Money, sex and safety were all on the agenda of the Students’ Union 2008 Annual General Meeting (AGM). The meeting, held on November 27th, ended without the drama of last year’s meeting where there was a mass walkout with three motions left to be discussed. However, the comparatively harmonious meeting still contained moments of tension and entertainment for the 190 students in attendance.

The meeting began with the usual formalities followed by reports from SRC President Dom Passfield, SRC Vice President Katy Phillips, and Sports President Lily Priggs. The activities report was shown to the audience through a pre recorded video, with Activities President Alice Bouquet preferring a visit to the war torn West Bank than braving the AGM.

By the end of the lengthy reports it was clear that the restless students in attendance were more interested in the motions that they were here to put forward and debate. 

The first motion put forward was on the subject of cost effective transport, something close to the hearts and wallets of most UWE students. Speaker and vice president of UWE Skydiving, James Howland put forward motions which would affect clubs and societies at UWE when planning trips where long travel times were involved. He suggested that the Union allow short hall flights be used when necessary by clubs and societies, taking into account cost and carbon footprint.

Tom Ramplin, in the first of his multiple appearances at the meeting, argued that the second point be removed from the motion. Howland denied this amendment arguing that the whole point of the motion was that clubs and societies be allowed to use air travel if it was “common sense.” The amendment was then put to a vote and rejected by the majority of those in attendance. 

Despite an impressive debate between both groups the motion was carried in what turned out to be a narrow vote.

The second motion to be put forward saw two Presidents come to blows over the suggestion that sports facilities be a ‘priority’ on the new Frenchay development on the HP land adjacent to the campus.

Speaking for the motion, Paul Fleming, expressed his  annoyance of having to use the facilities at sports Bristol University over the last four years because UWE’s are not up to scratch.  He continued criticising the facilities at UWE pointing out that 28 out of the 39 of sports clubs do not have sufficient facilities and that the 70 acres of land that UWE has invested in is a perfect opportunity to change the situation.

SRC President Dom Passfield spoke passionately against the motion arguing that if it were any good “it would talk about listening and consulting the entire university.” He added that if sport was to be taken as a priority, other areas such as a new Student Union building and library facilities would suffer.

He also defended the current facilities telling all in attendance: “The Centre for Sport, while it may not be up to 100% standard is the latest investment on this campus. The entire project including the student village cost £80 million quid together, it’s had its investment. For anyone who’s been in their library recently you know how much our libraries need investment.”

This prompted Sports President Lily Priggs to fight back, arguing that it was “ridiculous” to suggest that learning wouldn’t be a priority. She continued, stressing that the lack of recreational facilities needed to be addressed using the example of that the gym in the Centre for Sport has 4000 members but only an 80 person capacity.

After speeches from both presidents the tension in the room was at its height as the vote was cast. In another close call the motion fell, much to the disappointment of many sportsmen and women in attendance.

The following motions passed without debate; Ben Kelly won his case for better access for disabled students at UWE and women’s rugby player Jennifer O’Neil seeing her call for equal quality of facilities and better promotion of women’s sports at UWE passed without objection.

The hot topic of initiations was also discussed following the NUS proposition earlier this year to ban the ceremonies from all universities. Netballer, Gaby Pratten argued against this saying that the move would be “completely impractical and outdated” and would put students in danger by “driving [initiations] underground.” Following a heated debate the motion was passed and the SU will take this to debate at the next NUS conference.

Another motion passed has called for better Ulink services for those who need to travel between Gloucester Road and Fishponds. In an interview with the Western Eye since the AGM, Travel Planner Steve Ward has said he is looking to expand services next year.

Safety at Glenside also came under scrutiny as a motion passed calling for the SU to lobby the University for 24 hour Campus Security.

The final two motions scheduled to be debated were put forward by Tom Ramplin. In the first he argued that the SU should throw its support behind a climate change day of action in London on 6th December by providing subsidised coach transport to the event. The potential hypocrisy of the motion was pointed out by student turned stand-up comedian Daniel Keogh who said the move would be “about as effective as celebrating celibacy by having a mass orgy ” and that far more productive things could be done to combat climate change by “riding your bike, eating vegetarian or holding in your farts.” The motion was rejected by a majority vote.

The most widely anticipated about motion was saved until last as Ramplin again took to the stage, this time to fight against sexism on campus. He was clearly riled with the way the SU had publicised the event with posters featuring a woman in a bikini: “I was rather disgusted when I got on to campus today to find that [the AGM] was being publicised with ‘they’re attacking our lad’s mags and we’re not going to get our soft-core pornography anymore.’”

He then called for the union to take sexism seriously by removing certain publications from the SU as a” symbol” saying that it was “hypocritical” to be profiting out of publications that are “derogative” of women.

After this it came as a shock to those in attendance when Ramplin said he would agree to omit his point about magazines from his otherwise less contentious motions. After going to a vote it was decided that the SU would support events around International Women’s Day and proactively publicise the SU’s ‘safe spaces’ policy, but not remove certain magazines from SU shops.

Two final motions rushed in the end of the meeting which were both passed without debate. Kenan Tarjurman explained their need for better facilities in which to practice their faith at UWE. The first called for larger prayer rooms and the second involved campaigning for better wash facilities for these prayer rooms.

After these motions were passed people began to filter out as more questions were put to the presidents. Many seemed tired after a long an entertaining mass debate at the AGM. Some student shave voiced in the past that it is not constructive to have a single meeting a year where all the big issues can be debated. For this reason Dom Passfield announced he will conduct individual forums on hot topics like travel in the New Year.