SES at the OUSA Conference 2004


Report by Samantha Covington

For the 2nd year running I was very pleased to represent the Open University's Students' Association (OUSA) affiliated Society "Students for Ethical Science" (SES) at the annual OUSA Conference, which for the very first time was being held at the OU's own Campus at Milton Keynes.

Our objectives are to stop the unethical use of animals and animal tissue in undergraduate education and to stop the University using animals in research into human conditions - a practice which has proved unreliable and in fact endangers human health.

The motions brought to conference that concerned us were as follows:

  • Motion 68M(PO) our motion to delete the EC's Motion 32M(PO) of 2003
  • Motion 69M(PO) our motion to strengthen our Motion 34M(PO) of 2003 and
  • Motion 70M(PO) the EC's motion to change and diminish our Motion 34M(PO) 2003
  • Motion 71M(PO) our motion to end the use of animals in research into human conditions

Our motions were scheduled to be debated in Block C before the 11.30am address by Professor Allan Cochrane, the Pro Vice Chancellor (Students). However, Conference was already running so late that we were moved back and the block did not commence until by 12.05pm. With the session ending at 12.30pm for lunch we had no chance of being heard. On the advice of John Burrows (VP Representation) I asked the Chair what would happen to unheard motions and was told that they would try to get them in if there was any time left at the end of Sunday morning's business.

I conferred with Doug Paulley - SES's Chair - and when the morning's session ended with Motion 65 we went straight to the Steering Committee and asked them if they could squeeze us in at the and of that afternoon's session, rather than waiting until the end of Sunday morning's. This seemed a novel idea! But we asked nicely and I was outside the conference hall talking to our John Halsey (London's ECM) and stoically accepting the fact that that we were not going to be heard when Linda Dart, one of my branch delegates came hurtling out of the hall, breathless and excited - time had been found and 66 was being debated.

If anyone was wondering why I sounded so breathless while doing my presentation of Motion 68M(PO), it was because I ran like mad to get back into the hall, find my file, organize my thoughts and prepare!

VP Education, Brian Gilmour, speaking for the EC responded by saying that 32 had been "overwhelmingly carried" last year (which I was later to rebut - recalling that after Conference last year 2 people had come to speak to me, separately, saying that I should have asked for a count on Motion 32 because they felt it was very close. We know that Motion 33 was carried because there was a count.), and that the committee name difference was in fact only that it should have been Science Faculty Board and not Committee - which is even more untrue because the Animal Elthical Committee is now outside the Science Faculty, where it should be.

I was ably seconded by Doug Paulley who clearly and calmly emphasized the necessity of separating research from education and Doug was followed by George McFarlane (the out-going VP Finance), who protested vigorously about students who opted out of animal experiments being unprotected if we deleted their motion. That is, of course nonsense, because that protection is very clearly defined in our motion 33 of last year, and I was able to rebut that statement also, in my right to reply.

In urging Conference to carry the motion and rebutting the statements made by the two EC members I closed the debate with the following statement.

"We have to delete last year's 32. There is no doubt about it.

Today's Motion 68

  • removes the anomaly of research being tacked onto policy that is about education,
  • it removes the confusion over the name of the committee dealing with animal ethics,
  • it removes the confusion over what one is refusing to do,
  • it removes the university's get-out clause and
  • it removes the problem of having two bits of policy covering more or less the same area.

Please vote in support of Motion 68, and let's remove last year's 32 in the pursuit of clear policy. Thank you."

The motion went to a count and was resoundingly carried 73/43. We were very pleased!

In addition to bringing business to the Conference SES had a stall stocked with various leaflets, most of which can be found in SES Literature. The organisation EFMA (Europeans for Medical Advancement) were kind enough to send us a supply of their excellent booklet:

"Of Mice, Money and Medical Misconceptions"

and InterNICHE (the International Network for Humane Education) generously donated 20 copies of their superb manual of alternative methods for progressive, humane education:

"from guinea pig to computer mouse"

We also held a raffle for a bottle of champagne which raised £55, nicely covering our costs. The draw was won by the very same Linda Dart who was responsible for getting me back into the hall in time to present the motion - so there is justice out there! (Thank goodness the draw was made by the out-going President Alison Ryan - thanks Als!)

The Campus is wonderful and I was very lucky to have been given a private tour of the new library by Nicky Withsed which is amazing, but has a rather elderly Roget. A new one was ordered on the spot!

Next year we'll be back - campaigning for good science and the end of the harmful use of animals.

Samantha Covington

May 2004