first_imgEmma Norris, Presidentof the Uni­versity’s Student Union (OUSU), has been accused of abusing herposition to prevent the forthcoming “Students for Students” referendum. AlexYoung, an ex-Returning Officer of the Unionand one of the leading proponents of the the referendum, said “OUSU as aninstitution, and Norris in particular, have done their level best to preventthis referendum even from reaching the ballot box.” Young accuses Norris ofimproperly trying to sway the decision of an OUSU Junior Tribunal. The tribunalconvened last Thursday (3 November) to decide whether the referendum could goahead or not. The tribunal was attended by Young, OUSU’s Returning Officer, sixtribu­nal members and Norris, who took minutes. According to Young, “emmaNorris exploited the OUSU constitu­tion to turn up to the Junior Tribunal ‘totake minutes’, and then proceeded to attempt to exercise improper influ­enceover the tribunal and sway the panel members against me.”Norrisdescribed this accusation as “absolute rubbish”, adding that “I can’t bebothered to be drawn into this pointless bitching.” She insisted that she didnot try to influence the panel, and said: “The only point at which I did speakwas to ask for clarification of a few points made, so I could minute them correctly.”However, one mem­ber of the tribunal, who asked not to be named, said thatNorris “made re­peated interjections and was acting as if she was a member ofthe tribunal. If she was there to observe she shouldn’t have said anything atall.”Youngsaid that following his depar­ture from the room, “Norris muscled in onproceedings. Fortunately for de­mocracy the room the tribunal was in had glasswindows.” To prevent what Young considers Norris’ unconstitu­tional behaviour,he held up a piece of paper against the glass, on which he had written, “Why istalking so much?” The tribunal was called follow­ing the submission of apetition for the “Students for Students” referendum. The OUSU Returning Officerinitially refused the referendum because the petition was handed in one hourand twenty minutes after the noon deadline. Young said that “they cited somevague rules in their Swiss cheese constitution. They were looking for excuses.”Youngbrought the Returning Offic­er to the tribunal to repeal the decision, withfive out of the six members voting to overrule the decision, thereby allow­ingthe referendum to go ahead. The Returning Officer then told Charlie Steel, amember of OUSU’s part time executive who proposed the “Students for Students”motion, that the peti­tion was three signatures short of the 500 needed. Steelwent through the list with the Returning Officer and even­tually 511 signatureswere validated. “We feel like they’re throwing up every single possibleobstacle,” said Steel.Lastweek the Returning Officer fined Steel £25 for speaking to Cher­well whilestill a candidate for the part time executive, a breach of OUSU regulations.The motion in question, which will be up for referendum next Thursday, states:“OUSU should have no policy on issues which do not di­rectly affect Oxford students in theircapacity as students unless approved by a majority of common rooms affiliatedto OUSU.”Norrishas visited several JCR meet­ings to speak about the potential draw­backs ofthe “Students for Students” campaign. She is also one of three offi­cialcampaign agents for the “No” cam­paign, which will run against the mo­tion. Shesaid, “I am in a good position to outline exactly how this referendum willaffect the students. If I strongly believe this would detrimentally affectstudent representation, it is my duty to let students know.”Sheexplained that “such a motion would have to be passed though rough­ly 16 JCRsand 16 MCRs – a total of about 32 common rooms. This would take considerablylonger than just bringing a motion to OUSU Council.” Steel says that his motionwould re­duce the distance between OUSU and the students they represent. “Theaim of the referendum is to make OUSU truly representative of student views andto prevent clique views being im­posed in the name of the majority.” Heexplained that “OUSU just wouldn’t be able to pass a motion in the name ofevery single Oxfordstudent without consulting all the JCRs. We want some sort of practical directconsultation with the student body.”Norrissaid “Who is going to define what a ‘student as a student’ issue is?… OUSU isthere to represent students on the issues that matter to them – ALL of theissues that matter to them.” Young dismissed this, saying “common sense has toprevail. Manifestly something will either affect students or not.”ARCHIVE: 5th week MT 2005last_img

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