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Annual Student Meeting - Student Guest Article

An account of the Annual Student Meeting on Tuesday 29 October, as written by Max Cunliffe, first-year English and Creative Writing student. 

12 November 2019

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As I enter the lecture theatre, I note that everyone is chatting and laughing, yet there is an electric excitement in the air and a clear eagerness to discuss the topics at hand. The room is filled with a hugely diverse group of students and it is great to see such representation within the Students’ Union. I’m at the Annual Student Meeting, an opportunity for students to make their voices heard and to have an impact on their experience at Queen Mary.

Many students are passionate about the motions to be discussed, with heated debates, cheers and jeers filling the room. With such important motions concerning affordable housing, climate emergency, grade protection and institutional racism it is easy to see why. 

The first motion up for debate, proposed by the Islamic Society, discusses whether the Students’ Union should lobby the University to ensure no teaching takes place from 1-2pm on Fridays so that Muslim students would not have to choose between prayer and studies. This is well-supported motion by those that attend; with great roars of support after the VP speaks and no one in opposition. The motion is passed.

The next motion concerns protecting grades during strike action, with the President of the Labour Party outlining special consideration and a percentage increase of marks. The motion passes with a clear majority.

The next motion is cause for debate with concerns around the removal of the smoking area in Library Square; non-smokers raise concerns about health due to second-hand smoke, whereas smokers worry about overcrowding the smaller smoking areas if one is removed. It raises the point that the removal of a smoking area will only encourage smoking in non-designated areas. With an even split in votes, the motion is dismissed.

Housing seems to be the next hot topic at the meeting, with two motions concerning whether the Students’ Union should lobby the University to improve accessibility to affordable student housing for undergraduates and whether the University should implement a housing guarantor scheme where it would assume liability to assist students in the case of no-payment events. The President of the Labour Society comments that housing in London is often both unaffordable and unsafe for students, and it is the University’s responsibility to provide greater accessibility. Whilst the first motion passes, a quorum count is called and debate cannot continue for the other, much to the frustration of the remaining students.

The remaining motions are to be discussed at Student Council on 19 November. I left the lecture theatre with mixed feelings, the motions debated were exhilarating, but the early finish meant many important motions were undebated. It raises the question, what can be done to increase student awareness of the importance of having their say?

 

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