Oxford Universiyt Student Union council is facing criticism for an “irrelevant” discussion of policies that are due to expire this term.
OUSU council annually evaluate every policy that is coming to the end of its fourth year. The policies, which are put forward by the Common Rooms and OUSU executives, are contained in the Student Union’s booklet of what OUSU believe.
The policies range from extending library opening hours to campaigning against the use of sweatshop labour in University products.
Students have been critical of this process. Jim O’Connell, Univ’s OUSU representative, has questioned the importance of the policy booklet itself commenting, “I think there’s a danger of many students seeing this kind of long-winded process as being irrelevant to their needs, especially when issues under discussion include condemnation of the Armenian Genocide, which happened nearly a century ago.”
He added, “It’s these kinds of motions that lead to the perception that OUSU wastes time and isn’t focused on the needs of students and common rooms.”
Lewis Iwu has rebuffed these arguments. He said, “You might think that Policy Lapse is unimportant, but the motions contained in this booklet were each considered and debated in Council by your predecessors; MCR Reps, JCR Reps, OUSU Exec members and delegates. I’d hope that in a few years time, people take the time to review the debates we have in Council today and I hope you take some time considering the policies in this booklet.”
Magdalen JCR president Laurence Mills also stressed the need to consider the application of OUSU policy to lives of regular students.
He said, “Whilst we only go through this process once a year, I think that there are definitely some issues that we will be debating that a lot of students won’t think are relevant, and so it is important that we reassess whether or not we are focusing on the important aspects of student life that we can be making progress on.”
One of the most controversial policies to discuss is OUSU’s pro-choice stance. Matthew Brown, the President of Oxford’s Pro-Life society has found it “strange” to “take such a definitive position” when the student union represents many individuals”.
He added, “Note OUSU also refers to its pro-choice position as a ‘campaign’ which I believe to be unhelpful language. Their position is to ‘campaign’, in the affirmative, rather than to support all students.”
Defending this position, Both O’Connell and Mills argued that OUSU’s pro-choice stance is vital to maintain. O’Connell said, “OUSU needs to be pro-choice because it has a direct and hugely important effect on welfare, because people confronted with that kind of situation need the best possible information and advice.”