Students' Council celebrates Thatcher's death
Tuesday, April 9 2013
Students’ Council passes motion to celebrate Margaret Thatcher’s death with a movie night.
The Students’ Council of University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) passed a motion this afternoon to ‘celebrate unreservedly’ the death of Margaret Thatcher.
The motion was brought by Left Action Students’ Councillor Patrick Alves. It included the condemnation of Thatcher’s support for right-wing dictators like Pinochet and Suharto, her violent crushing of British mining strikes and asked for the a screening of Ken Loach’s documentary film Which side are you on? to ‘continue the celebration’.
When asked for clarification on what constituted a ‘celebration’, head of the Left Action ticket Jade Eckhaus told Farrago that the motion referred to both a symbolic and literal celebration.
“A series of actual parties are already happening around the world, held by people that have always worked against what she stood for,” Eckhaus said.
“It’s important that the real legacy of Thatcher is out there,” Alves told Farrago on the rationale of the motion.
However, he expressed surprise that the motion was won by two votes this afternoon. “We knew it would be controversial [to suggest the Student Union celebrate her death], but you could say we were a bit surprised that it passed. Happy, but surprised,” he said. The motion was met with audible derision and laughter in the council room.
Four students’ councillors abstained from voting despite several voices speaking out in the meeting room against the ‘celebration of death’ portion of the motion.
Students’ Councillor Matthew Lesh voted against the proposal, and condemned the passing of the vote on Twitter.
“This is politicking in its lowest form,” Lesh told Farrago. “Celebrating someone’s death shows disrespect to them and their family, and I didn’t expect it to pass.”
“Students would be shocked that a council, which is elected by such a small percentage of voters but that represents all students, are putting up such extreme political views,” said Lesh.
“I hope the average student is more reasonable than this,” he continued.
In accordance with the motion, UMSU President Kara Hadgraft has posted an official statement on the UMSU website, upholding the demands of the motion. The statement can be found here.
Farrago asked students whether they felt represented by the Council’s decision.
“I have zero fondness for Thatcher, but the vitriolic response to her death has been pretty disgusting. I don’t really support the whole ‘don’t speak ill of the dead’ thing, but she still deserves some kind of grace period,” said student Bonny Ross.
“It’s absolutely disgusting and intolerable, but indicative of the tone of our student politics and therefore not wholly unexpected,” said Nick Fabbri on Facebook.
Alves remained firm in his political convictions despite widespread the distaste of students. “We [Left Action] were elected as a left wing party, and we continue to represent the values of left wing students,” he said when asked if he understood why some may draw the line at celebrating Thatcher’s death.
Jade Eckhaus told Farrago that the motion was put in a group effort, but that it was something she felt very strongly about.
“I don’t feel bad for Margaret Thatcher, I feel bad for the lives that she’s ruined. She also spoke of the effects of Julia Gillard and Barack Obama eulogising Thatcher as a strong woman and feminist icon. “There’s a real tendency to say ‘she’s dead so we can’t say anything bad about her now,” Eckhaus lamented.
“The Liberals will try to make a blow out of this, and we’re ready for it,” Alves reflected this afternoon.
Cr. Alves will step down from Students’ Council after this meeting to fulfil other work and study commitments. His decision was made before today’s meeting. He will be replaced by Left Action representative and frequent observer at Students’ Council, Jeremy Gibson.
Farrago is the publication of the University of Melbourne Student Union. The Media Officers, who are editors of Farrago, are required by the UMSU Constitution to attend Students’ Council meetings but are not permitted to vote in them.
We have been requested to remove the names of the councillors and their votes on this issue. It was a named vote however and we will republish them when the minutes of today’s meeting have been confirmed and published. If you’d like to know how any particular student councillor voted before the minutes are confirmed, you can always ask them directly. They don’t have to answer you, but this information will be made available anyway upon the confirmation of minutes at the next Students’ Council meeting.