Sugar Sale Suspension Under Spotlight

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Analysis by the SCAN News Team has unveiled questions about the decision to suspend the sale of The Sugarhouse.

The SCAN News Team is now able to confirm that the decision to enter negotiations with a developer to sell The Sugarhouse was taken by the Trustee Board on 22 August. The decision to suspend the negotiations, which was proposed by VP Union Development Hannah Prydderch and SU President George Nuttall, was made by the Trustee Board on 11 October. We know this because Mr Nuttall lifted the confidentiality requirement stipulated in Article 4.8 of the Trustee Code of Conduct during the meeting.

External Trustee Graeme Osborn said the following during the AGM on Monday 28 October: “Sugar has not been sold. Negotiations were, as we have said, ongoing, but no final decision has been made by the board that the best thing to do for this Students’ Union is to close Sugarhouse.”

The shock news that talks had been suspended took 14 days to be announced. The statement was made on the evening of Friday 25 October, at about 9.30 pm – just three days prior to the AGM, where motions were on the table which sought to make it Union policy to end the talks altogether. These motions did pass, though SCAN notes that the trustees have the power to override it if they consider it “is not or may not be in the best interests of the Union.”

During the week prior to the AGM, the location and time of the meeting were changed; an online ticketing system was introduced; postgrads were initially unable to buy the tickets; professional security was hired; the requirement to produce student ID on the door was poorly advertised; and motions were published two days late, allowing only 12 hours for amendments to be submitted.

The three questions that SCAN asked the Students’ Union and its officers are as follows:

1) Why did SU President George Nuttall only opt to lift the confidentiality requirement on Trustees during the AGM and not in the weeks building up to it?

A students’ union spokesperson said: “This decision was not straightforward and could not be taken quickly. There were issues of confidentiality and collective responsibility to be weighed against the wider interests of openness. George, as Chair of the Trustee Board, had to weigh these competing interests carefully before coming to a decision and he did so after listening to students. It was not an easy decision to make and it was only right to take time over it.”

2) Why was the suspension announcement made 14 days after the decision was taken, and just three days prior to the AGM?

A students’ union spokesperson said: “The decision had potential implications for staff, so there were certain processes that had to be completed before the information could be announced to students”.

3) Who was responsible for the delayed announcement?

A students’ union spokesperson said: “This was a collective decision of the Trustee Board.”

Students are still waiting for the release of unredacted minutes and reports from the Executive Committee, Trustee Board, and Sugarhouse Strategy Task Group, which passed overwhelming at the AGM. Many students will also be hoping for the live-streaming of Trustee Board meetings, which was promised during the AGM. SCAN will continue to update students as to the outcome of what was agreed during the Annual General Meeting.

Andrew Williams

News Editor 19/20.

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