A motion requesting official support of Extinction Rebellion was passed at the University of Manchester Students Union Senate on 7thFebruary. Achieving a majority backing of 68%, barely above the 66% threshold required to pass a Senate motion.
The direct action climate change pressure group gathered widespread attention last November after protestors managed to halt traffic outside of the SU, with eight arrested after another protest on Oxford Street, Manchester.
One of those arrested was Students’ Union Activities Officer, Lizzy Haughton, on the charge of “wilfully obstructing the highway”, which she denies and is due to stand trial in April.
Arguments for passing support for the motion included a view that Extinction Rebellion’s interventions are a necessity after government failings to correctly address environmental concerns.
Concerns about Haughton’s motion were raised by Sara Khan, the Liberation and Access Officer. Khan explained that, due to the movement’s alleged encouragement of members to get arrested, the movement could not be viewed as being fully inclusive.
While this mission might work for those hailing from a “white, middle-class background”, Khan expressed doubt it would resonate as well with people from minority groups, such as the trans and BAME communities, who “don’t have such a cosy time in jail cells” and historically “encounter police violence”.
Further justifications for opposing the motion included viewing the movement as lacking “political substance”, with a grounding in legislative aims beyond demands to get arrested.
The SU also passed a motion to support a ‘yes’ vote in the UCU ballot for strike action, scraping by with 67% in favour. The issue has been discussed previously at many Senates and continues to be a widely debated area.
International Students Officer, Riddi Viswanathan, pledged support by stating: “I believe it is extremely important we support this motion.” It is a motion widely supported by the NUS and, to a lesser extent, by the SU.
Other motions included the university taking on the plastic pledge, thereby aiming to become ‘greener’, which was supported by an overwhelming 98% of the vote.
95% voted in favour of the SU supporting EU and EEA students in relation to Brexit, although Viswanathan highlighted that there was a lack of legal and immigration expertise and resources in the SU to offer any level of support.
A motion of no confidence in the NUS president Shakira Martin was defeated, despite 50% voting in favour.