On October 5 the SU held the first Union Assembly of the year, with two motions being submitted for students’ consideration and debate.
The first motion, proposed by Syd King, the Disabled Student’s Part-Time Officer (PTO), advocated for limiting police presence on campus. Activities and Culture Officer Robbie Beale followed with the second proposal, arguing for special considerations for students regarding access to public transport.
King accused the police and Student’s Union of “catastrophic misconduct”, arguing Greater Manchester Police’s (GMP’s) history of abuse – including racism, ableism, and transphobia – is incompatible with the University’s principles of equality.
35 out of 51 attendees voted in favour of the motion, with 12 voting against and 4 abstaining. Thus, the motion passed, meaning police officers will only be allowed on Students’ Union property on an invite-only basis.
Following the conclusion of the “cops off campus” debates, Beale presented his motion, proposing “Manchester students deserve special consideration regarding access to public transport”.
Arguing that the current cost of living crisis means students are in a more financially vulnerable situation, so may not be able to afford bus fares, Beale called for “student-targeted [transport] concessions” to allow Manchester’s student population “to explore new areas” and boost community integration.
He referenced a survey, conducted by the National Union of Students (NUS) in June 2022, which found 42% of 3,500 students surveyed were “cutting back on transport” due to the crisis.
His main policy proposal was a £1.50 cap on bus fares for students as well as better integration of student concessions into public transport across the city. The Greater Manchester Student Assembly (GMSA) previously petitioned Mayor Andy Burnham on this issue. Mr Burnham recently told The Mancunion he was open to the idea.
The Assembly voted overwhelmingly for Beale’s motion as 46 students agreed with the motion. The proposal only received one vote against with no abstentions.
Both motion’s passing means the Students’ Union is officially in favour of further transport reforms targeted at students and the Union is anti-police, cooperating with them only when essential.
Neither motion stipulated when these would come into force, and the police motion remained ambiguous in how this policy would function.
There was a moment of confusion when King’s police motion was put to a vote as the wording of the proposal was grammatically incorrect. Despite being a proposal, and thus a statement on an issue, the motion was phrased as a question, asking “what should the Union’s stance be on whether the police should be on campus?”.
When students voted on the motion, they were unsure as to whether they should vote “for”, meaning ‘yes, the police should be on campus’, or “against”, ‘no, the police should not be on campus’. The SU staff eventually clarified the meaning of the phrase but it was a significant kink in a night which was otherwise successfully executed.
The next Union Assembly will be held in February, with a third and final one for the 2022/23 academic year scheduled for the spring.