Mass meeting challenge

14 October 1969

This article, from today’s Guild Gazette, documents the growing debate about the role that mass meetings should play in Guild decision-making:

The main argument in the unofficial mass meeting of Guild last Wednesday [8 October] began after Mr Jack Straw had given his speech and left.

The lady chairman, Deputy President Caroline Farmer, then announced that a motion had been proposed that ‘this meeting would prefer mass meetings to Guild Council’.

Mr Swingler declared that “the individual student has no say in the running of student affairs and feels no sense of participation.  Each student belongs to an A Society, which elects a representative to the Guild Council – which only meets twice per term, which is sheer folly!”

Mr Swingler then alleged that Guild Council spent 80% of its time discussing what he termed ‘trivia’ such as the price of chips or the lighting in the hall. […]

“Representatives, once elected, are there for their own point of view, not their society’s views, and do not report back to their societies, so no-one knows what goes on,”  he argued.

Mr Swingler then described his attempts to bring to general notice the slums owned by the University in Vine Street, on which, he alleged, “the University spent nothing, but instead built a new Senate building costing over £600,000”.  Mass meetings were held, and … expressed approval of action supporting the tenants, but nothing could be done.  The Guild Council had met some weeks before and no further meetings were held.

“We are classed together according to our subjects, and voting tends to follow the same pattern.  We are all equal members and ought to have an equal say in what goes on – no-one knows what to do to influence policy decisions, even if they know any policy exists,” stated Mr Swingler, his remarks emphasised by roars of agreement from the meeting.

In conclusion Mr Swingler asked: “Are we going to stick to this University or care about things going on in Liverpool itself, such as tenants’ troubles and redundant workers?”

Mr Sandy Macmillan, President of the Union, opposed the motion strongly. […]

“A mass meeting of 700 people represents only 10% of the student body, but the 70 people on Guild Council represent the opinions of 7000 students, and therefore their decisions must count.

“How can 7000 people be collected together in a suitable place and controlled?” he asked.  “Conduct of the meeting would be extremely difficult.  Every single committee meeting is open for all to go along.”  Mr Macmillan said he gave his full support to the representative system.

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Author: Gerry

Retired college teacher living in Liverpool, UK.

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