Queen’s Student Council held their third meeting of this term on Thursday the 7th December. A cold, rainy night, nevertheless there was a great turnout (perhaps motivated by the free Domino’s pizzas). Proceedings got off to a positive start as last month’s minutes were approved with an overwhelming majority, and then two charity leaders, Paddy Corrigan of Amnesty UK and Ryan Henry of Autistic UK spoke to the audience about their charities’ respective aims and the importance of getting involved even in the smallest of ways.
Mr. Corrigan highlighted the significance of people and how together change is made; if Amnesty can show they have popular support through mass demonstrations or mass petitions, politicians are at the mercy of the opinion tide and this was demonstrated last year as to prove the public mood was in favour of equal marriage rights in Northern Ireland, Amnesty set up an online system to allow people to quickly lobby their local representatives en masse and clearly had the desired effect as only the DUP’s Petition of Concern managed to block the proposed changes to the law.
Mr. Hendry discussed the massive challenges faced by autistic people in employment, as only 1 in 4 autistic people are employed, with a massive 84% unemployed– something that needs to change and soon, as this number has remained the same since the 1990’s. As to what we can do in everyday life to help autistic people, he says to make them feel included; to understand the panic social interactions can cause them, but not to exclude them or avoid them as that does not solve any problems.
After both speakers were thanked, and the council spokesperson appropriately reminded the audience that some in attendance had sensory issues and therefore to refrain from clapping, the council moved on to the amendment to introduce an additional Full-Time Student Officer Post to be called ‘Vice President Postgraduate,’ which would aim to represent postgraduate students more fully than the part-time position currently in existence. The motion fell, however, as due to several refusals to vote the required number of members in favour was not reached. Another motion, to move future elections for certain Part-Time Student Officer positions from semester one to semester two also fell due to abstentions.
Students’ Union President, Stephen McCrystall, provided an update on the progress of the new Student Centre, as the council team had met with the design team for an informal chat and passed along some feedback and learnt that the building was to be completed by two firms, one local and one from London. He also reminded the audience that the students’ website for suggestions (studentcentre.qub.ac.uk) was taking submissions until January, and the designers were taking on feedback.
Some Student Officers gave updates on what they had been up to and what they planned for the year ahead; the Disability Student Officer highlighted the success of the ‘Disable the Label’ campaign and how the response had been overwhelmingly positive. In the future, they aim to make employment and freshers’ fairs more accessible for people with auditory and sensory issues, and also aimed to create a permanent space on campus for those with these issues. Suggestions were also made to create a network for students with sensory issues. The Part-Time Mature Student discussed her similar goal to improve accessibility and campaign to have lectures recorded to help disabled students. Finally the International Students’ Officer discussed his main objectives to increase participation of international students in the students’ union, specifically targeting non-EU international students, and to raise awareness of existing support systems for international students. He also hopes to assist sabbatical officers with projects pertaining to international students.
Three new societies were also ratified by the council; the Ireland-Palestine Society, the Handball Society, and the Orthopaedics Society. All hope to broaden the minds of Queen’s students and bring people together.
Overall the student council has had a very busy first semester and seem set to have another one; all students are welcome and encouraged to come along to the next meeting on February 15th 2018 at 5.30pm in the Space and see what the councillors are up to.
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