The motion was also criticised for giving women an unfair advantage in the democratic process. Alastair Holder-Ross, a member of the OULC, said, “I think it’s incredibly important to promote women’s roles within the club and support Helena Dollimore especially in all she has done to that end. However, I think sacrificing fundamental democratic principles is not the best way to serve the cause of gender equality. The amendment does not deal with the causes of the gender imbalance within the club, even if its intentions are noble.”Rebecca Grant, OULC Women’s Officer who proposed the motion, said, “It does indeed give women a disproportionate advantage – this is the aim of the motion. The turnout of women is a sustained and serious problem which needs to be tackled. One of the best things about the motion is that it adapts as its aims are fulfilled; if more women are encouraged to attend meetings, the relative weight of each vote will go down.“We have to remember that men have always had, and continue to have, a ‘disproportionate advantage’, and positive and decisive action is needed to redress the balance. It seems odd to be worried about privileging women when women make up less than 20% of the Labour club executive, on average.”The amendment was passed in a Constitutional Convention on the 6th constitution. OULC were required to reform their constitution after a decision was made by the University Proctors to set a standard for all university-affiliated societies. This raised concerns about how the amendment was to be repealed and whether it needed to be passed on two separate occasions.Other criticism included the fact that the email detailing the Electoral College motion was sent only 2 1⁄2 hours before the meeting. In response, Grant claimed, “The circulation of the motion prior to the meeting was entirely in line with constitutional requirements. Some other constitutional amendments, such as proxy voting, were introduced and passed at the meeting with no notice at all given beforehand.”Nick Hilton, a member of the OULC, commented to Cherwell, “Imposing a uniform constitution on Oxford University societies and clubs has worrying implications for their autonomy. The new OULC constitution has been rushed through in order to meet a deadline, mainly so that we can retain the ‘U’ in our name and get a discount on our Fresher’s Fair stall. The proctors are trying to avoid societies embarrassing the University, to which they are affiliated, and, by doing so, control their operations. I think this is a significant and deliberate overreach of their authority.”A University spokesperson said, “Clubs registered with the Proctors are required to follow the rules laid out in the constitution. This is the implementation of a decision of the Rules Committee which took effect from October 2013 with an academic year’s grace period for existing clubs. The Proctors’ Office is happy to advise individual clubs on specific issues as necessary and to listen to feedback on the constitution. A review of the general oversight of clubs has been agreed and will commence shortly.” The Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) has passed a constitutional amendment introducing gender-balanced electoral colleges that allocate 50% of the voting power in executive elections to people who do not self-identify as men.In Termly General Meetings, when the executive committee is elected, voters are now divided into two electoral colleges: those who self-identify as men and those who do not.Each electoral college receives equal weight when voting. Anna Coombes, Women’s Officer Elect for OULC, said, “The motion passed with considerable support, with only one vote in opposition and two abstentions. The main concern raised at the meeting was concerning one person, one vote.“However, the policy does not act to remove this, as each voter still casts only one vote. The idea of the policy is that the women’s voice within the group carries the same weight as the men’s. This does indeed mean giving women an advantage, but we (women in attendance of the Women’s Working Group where the motion was first discussed) felt that such action was necessary in order to address the considerable imbalance that currently prevails within the club.“Considering that women make up over half of OULC’s membership it is undemocratic and unacceptable that women consistently make up such a small proportion of the executive.“Looking at this, there is no doubt that there is a problem of womens’ turnout within OULC. This is not due to a lack of trying; the motion was proposed as a last resort after many other initiatives have been tried.”Representation of women on the OULC executive committee averages at below 20%. In Hilary Term a Women’s Working Group was set up in order to devise measures to tackle the low levels of participation and representation of women in OULC. One student pointed out that, judging by past turnout to Termly General Meetings, women could have 5 times the voting power of the men present.
Do we really need a bookmobile in Ocean City?About a month or two ago, it was reported in this newspaper the Ocean City Free Public Library purchased a brand-new bookmobile. One OPRA inquiry later, I learned it cost $110,000.I soon met with Karen Mahar, library director, and Jennifer Shirk, president of the library’s Board of Trustees. I found them to be polite and courteous in reaction to my assertion the bookmobile was a bad idea. I followed that meeting by speaking during public comment at the monthly library board meeting yesterday.I said Ocean City is 7 miles long and an a half-mile wide for a total of approximately 3.5 square miles. In addition to the public library, we have a library in the primary, intermediate and high schools — or four libraries in 3.5 square miles. I stated that bookmobiles were supposed to be for rural communities (i.e. geographically much larger) and poorly funded communities that can’t afford satellite locations — descriptions that don’t match Ocean City. I said given the trustees were swimming against the tide, maybe they should have leased the bookmobile initially, in case it doesn’t work out. Why didn’t the trustees hedge?I reminded the trustees that when the Community Center was expanded (the very building our library is a part of), John Flood introduced into the public dialogue the simple and very accurate phrase: “Concept, Design, Fund, Build (or in this case purchase).” How ironic.The concept behind the bookmobile, I think, is to promote the library and reading. So go into the community. No truck needed. So far on the list are just a few stops: the Public Housing Authority, Wesley Shores, American Legion, to name a few. The Public Housing Authority has a large public room. Go read to young people and promote the library in that room. Install a broadband line or two. When it rains you won’t have to cancel a visit. Many residents at Wesley Shores are not mobile. Give them broadband lines if there is a need. The list of library books is online. If they need books, just bring them books from the whole library.At the very meeting I attended, one trustee questioned the marketing of the bookmobile as well as its usage. As he said, there was no surprise here as the purchase was a long time coming. Apparently, the bookmobile needs a driver. No Design. He was really questioning the rollout. Poor planning.My conclusion is this was a poorly conceived venture for the library by well-meaning people who didn’t adhere to Concept, Design, Fund and Purchase (or lease). The bookmobile is a “square peg for a round hole” for Ocean City. It doesn’t fit. Four libraries in 3.5 square miles with the public library nearly in the middle of the town. What were they thinking?Stay with your core — we have a very fine public library that is well-attended with numerous programs, computers, speakers and a vast array of books, magazines and newspapers. The library is amply funded and well-run. It is a credit to the staff, its board and the community at large.Michael HinchmanOcean City, NJ