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13th November 2017

Senate roundup: Academy venue to honour Malcolm X

The second Student Union Senate of the Council Chambers was delivered last Thursday

Academy 2 is to be renamed Academy X in honour of the African-American civil rights activist.

Other motions that passed through the second Senate Thursday 9th October were to  campaign to close all detention centres, to only use environmentally friendly straws in the union and to make the union halal. Campaigns Officer Deej Malik-Johnson proposed all four motions.

Alex Tayler, General Secretary, opened the evening by celebrating the Union becoming a living-wage employer, thus making it one of the only universities that have taken this policy on board.

Tayler went on to  that only as little as 429 people voted in the All Student Referendum (less than 1.5 per cent) and that improvements to the voting system and promotion of the election needed to be considered so that a greater number of people would vote in future referendums.

All four motions passed with over 70 per cent positive vote. The first to be proposed was the closure of detention centres. Deej Malik-Johnson said that detention centres were, “somewhere in-between concentration camps and prisons” and proposed that “the Union campaigns for the detentions to be closed by students”, thus helping campaigns because there won’t be any society-related budget restrictions.

The next proposal focussed on changing the name of Manchester Academy Two to Academy X, where civil rights leader El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, better known as Malcolm X, spoke two months before he was assassinated. This came after Lashley-Johnson had stated that ‘”here is a Turing building, one that is named after Pankhurst, so why not Malcolm X, [he] has made just as much of an impact as the others have, he was a great civil rights leader.”

An attendee to the election questioned whether X’s work for the Nation of Islam renders him an inappropriate figure to name Academy 2 after, and some suggested that a plaque in his honour should just be placed there instead. Finally, a suggestion was made as to whether an online poll could be made with a list of influential figures, with the student voting which one is chosen. The proposal however passed with no amendments made.

When asked what he though of the change, General Secretary Alex Tayler said “it was an interesting motion and, though I don’t know enough about Malcolm X to be completely sure, on balance I decided to vote in favour of it.”

In response to this, an English Language student, Sophie Billington, told The Mancunion: ” I’m all for the relevance of representation when there are the right kinds of motivations behind it, because I think that as long as these motivations are made public and clear, aesthetic changes such as this name change can hold a lot of meaning.

“However, this is the first that I’ve even heard of the idea of a name change. The Students’ Union is meant to represent the views of the student body, and I don’t like the idea that a few select people who are meant to be aware of that, haven’t worked to make sure that a move like this is something that the vast majority of the student body wants.”

David Uncle, third year Geography student, described the re-naming of the building as “rather bewildering” and questioned the Students’ Union didn’t “go for someone from Manchester.”

He also suggested that Malcolm X “was a racist himself against white people, which kind of defeated his own principles and conflicted with the work of Martin Luther King Junior.”

It was then proposed that single-use plastic straws should be banned from the Student Union. In replacement, paper straws should be used and it is the Unions ‘policy to promote environmental sustainability’, however if voted for, the board of trustees would have to discuss potential trading and cost effective methods to make sure this policy would be put in place.

Finally, the last motion of the evening, Make the Union Halal, was again proposed by Deej Lashley-Johnson, stating that a fair amount of the meat served in the Union is Halal but is incorrectly labelled and that it should be served by it should be clarified which meat is which.

An individual from the floor questions if the policy can be extended for Jewish students who only eat Kosher foods. Deej Lashley-Johnson has stated that as much as it would be ideal to have that policy at the Union, it must be cooked in a separate kitchen and with different cutlery, thus making it harder to fund this kind of policy. However, the union are working hard at making this a future possibility.

Lashley-Johnson then summarised by confirming that any halal meat sourced by the union would be certified as not being stunned before the animal was killed — the policy was passed with 38 for and three against.

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