as "the best Chairman since Mao"- the meeting thus moved on to the new motions.
First up, a motion for a full-time Welfare Officer. The redoubtable figure of the incoming Equality, Liberation and Access Officer Sally Patterson took to the stage to open the batting for her motion. Arguing that such a role would help better safeguard student welfare, Patterson was flanked by the incumbent Chair of the Wellbeing Network Abigail Jessop and her successor Hester Careless, concluding to a round of warm applause.
Third year physicist Cris Oehling Pascual bounded up to the platform to rebut the motion. Combining German efficiency with Spanish flair, she delivered a forensic philippic that doused cold water on her opponents and lambasted the cost of such a change. In this tag-teaming clash of the titans, motion seconder Abbie Jessop was next up to enter the fray, passionately reasoning her case for a more accountable officer and contending that at present no one officer was "fully committed" to working on improving Student Wellbeing due to wide portfolios.
For one attendee this was too much. The familiar figure of Mason Ammar returned purposefully to the stage, liberally dispensing scorn, scepticism and criticism as he ripped into the proposals. How, he asked, would such an officer be held to account for their failings when that very evening not a single student had asked a sabbatical officer a question? Tension crackled in the air; tempers began to flair as Chairman Sood was forced to intervene to reprimand Ammar for inappropriate language.
Loquacious windbag Tom Phillips cleverly, if not subtly, disguised a diatribe as a question before a show of hands ended in confusion. A secret ballot was called as eyes flicked round the room. Pens scratched, papers folded, votes counted and the numbers announced: 26 for the fulltime Welfare Officer, 56 against and 10 abstentions. Motion defeated.
Next up was the latest installment in Bristol's favourite long running drama- TERF wars. Following angry scenes at the Annual Members' Meeting in February, the issue of transmisogny was once again back on the agenda, ensuring another popcorn-worthy clash between two of the biggest box office names in SU politics- Izzy Posen and Frankie Gluščević.
Gluščević, the Co-President of the Intersectional Feminist Society, began their speech with the words "Well we're back on this again" and claimed that events with transphobic speakers directly put trans students’ safety at risk, citing the hundreds of deaths of trans individuals a year. Posen, Free Speech Society President, returned with a volley of legalistic criticism and fervent libertarian bombast. There was much talk of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act before Green Society President Alex May strolled up to the podium to back Gluščević, arguing that "there would not even have been a debate" had the motion been about any other societal group.
Asked by the audience as to why the February motion on trans rights had been blocked, a Student Trustee popped up to say that it had contravened charity law and that the new motion before the audience was now valid, having been debated for some two and a half hours. By now the audience was growing restless; a sea of orange 'Vote Now' cards were held up in a tangerine Mexican wave. Another secret ballot commenced and the motion passed by 11 votes.
With the meeting having already overrun its allotted time, Chairman Sood called a vote on continuing proceedings. With a narrow majority, the Council pressed on, with motion number three on Freedom of Information sailing through unanimously after a perfunctory speech by the plummy voiced co-President of Journalism Society. With none of the proposers present, motion number four on changing Annual Members' Meeting was withdrawn until the next Council. At last the final motion had been reached on reproductive rights: but where were the proposers?
The immortal response of "Fag break!" echoed round the room. With that Chairman Sood hastily brought proceedings to a close after two and a half heady hours. Sighs were exhaled and prosecco corks popped as the body politic of Bristol Uni gorged itself on Domino's pizza, content in the knowledge that once again that most noble ritual of student life- SU politics- had been performed to its exhausting conclusion in full.