The University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) passed a motion last Tuesday to celebrate the recent death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
The motion was presented at the end of a Student Council meeting as an item of “other business” on the 9th of April “celebrates [Thatcher’s] death unreservedly” for her “horrible legacy … and neoliberal policies that destroyed the lives of millions”. It was passed by five votes, with three votes against and four abstentions. As part of the motion, the Student’s Council will also screen Ken Loach’s film Which Side Are You On?
President of UMSU, Kara Hadgraft, released an online statement in response, saying “discussion was robust and there were views put that represented the wide variety of options that have been put in world-wide media following Thatcher’s death”.
Farrago, the University of Melbourne Student Union publication, reported that the motion was met with “audible derision and laughter in the council room”. Allegedly, the abstentions occurred as some of the council members left the room in response to the motion.
The Students’ Council consists of 18 student members, and its responsibilities, according to Section 41(i) of UMSU constitution, include “representing Students, and petitioning on behalf of Students, to the University and in the community”. According to Hadgraft, the council “exists to give voice to a broad range of student views on a broad range of topics brought before it”.
Students have taken to UMSU’s Facebook page to almost unanimously criticize the motion. Aside from expressing distaste with the celebration of Margaret Thatcher’s death most comments were provoked by sudents viewing this statement by their union as outside their mandate and a misuse of student resources.
Kara Hadgraft has not responded to Woroni’s request for comment.