Mass meeting elects six-man committee to run Union

Following the mass resignation of the Guild Council Executive last week, Guild Gazette has today rushed out a special issue with details of the dramatic events that have followed:

Mass meeting elects six-man committee to run Union

At a mass meeting last Tuesday [10 February], called after the mass-resignation of the Executive of Guild Council the previous Monday evening [9 February], it was decided by the Guild of Undergraduates to set up a “caretaker committee” of six people, who were eIected at the meeting.

So many students attended the meeting that the Lounge Hall and the Mountford Hall balcony had to be opened and when the meeting began at 5.00, there were an estimated 1,500 students present.

Mr John Aspinall, chairman of the meeting, opened it by asking Mr Richard Davies, last year’s President, to address the students by outlining the events which had taken place at Guild Council the previous evening.

Mr. Davies spoke lucidly, explaining why Executive had resigned, and went on to explain the situation which existed at that time. He emphasised the autonomous nature of the Guild Council, and said that the only influence held by the University over the Guild was in a committee which annually inspected its accounts.

He added that it was now necessary to elect some governing body, as Guild Council had been rendered inquorate by the resignation of Executive, and the Guild had no governing body.

Mr Aspinall then opened the discussion to the floor, asking for suggestions as to how the Union should be governed, on a short-term basis, and asked for a “peaceful and unemotional debate”.

Peter Cresswell

At this point Mr P Cresswell proposedthat the meeting elect a committee of six to perform two functions:

  1. To keep the Union running, with the aid of Mr James E. Brown, the Permanent Secretary and Bursar.
  2. To negotiate with the Joint Union Management Committee (JUM).

He proposed that this committee should be responsible to a Mass Meeting which would be held in one weeks time, Tuesday, 17th February.

lt was pointed out by the chairman that he had received notice from the University assuring students that all wages, etc, would be paid during the period of instability .

Mr Peter Brown then spoke, indicating a petition which he claimed had already received some two thousand signatures, which requested the appointment of a President, Deputy President and Executive officers, the immediate organisation of elections and the desire for a representative University, reaffirming the result of last term’s referendum which had showed the desire for Guild Council [not mass meetings] to be sovereign body in the University.

He went on to point out that some legal body must be elected immediately to preserve the financial autonomy of the Guild, and he emphasised that any member of a committee of six would not have the legal power to sign a cheque.

At this Mr Sandy Macmillan, ex-President of Guild, leapt to his feet and, addressing the meeting, said, looking at Mr. Brown, “now I know why the vote of no confidence applies to Executive”. He went on to emphasise the financial autonomy of the Guild, and added that somebody must be elected to prevent interference by the University in Guild affairs.  He finished his speech saying,  “I’ve never taken part in a revolution before in my life, this is quite fun!”

A plea was then made to make Mr Cresswell’s suggestion a motion, and that a vote should be taken upon it. There then followed a short period of  haggling, when Mr D Christie proposed that an interim Executive should be elected. Opposition to his proposal centred around the fact that the committee would be responsible to the Mass Meeting to be held on Tuesday 17 February.

Another speaker, in favour of  Mr Christie’s proposal suggested that several people were trying to “twist the referendum result”. He pointed out that the referendum plainly showed the feelings of the student body as a whole, and suggested that the old system be restored immediately.

The chairman then decided to vote on the two amendments on the motion which embodied Mr Cresswell’s suggestion of the committee of six responsible to the Mass Meeting. The first amendment, which proposed that a committee be elected which would have power only to release cheques and would immediately negotiate with JUM to organise Presidential Elections, was unanimously defeated.

The second, Mr Christie’s amendment proposing that the meeting should elect a new executive was marginally carried.

After complex discussion over quorum figures, during the course of which it transpired that a Mass Meeting quorum was 300, Mr Spruce, last year’s VPGA, spoke, emphasising the “boring nature of Mass Meetings”. He went on to suggest that a time limit should be fixed on the committee, and that the Guild should get back to the old system as soon as possible.

In reply to Mr Spruce, Mr Richard Davies pointed out “the crucial nature of this meeting”, adding that he could no longer go on saying “yes” and that he could not tolerate a return to the situation where Council ruled the Guild alone.

