Using motions to make change

Motions within the university have two ways of making change. The first is via motions passed in student assemblies, alongside petitions and rallies, to pressure the heads of the colleges and the university to make changes. The second is via changing the rules and regulations directly via staff motions within the governing bodies of colleges and the university. In order to make the whole university change these actions need to be done within each college as well as at the university level.

The first motion, and the easiest to pass, that student campaigns within Oxford do is common room motions. These motions passed within JCRs, MCRs, and GCRs give campaigns the ability to say that the student body of the college demands change within the college. Having the study body on the side of campaigns can give campaigns leverage to get high ranking members of the college to make change.

Within colleges there is usually a second way to make change. Each college functions differently, but colleges are usually administered by the academics and admin staff. Therefore, rules and regulations can be changed via motions presented by the staff of the college. Either staff that students know or staff that work in an area that the campaign targets, getting several key staff members on board and willing to convert other staff members will be vital if talks with high ranking members of staff break down.

If the campaign not only requires the colleges to change but also the university as a whole, SU motions can play a role in starting a dialogue with the university. Oxford SU has representatives from all of the colleges and is there to bridge a gap between students and the administration of the university. Therefore, motions passed at the SU can often get a response from the university (however poor the response is). Combining these motions with meetings with members of university, petitions, and rallies can be an effective way to lobby the university.

The last but by no means the least motion that students can do is a congregation motion. The congregation is the governing body of the university and is made up of academics and high paid admin staff. If 40 members of the congregation sign a motion it will be debated and voted on by members of staff. The battle does not end at the vote as the university’s admin staff are responsible for putting the motion into the rules and carrying it out. This is a long process that seems to be made as obtuse as possible in order to confuse those wanting to make real change within the university. However, with enough reading of the university’s rules and regulations one can understand them and pass motions that change the very core of the university.