Opinion | Bristol SU, sticking its nose where it doesn't belong


By Cecil E. Khayat, First year, Classics

Tempus fugit, and already it seems that the SU’s parade of ‘democratic’ events are upon us once more. A forum for issues of paramount importance to the student body- new and old alike. Yet, it seems to me, and I’m sure to many- that this seemingly hallowed event is but a farcical circus run by the SU to espouse its vile, moralising, virtue signalling.

One would hope that the esteemed members of this sophist boule would draw up a range of issues pertaining to the academic and social lives of the Bristol student body. Have a pressing motion? Send it off to the Council and surely, they’ll debate it to the very end. Sadly not. As ever the Council has spent itself compiling a list of superficial and irrelevant motions- or proposals that are merely designed to satiate the ever-growing grandstanding itch of certain members of student leadership.

In the 8thweek of the University’s calendar we are having a uniquely important event- the Student Council | Epigram / Sabrina Miller 

I ask you merely to look at previous instances of the SU’s ‘democratic’ shambles. At the previous AMM (Annual Members Meeting) the order paper contained a particularly inflammatory topic of discourse, a ‘thinly-veiled anti-Israel motion’ that called on the University to boycott Israel, its companies, products, and services. Whilst this motion certainly highlights the SU’s inherently off-colour views on world politics, there is a more insidious issue at hand.

Such things as the AMM and the student council should be for academic and social issues for students, not a platform for political chauvinism. Yet, through these incendiary motions- that cause acrimony and a bitter aftertaste among fellow students- these events drone on to the point where one or two motions are debated, and all others are ignored. Even worse is that all this controversy is moot, for often the meetings fail to meet quorum criteria, meaning that these motions- ill-guided or not- are not adopted, rolling over to the next meeting for ratification.

‘But those were times of yore!’ I hear you exclaim, dear reader. Surely the new SU team and incoming chairs of committees will not err on the same path as their mistaken predecessors. ‘Surely not!’ you all proclaim. With great regret, I cannot report to you that the ‘democratic’ process has taken a better path. As I glance over the agenda for the student council meeting, I look with dread and think, ‘meet the new SU team, same as the old SU team’.

Meet the new SU team, same as the old SU team | Courtesy of Bristol SU 

Now, let us turn to the SU’s darker purpose. The SU’s anti-business, anti-innovation, and pro-regression motion to lobby the University against conducting joint research projects with leading organisations of the engineering industry.  

It is the desire of elements of student leadership to cut ties with BAE Systems, GKN, Aselsan, and Leonardo. All companies who carry out- and pay for- research at the University’s facilities. These sections of student leadership protest the drying up of funding in study areas outside the engineering faculty, a noble complaint. So, what is their response? To burn a bridge that brings, by the motion’s own admission, forty-million pounds worth of revenue to Universities. A course of action that amounts to something far worse than butchering our noses to spite our faces.

Furthermore, the motion openly concedes to the innumerable benefits such ties have on Bristol engineering students, such as career fairs, research innovation, and perhaps most importantly the employability such ties bring to Bristol students. Further, the motion seeks to support ‘To support any student movement against arms trade links in the University of Bristol’, a blanket check to all sorts of organisations which could certainly see the SU in hot water. Must the SU support a gilets jaunes-esque organisation which would see raucous organisations take advantage of such a call to action.

As ever the Council has spent itself compiling a list of superficial and irrelevant motions- or proposals that are merely designed to satiate the ever-growing grandstanding itch of certain members of student leadership.

I stand and watch in utter horror at these luddites running around the University, rounding up the printing presses and destroying them. I despair at the image of these agitators locking up the factories, and dismantling assembly lines. As they are putting technological progression and innovative research to a halt, I- and all those who believe in progressivism and invention- are reduced to spectators as we see the modern world razed to the ground. It may seem, on first looking, valiant to oppose these companies for the unintended consequences of arms research.

Students engaging with the Bristol students union | Courtesy of Bristol SU 

Yet, all good things come with negatives, and we should certainly strive to mitigate such negative externalities- but not by putting the entire industry to the sword, but through a measured approach that looks at the realities of the world.

Did you like any of the motions being discussed at this student council?


Cecil E. Khayat

Somewhat verbose classicist infatuated with all things antiquity, satorial, and political. I can often be found pouring over some quaint piece of literature or The Times. ό τού δεμου άνθρωπός.