University of Warwick Students' Union
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2008)|
|Institution||University of Warwick|
|Location||Gibbet Hill Road, Coventry, England|
Maahwish Mirza (Education Officer)
|Affiliations||National Union of Students, Aldwych Group, National Postgraduate Committee, British Universities & Colleges Sport, National Bureau for Students With Disabilities|
The Students' Union developed in tandem with the University and has existed since 1965. In its first few decades, it was heavily involved with the protests, rent strikes, and occupations which earned the University the nickname of 'Red Warwick.' In 1974 one Warwick student Kevin Gately was killed during the Red Lion Square disorders. More recently, in 2009, many Students' Union officers were active in the occupation of a lecture theatre in the Social Studies (S0.21) building to express solidarity with Gaza.
One of its on-campus successes was its campaign for its own building, which finally succeeded in 1975 after lengthy opposition from large parts of the University establishment. Some of its early activism was carried out in partnership with sympathetic elements of the academic staff of the university, with one incident being chronicled in the book Warwick University Ltd., edited by the eminent historian E. P. Thompson.
The Union is also a shareholder in the NUS Services Ltd (NUSSL).
In 2011, the Union passed a boycott against American rum manufacturer, Bacardi, for their role in promoting terrorism against the Cuban state. This was the cause of much controversy, in particular directed at the governance of the Students' Union. Like many students' unions across the United Kingdom, policy-making powers were in the hands of elected representatives in Student Council. In an unusual intervention in student democracy, the Board of Trustees rejected the boycott on Bacardi due to "undue legal and financial risk." The boycott was then debated at a General Meeting and a referendum, which resulted in the policy's ultimate passage.
In a second referendum in 2013, the Bacardi boycott, alongside several other boycotts, were voted down. This second vote came after proposals to make all boycotts subject to the two-year lapse that other policy receives, but directing all renewals to the All-Student Meeting process.
Over the course of 2010/2011 and 2011/2012, Democracy Officer Chris Luck initiated a Democracy Review. This was accelerated after the controversy regarding the boycott of Bacardi. The Democracy Review was concluded in May 2012, when Chris Luck announced a series of changes, including a change to the structure of the sabbatical officer team, and to the process of passing policy.
The following year, the Democracy Review was criticised because of a perception that it was not adequately publicised and not enough consultation had been had. Over the course of the two years after the Democracy Review, the positions of International Students Officers, Ethics & Environment Officer and Part-time and Mature Students Officer were all created, as well as the position of Medical Faculty Representative doubling to reflect curricular changes. The Campaigns Convention, which used to elect 3 councilors to the Union Council, was also disbanded and these councilor positions reallocated across year groups.
In spite of criticism, the All Student Meetings created by the Review, which include a video-recorded debate and week-long campaigns, have increased turnout at these votes. 4 of the 7 meetings at the time of writing have received votes from over 1000 students, with one receiving over 1,800 votes. Union Council, conversely, has remained source of controversy, with a large rift emerging between officers in Summer 2014 over the functioning of Council.
This has carried on in 2015, with a meeting being closed prematurely. An independent inquiry was called after this meeting, to investigate the violations of safe space at this meeting.
In 2015, Union veteran Miguel Costa Matos passed a proposal to initiate a second Sabbatical Officer Review, which is currently ongoing.
In the Autumn of 2011, Warwick Students' Union passed policy against tuition fees which stated its position in defence of free education. Free Education has been a demand of the student movement for many years, including the National Union of Students until its former Vice-President of Education and President, Wes Streeting, led the charge against such a policy. While the demand for free education has since returned, Warwick Students' Union adopted the position shortly after the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government's proposal to treble tuition fees to an unprecedented £9,000.
The policy has since been a central characteristic of campaigning at Warwick. The Labour club at the University, whose members were behind the original policy proposal, have been at the heart of policy renewals ever since, and proudly boast a free education policy within their own club, in spite of national party policy consisting only of reducing tuition fees to £6,000.
In October 2014, a campaign group emerged called Warwick for Free Education to increase campaigning on this issue. This followed a groundswell of support for free education, in anticipation of the 2015 general election, and after NUS returned to its policy of free education. The campaign group participated in a national demonstration in London on 19 November. The 10,000 strong demonstration included a Warwick contingent of almost 100 students, which broke a record of many years of mobilisation for national demonstrations.
The group rose to prominence after a peaceful sit-in at the University's Senate House was violently broken up by police. This led to a demonstration attended the following day by over 1,000 people, and opinion articles by leading national commentators, including Owen Jones. The backlash from this included an independent investigation by the police watchdog, Independent Police Complaints Commission, as well as a summit on peaceful protest, which was informed by a University-wide survey.
The summit itself resulted in great controversy, as a result of Students' Union President, Cat Turhan, refusing to say that the University failed in its duty of care - which she later apologised for - and Nigel Thrift, Vice-Chancellor of the University, calling students yobs. This came after Miguel Costa Matos and Callum Cant passed a historic Vote of No Confidence in Sir Nigel Thrift. This and long-standing campaigns against the fast rise of Nigel Thrift's pay led to University Registrar, Ken Sloan, commenting that Thrift had been victim to a campaign of targeted intimidation, which the campaign group promptly denied.
Students' Union building
The Union consists of Union South (largely food, drink and entertainment) and Union North (mostly administration, offices and meeting rooms).
The Students' Union got its first building, Union South, in 1975, after a long struggle with the University under Vice-Chancellor Jack Butterworth, who said to Will Fitzgerald (President of the Union in 1970-1): "the Students' Union will never have its own building." Union North was added in the 1990s and, until recently, was linked to Union South by the 'link corridor.'
Union South rebuild
The Union South building underwent a £11 million refurbishment in spring 2008, which was completed in January 2010. The new facilities included a club and gig venue, , The Copper Rooms, a pub, The Dirty Duck, a sandwich bar, The Bread Oven, a drinks bar, The Terrace Bar, a tea room, Curiositea, branches of Santander and Barclays banks, a pharmacy, a travel agent, spaces for societies and a pool room.
The Union has four subsidiary companies:
- Student Union Services Warwick Limited (Registered company number: 02197761)
- Membership Solutions Limited (Registered company number: 05525449)
- Warwick Students Union Services Limited, (Registered company number: 01187495) (mostly dormant and retained due to contracts held in its name)
- Students' Union Warwick Events Limited (Registered company number: 06371766)
In the style of the University of Warwick itself, the Union has an entrepreneurial strategy. Unlike many other British universities, which have privatized halls of accommodation and catering facilities, Warwick provides all of these in-house through its many subsidiaries. With Warwick SU, the entrepreneurial strategy is manifest through Membership Solutions Limited, an IT company that currently provides website and other solutions for membership organisations across the UK. In recent years, it has been at fierce competition with NUS Digital, a competitor IT company launched by the National Union of Students.
- The Boar. "Welcome to your new Union — News — The Boar". Theboar.org. Retrieved 26 December 2010.
- "WebCHeck". Wck2.companieshouse.gov.uk. Retrieved 26 December 2010.