Cardiff Student Media goes on strike over dispute with Student Senate

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Cardiff Student Media outlets, Quench Magazine, Gair Rhydd (the student paper), Xpress Radio and CUTV have ceased all activities as of 1am on Sunday 16th November over a dispute with Cardiff Student Senate. A petition entitled ‘Help Save Cardiff Student Media’ on ipetitions.com currently has 555 signatures and explains the position of Cardiff Student Media.

The issues stemmed from the decision by the Senate to hold by-elections for the role of VP for Media and Marketing after the previous officer, Tom Eden, resigned on the 21st October 2014. In the period leading up to the resignation and the period since, Cardiff Student Media was run by its Head of Print (Michael O’Connell-Davidson) and Head of Broadcasting (Josh Edwards) in conjunction with the section heads for the individual outlets.

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Cardiff University has one of the best schools of journalism in the UK

This was seen as a preferable arrangement, as explained by a statement on Cardiff Student’s Union website from the 22nd October; “In consultation with key volunteers within Student Media, it is the Elected Officer team’s intention to leave this role vacant for the rest of the academic year.  The Officer team will take appropriate action in line with the constitution to achieve this.  Staff and Officers will be working with volunteers in Student Media to provide appropriate support to enable them to deliver and develop their activity throughout the rest of this academic year”.

Cardiff Student Media welcomed this decision as they felt nobody within Student Media could currently run in the election due to “the constraints on interruption of study (with the financial and time implications involved)”

However, despite the support of the Student’s Union Officers and Cardiff Student Media, when the motion was voted on it was not passed due to what Cardiff Student Media deemed to be “speculation and misinformation that we were not invited to address by way of representation at the meeting. This result has triggered a by-election that “nobody within student media consents to”

Michael O’Connell-Davidson, Cardiff Student Media’s Head of Print and Editor of Gair Rhydd explained to bathimpact that the strike was then deemed necessary because “the people who made this decision gave us the impression that they thought people in student media were unimportant in making decisions like this. They took to Twitter and Facebook, deriding the people who produce content on a daily basis, calling us “posh kids” and “a fucking disgrace.” There was no dialogue between us, no joint consultation, and when someone on the senate said they’d like to bring the discussion back to the senate for the motion to be reconsidered with some testimony from us and more information about why we thought this election would be so disruptive, they declined on the grounds that we “needed to accept democracy.”

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Michael O’Connel-Davidson, Cardiff Student Media’s Head of Print

He also derided the decision of the Student Senate and their approach to the debate; “One of our comment editors is a senator, and my deputy editor went down to report on the evening. The senate made this decision without speaking to anybody else, dismissing the broadcast media wings entirely, and it became quite aggressive and intimidating (those aren’t my words, either – I’ve spoken to senators since who felt like they were being pushed to vote against the motion by the loudest voices in the room). Georgia Hamer, my deputy, said that she was cut off and silenced multiple times by other senators, and they accused student media members of having an agenda”.

“Resolving the issue is pretty simple: just cancel the by-election and leave us as we were. Our structure was working just fine, something the senate has actually acknowledged on multiple occasions, which begs the question what paying someone £10,000 to administer student media would actually accomplish. We’re happy to examine accountability links between ourselves and the organisation, but a by-election is not the way forward.”

When contacted by bathimpact, Cardiff Student’s Union President Elliot Howells explained the elected officers’ position; “It is the feeling of the Sabbatical Trustees that a by-election at this stage in the year is not in the best interest of the organisation as a whole. There are various reasons for this including the disruption it would cause a well-functioning Student Media, the addition of a new member on the Board of Trustees half way through the year with little training and the fact that a student interested in running would have to sacrifice half of their studies this year with financial and academic implications”.

He also explained the Senate’s view that “students should have the option to elect the editor of the newspaper as Cardiff Student Media is there for all students and not just its volunteers and therefore, it was appropriate to run a by-election”, whilst also saying that he recognised the strike as “a legitimate means of raising concerns”.

The petition, ‘Save Cardiff Student Media’, can be viewed here.

Photo credits: DigitalParadox / Twitter

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Thomas Gane is the former Online Editor (2014-15) and bite Editor (2012-13) at bathimpact. He writes about popular culture, music, the University of Bath and both local and national politics.

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