25 November 1969
In a front-page story today in Guild Gazette, Ian Rathbone reports on the call for Guild Council and Executive to resign in the continuing conflict over governance in the Student Union:
The resignation of Guild Council and Guild Executive was demanded by an extraordinary mass meeting of Guild last Friday and for the newly elected Council to accept the recommendation, for a six month trial period of mass meetings. This followed a week of arguments and indecision amongst Executive and Council over the persistent rejection of the Executive recommendation for mass meetings by Guild Council.
After the recommendation was debated and passed by Guild Council on Monday November 2nd, it failed to receive ratification on the following Friday. This meeting was later declared unconstitutional and so another
Extraordinary meeting was called which met last Thursday. Once again Council accepted the mass meetings recommendation by thirty three to sixteen votes with three abstentions but since it failed to gain the necessary two thirds majority needed for constitutional changes, it was rejected.
Near the end of a chaotic and noisy meeting, during which the Chair was challenged successfully four times, a motion was passed by fifteen to thirteen votes, proposed by Mr David Christie, asking for the resignation of Guild Council and Executive since it was evident they could not make up their mind on the issue.
An emergency meeting of Executive later that day decided that the motion was invalid because three votes were not from members of Council and the motion was not on the agenda. So far only four members of the eleven strong Executive have resigned – Mr Jonathan Snow, Mr Dan Sinclair, Mr David Christie and Miss Jackie Munton. Also Mr Michael Smith, Guild PRO has resigned.
An official Guild Mass Meeting at Friday lunchtime which over one thousand people attended, was called to discuss the situation. A motion was proposed that ‘This official mass meeting of Guild demands the immediate resignation of all officials and Executive of Guild and the immediate abolishment of Guild Council, a system of mass meetings being substituted.’
Mr Peter Cresswell, the proposer, outlining the situation, stated that the motion asking for the resignations of Guild Council and Executive was not just the opinion of fifteen people but the opinion of a quorate meeting.
”Yet the Executive still functions when it should have resigned,” he accused. “The system has totally disintegrated.”
Mr Sandy Macmillan, President, stated that he did want to see mass meetings instituted, ”since”, he commented, “the present meeting obviously demonstrates that they do work.”
I disagree that Executive should resign and suggest rather that members of Guild Council should resign according to their conscience, particularly those who voted for the resignation yesterday,” said Mr Macmillan.
Mr Macmillan proposed an amendment to the effect that all members of Guild Council resign who are not members of Executive.
Mr Richard Morris then queried the reason for the invalidation of the original motion on Thursday asking for the resignations.
Mr Peter Brown, VPGA, answered that notice had not been given three days before so the mass meetings motion was the only business to be discussed. He then explained that the item of Any Other Business on the agenda was a typist’s error. This was received with shouts of disbelief.
Mr Morris, exclaiming that he had been waiting for Mr Brown to say this, quoted numerous examples of previous extraordinary meetings where Any Other Business had been included, and suggested the Executive was misleading so that it could stay in power.
Mr Macmillan’s amendment was clearly rejected by the meeting and then Mr Snow outlined his reasons for his resignation from Executive and Council. Mr Snow proposed that Guild Council continue to handle all the bureaucratic nonsense, but remain answerable to any individual of the Guild at a mass meeting.
”Mass meetings can then discuss any business which Clause Five of the Constitution covers regarding the banning of discussion of discussion of all political issues,” he continued. Mr Snow then suggested that one of the most important actions to take now was the election of an independent Chairman for both Guild Council and mass meetings to prevent the chaos caused by numerous challenges to the Chair.
Mr Gavin Graham, an ex-member of last year’s executive, described the Executive as incompetent and split. ”This term has seen unprecedented chaos and the only solution seems for a re-election of Council and Executive,” he said and proposed an amendment that “this meeting demands that Guild Council accept the six month trial period of mass meetings.”
Mr Graham proposed, amidst considerable uproar and confusion that “the Executive and Guild Council resign and new elections take place; the reconstituted Guild Council being demanded to accept the President’s recommendation on mass meetings.
A vote was immediately taken and was carried by 523 votes for, 104 votes against with 32 abstentions, which brought joyous cries of victory from many present, and the meeting was closed.
Gazette front-page editorial
Later this week there will be a referendum on the question of mass meetings. On its decision will rest the future of the way your Union is run for many years to come. It does not have any power to mandate, but even in less complex situations all sides are agreed that the will of the majority, as shown in the referendum, must be complied with to the limit of constitutional bounds, and beyond if necessary.
We hear comments from members of Guild that participation: is limited, in practice, to an inner-circle. Now you can have a chance to participate. “But I don’t understand the issues, so how can I vote?” you may say. The arguments are complex; many of your ”A” Society representatives on Guild Council are not fully conversant with them.
But the main issue is crystal-clear. Do you want this Union to be run by a minimum of 300 people in a mass meeting; people who represent only themselves and may constitute only five per cent of the members of this Union? Or do you want to uphold the present system whereby every member is represented when the major policy decisions are being taken?
Whichever way you decide you must ensure that you make the little effort necessary and vote. With a large turn-out, the validity of the result can be disputed by no one.