On Wednesday 14 November, exactly one week ahead of #Demo2012, student society leaders received an email from the University of Manchester Students’ Union Activities and Development Officer, Tommy Fish.
The email explained that Silver and Gold society status – which provides societies with additional funding as well as other benefits and privileges – would be contingent on sending ten society members to #Demo2012.
It said: “In order to be sure of Silver or Gold Award, societies will need to send 10 members to buy tickets (£8.50 to London is an absolute steal!) and thus show support for the national student movement.”
We are adamant that student societies must be allowed to reserve their right to exist as politically neutral organisations. As such, we feel it is wholly inappropriate for the University of Manchester Students’ Union to hold societies to ransom by using society funding as a coercive tool to force societies to adopt particular political agendas that their members may or may not agree with.
The Union have initially responded that the email was poorly worded, and that societies will not be forced to send ten members to London for the demonstration. Instead, it has been said that it is just one of the ways in which societies can secure Silver or Gold status. We argue that attendance at #Demo2012 should play absolutely no part in this process.
Travelling to London to take part in #Demo2012 is clearly a political act, and we believe it is entirely unfair that societies whose members may not agree with the message of the demonstration should be financially penalised for their ambivalence or opposition to it. Students should not be forced to jump through political hoops in order to secure funding for their societies.
This petition does not take a position on #Demo2012 itself. Rather, it opposes the idea that endorsement of any political view – via participation in a protest or otherwise – should affect the funding of societies by the University of Manchester Students’ Union. Requiring societies to support any political movement in return for funding is simply wrong. We strongly urge the Students’ Union to reconsider.