This was greeted by cheers and clapping from the students. It was then decided to move to a vote on the motion that a committee of six people should be elected, including a chairman, a Treasurer, a Vice President for Internal Affairs and a Vice President for Guild Affairs. The motion was clearly carried, and the elections began.

There were three nominations for Chairman: Sandy Macmillan, Gavin Graham and  Tim Shuttleworth.

Voting was by show of hands and after the first vote had been taken, marginally favouring Mr Macmillan, a recount was demanded and Mr Shuttleworth stood down.

On the second vote Mr Macmillan was elected Chairman of the committee by four votes only over Mr Graham. There was no recount.

The rest of the elections were then carried out, Mr Graham being elected Treasurer; Mr D Christie, Vice-President for Internal affairs; Mr P Cresswell, Vice-President for Guild Affairs; and Messrs R Davies and O Swingler, Ordinary Committee Members.

Authorities refuse to recognise committee

The Committee of Six announced last Thursday at an Open Meeting to discuss policy that Mr. P Kemp, the Returning Officer, and the Bank holding the Guild account, refused to accept their legality, despite being elected by a Mass Meeting of one thousand people, the previous Tuesday.

Mr R Davies said that Mr Kemp was only prepared to accept the letter of the constitution and not its spirit. Mr Macmillan stated that there was a dilemma over what to do next, concerning the government of this university. He added that if the only way to get out of this situation was to approach the university for advice, then we may have to do this. Mr Davies replied that this was unacceptable and that Mr Macmillan and Mr Graham should go and find out what the position of the bank is going to be.

It was also announced that on Wednesday night there was a meeting between the Permanent Secretary and Bursar, Mr James E Brown and the secretaries of the standing committees which was convened solely to discuss financial matters. It was also stated that the university will pay the staff in the union and account for any over the counter deals.

Mr Robertson suggested that perhaps we could keep the takings of the union, which amount to around £1,000 a day and pay the staff out of this.  However, Mr Davies said this was impracticable because the students do not have enough people available to administer this, and Mr Macmillan added that the difficulty came when the bills come in at the end of the month. Mr Davies then put forward a proposal calling for Mr Graham and Mr Macmillan to put their names to a poster announcing the forthcoming mass meeting and to inform the  bank   of what is happening. He added that there was no need for fear of what the bank may say because the bank needs the union as  much   as  the  union needs the bank.

The meeting ended when there was agreement  on   the   proposal that the Chairman and Treasurer and Mr James E Brown, call an official mass meeting for Tuesday and this meeting to be concerned with  electing  a  chairman and  treasurer   authorised   to sign cheques and hand out cash, along with four others to form a commission. The second part of this proposal called for a mass franchise of the Guild of Undergraduates to elect a body to   run   the Guild until July 31st.

The sequence of events

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 9th

At Guild Council in the Abercromby Room, the President and Executive resign after a vote of No Confidence is passed. An informal meeting of one hundred people gathers in the President’s office to discuss the situation, and it is decided that the Guild of Undergraduates must be consulted.

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10th

The news is announced in Gazette and it is announced that a Mass Meeting is to be held at 530 p.m. that evening. At the Mass Meeting a six-man committee is elected to run the Union until the following Tuesday when a “caretaker” government can be elected and the whole situation can be given a fuller analysis.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 11th

In an interview with the “Daily Post”, Mr. Macmillan says that the six-man committee will not be recognised and no cheques can be signed Senate is picketed in protest over Lord Salisbury’s failure to resign as Chancellor after accusations of racialism.

Standing Committee Secretaries are called together by Mr J E Brown, the Union’s Permanent Bursar, to discuss the financial situation. A compromise is reached after consultation with the committee of six.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12th

The Union is still continuing to run as normal as far as catering and the bar are concerned. The committee of six visit Mr Kemp to discuss his making the following Tuesday’s Mass Meeting legal by calling one to coincide with it. Mr Kemp refuses to do this.

The committee of six meets in the Abercromby Room and the meeting is made open to anyone who wants to attend, whilst an agenda for the next Mass Meeting is formulated.

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Author: Gerry

Retired college teacher living in Liverpool, UK.

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