By Patrick Sullivan, Co-Editor-in-Chief, and Ellie Brown, News Subeditor
280 student leaders attended the SU democratic event, with lengthy debates on Freshers’ Fair accessibility, the University’s links with the defence sector, as well as whether beef and lamb products should be sold on campus.
At the first Student Council meeting of the year on 21 November, nine motions were passed but one titled ‘Climate Crisis & Food: Ban Beef and Lamb, and Introduce a Dairy Tax’ failed to become a Bristol SU policy as it lost by ten votes. It was the only motion not to be passed.
SU Living Officer George Bemrose proposed the motion, telling the audience that personal greenhouse gas emissions could be ‘cut by 85 per cent’ if beef and lamb we omitted from a student’s diet. The University of Bristol were the first university to declare a climate emergency in April.
The present student leaders then voted 87 for the motion and 97 against in the tightest margin of the evening. 11 voters abstained.
On the decision, George Bemrose said: ‘Of course I believe in this motion, but evidently the students aren’t currently in favour of this change. I’m keen to work further with the Sustainability department at the University and run an awareness around the connection of food to the climate crisis.’
Robert Porter, President of Bristol University Conservative Association, opposed the motion and said: ‘I am really pleased that this motion has not passed. It would have robbed students not just of their cash but also their choice over what foods they eat. It would have disproportionately affected first-year students in catered halls who rely on university catering for the majority of their meals.
‘It is great that people choose to cut out meat due to environmental considerations, but it is not for them to impose their views on all students. People should be allowed to maintain their freedom of choice about how they choose to practice, or not, reducing their meat consumption.’
Elsewhere, the nine other motions of the evening were passed. This included introducing Equalities Reps for all societies, supporting climate strikes, and a narrow success for a motion titled ‘Let’s Disarm Bristol!’. That means it is now SU policy to lobby the University to end ties with companies, such as GKN and BAE Systems, that work in the defence industry supplying military operations in countries ‘such as Syria and Yemen’.
It was proposed by Syirah Ami, Women’s Network Chair and third year Aerospace student, who complained about ‘getting emails every week from these companies’ and said she wants to ‘raise awareness among students to what these companies actually are’. Two other aerospace engineering students, including AeroSoc President Ben Sheppard, and an electrical engineering student raised concerns about the course losing ‘its competitive advantage’ while supporting the idea of improved awareness.
A motion on the accessibility of Freshers' Fair caused an otherwise timely proceeding, chaired by Abbie Jessop, to be disrupted by a ten minute break during the priority motion after a series of unexpected amendments.
The original motion was about changing the event from a Friday to allow later year Medicine, Dentistry, and Veterinary students to attend while on work placements. Nina Freedman, JSoc President, opposed the action to move it to Saturday because it would prohibit the involvement of Jewish students honouring their Sabbath.
After further discussion of Muslim students’ current lack of praying facilities on the Friday date this year and even the idea of running over two days, four amendments were made without argument and no day of the week specified before the motion passed.
Meanwhile, two high profile student campaigns received support for their motions. Ruth Day from Cut the Rent saw voters back her proposal for a student-led housing cooperative, citing working examples in Birmingham, Sheffield, and Edinburgh.
A legal fund for Sanctuary Scholars for those refugee or asylum-seeking students will now also be set up. The initial amount Bristol SU will contribute was amended, however, from £1200 to £500 and then £250 annually after SU Officers Julio Mkok and Hillary Gyebi-Ababio spoke about how any money would have to come from the SU's general campaigns fund of £6000. This amount is split annually between projects such as This Girl Can and Black History Month.
A full list of motion and results can be found below.
1. Give Volunteers a Voice - PASSED
3. Byelaw and Articles of Association changes - PASSED
4. Move the Welcome Fair to a time accessible to all - PASSED (AMENDED)
5. Support Student Housing Cooperatives - PASSED
6. Support the Student Climate Strikes - PASSED
8. Sanctuary Scholarship Legal Fund - PASSED (AMENDED)
9. Ensuring Inclusive and Safe Student Groups - PASSED (AMENDED)
11. Bristol SU to run an official Global Health short course - TO BE DISCUSSED AT AMM
Featured image: Epigram / Siavash Minoukadeh
Are you happy with the new SU policies voted in? Let us know!