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To VNC or not to VNC, that was the question on everyone’s lips at the last Union Council meeting in Week Five as a proposed vote of no confidence in three Cross Campus Officers produced the most animated discussion Council has had in several months.
Robbie Pickles, LUSU President, announced the names of the officers under discussion then clammed up and moved on. Confusingly, he was not allowed to tell us why a VNC had been proposed, leaving those of us who didn’t know to try and pick it up as we went along. (Turned out they hadn’t been showing up to committee meetings or sending apologies for their absence.)
The question was immediately raised by Council Chair George Gardiner of whether or not Council was allowed to give a VNC. Pickles said quite firmly that it was, directing Gardiner to the exact statement of this in the byelaw. There was a pause whilst Gardiner looked it up. Council began to talk amongst itself.
No sooner had Gardiner brought Council to order and encouraged Pickles to rectify a ‘lack of clarity’ in Union Council’s abilities here than a further question was raised. Lizzie Houghton, Vice President (Media & Communications) wanted to know if a VNC was, in fact, necessary. As the officers in question had missed three meetings without sending apologies, were they not automatically deemed to have resigned and wouldn’t we all be better leaving the matter there and going to the bar?
In its enthusiasm to debate this, Council found itself getting somewhat sidetracked. After Bailrigg FM Station Manager Aran Wilkinson – perhaps remembering the problems his organisation had with the Joint Media Membership at the start of the year – asked if the officers had been receiving emails, we became embroiled in a discussion of how best to contact officers.
Houghton attempted to get Council back on topic, asking Gardiner to clarify that Union Council did in fact have the power to remove people from office. Gardiner reached for his copy of the constitution. There was another pause.
Unfortunately, Gardiner’s perusal of the constitution did not help him answer Houghton’s question. It had told him that the Cross Campus Officer committee could VNC people, and it hadn’t told him that Union Council couldn’t, but it wasn’t any clearer than that. As such, he considered it gave him the ability to interpret that as Union Council could.
No sooner had Gardiner come to this conclusion than we were back to the topic of contacting officers, zigzagging between there and the resignation vs. VNC debate for a while. A proportion of Union Council was in favour of setting up official officer emails to help prevent communication issues. A further proportion felt that we didn’t need to VNC because the officers had resigned through missing meetings.
Somewhere along the line it was decided that this latter proportion was, in fact, correct, but by this time we were fathoms deep in the problems we’d have with ISS if every officer was given an official email.
As a final nod to the theme of discipline that had been running through the meeting, Pickles was asked if action would be taken against the Lancaster students involved in the previous day’s riots at Millbank Tower. Perhaps wary of Council coming to be seen as some kind of extended prefect system, with himself as Head Boy, Pickles denied this firmly. The behaviour of students on the demo was their own responsibility, and with that Council had to be content.