Online GMs? No Thanks!

The University of Manchester Student’s Union is currently holding a referenda on moving general meetings online, this is some gumph I wrote for StudentDirect arguing against the proposals. I had only been given 300 words, so forgive its shortness.

General meetings are far from perfect, but the proposals that the “Yes” side of the online GM debate are putting forward fail to address the real problems with general meetings and may indeed make things a lot worse. They argue that if we shift the debates from Wednesday afternoon and put them online, that we will see and increase in participation due to the students that are currently locked out from attending on Wednesday afternoons, either from being on placement or by playing sports, turning up. The simple fact is that the thousandsof students who are available to attend GMs on Wednesday afternoons aren’t turning up, and this isn’t because the debates aren’t online,but because the politics of the student union are irrelevant and alienating to the average student. Now don’t get me wrong, the fact that the meetings are at a time that stops students with university commitments from attending is terrible, but solvable by moving the debates to the evening where students can have a genuine choice whether to attend meetings or not.

The idea that we will see an increase in meaningful participation in the union by removing the most distinct and recognisable form of democracy from the union itself is frankly absurd, and backed up by the fact that our voter turnout dropped when we moved the elections for sabbatical officers online a few years back.

Democracy is more about ticking “yes” or “no”, but about getting actively involved. The proposals put forward decrease the quality and quantity of the debate; removing the opportunity for a student to stick their hand up in a meeting and spontaneously contribute to the discussion within the meeting itself, and remove many of the democratic processes that are essential to a balanced debate.

Participation in your union is about more than just ticking a box – vote NO to online general meetings and demand a democratic


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