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The Chair of Academic Council has resigned after a vote of no-confidence was brought against him at Union Council last week. No-confidence votes were also brought against two other Cross Campus Officers (CCOs), but they were found to have already technically resigned their posts through not attending the relevant meetings.
The officers were Academic Council Chair, Tom Mackrory, International Students CCO, Huneeya Mazari and School of Health and Medicine Faculty Representative Elise Bausseron. Mackrory resigned from his position before the meeting took place.
There was some confusion over the matter of issuing the three CCOs with votes of no-confidence (VNC). Initially it was unclear whether or not the VNCs needed issuing, as it appeared that all three officers had missed at least two meetings without apology or explanation, something which is automatically taken as a resignation from their position.
There was some discussion between the members of Union Council as to whether a lack of attendance warranted such drastic action. LUSU Vice President (Equality, Welfare and Diversity) Pete Macmillan held the view that proactive officers were needed. He said: “In the case of Huneeya, albeit she may not have attended meetings, but things like the Lancaster Show and international events, Huneeya has been one of the most instrumental officers in getting people down and getting people involved in those events.”
LGBTQ Officer Sarah Newport countered Macmillan’s point, saying: “Coming to meetings is the distinction between being an officer and being a normal student who is really involved. You can’t choose which bits of the role you’d rather not do.”
Matt Power, Lonsdale President and CCO agreed, saying that the time he had spent in meetings this term had been “some of the most productive collaborative work I’ve ever seen […] I think it’s about time we start holding these officers to account, because they are taking on a big responsibility”.
Student Campaigns Officer Sam Aldridge gave the reasons for the VNCs after the meeting, saying: “It was not for lack of attendance specifically that we felt a VNC was necessary.” Aldridge said that while attendance is a compulsory part of an officer’s role “we also discussed the fact that these officers have been in office for almost a year and as we have never even met two of them we didn’t think it was right that they should be given the same recognition as the rest of the CCOs who put in so much effort.”
Aldridge summarized: “The CCOs are a team and work together on events such as Freshers’ Week and the National Demo, not attending meetings is a valid reason for a VNC but a complete lack of involvement is what reinforced our agreement.”
Mackrory, who resigned before the meeting of Union Council, countered the idea that a lack of attendance to meeting outweighed a good record in office. “Whilst missing meetings this term may have warranted a VNC, I don’t believe that my entire time in office did, furthermore I stand by the principle that regardless of the offence all Union officers facing a VNC deserve the bare minimum courtesy of being told about it beforehand.”
Although procedurally there is no requirement to inform officers of an impending VNC, Mackrory appeared under the impression that this is the case. He called the situation an “oversight on the part of the officer or officers responsible for informing the CCOs of an imminent VNC.”
He also disagreed with the amount of notice given. “My resignation was on principle; I believe having a VNC thrust upon an officer without allowing that officer any time to prepare a defense, or at the very least letting them know what to expect, is frankly astounding.“
The item was discussed thoroughly, and the issue of Union Council’s power to carry out VNCs of officers was raised. George Gardner, Chair of Union Council, put it plainly; “The query I have is on the Union Council being able to give a vote of no confidence.”
Pickles argued that the powers were clear in the relevant bylaws, while Gardner confessed confusion as the bylaws relating specifically to Union Council powers did not obviously state either way. Gardner picked up on “a lack of clarity within the Union bylaws”, which Pickles said could be amended. However, Pickles was quick to argue somewhat convolutedly “it doesn’t need to be clarified, however if necessary it can be.”
Having agreed that Union Council had the power with which to pass VNCs it was soon discovered such a vote would be unnecessary. LUSU Vice President (Media and Communications) Lizzie Houghton raised the fact that in the Union bylaws, having not attended two Councils without apologies would nullify a need to VNC them as it would automatically resign them from their positions.
The Union Council attendance of the officers had gone unchecked by the Chair. After a lengthy discussion records of previous meetings were found and upon examination it was discovered that no vote was necessary. The two officers who had not yet resigned, Mazari and Bausseron, had failed to attend or offer apologies for at least two meetings, and as such effectively resigning.
After the meeting Pickles said that “the confusion over VNCs was almost inevitable, and I have no doubt that similar confusions will be discovered and amended over the course of the year. No changes are perfect straight away.” In this specific case, where two sections appeared to contradict each other, he held that the rules “were extremely clear. If we were to be constantly repeating the rules, they would be so long winded as to be entirely obsolete.”