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DPGS Escapes With Censure

Feb 06 2007 10:26
Ashley Brown
Union Council has voted to censure the Deputy President (Graduate Students), the first censure for over 20 years.
The opposing parties: Deputy President (Graduate Students) defending, Deputy President (Finance & Services) prosecuting (Photos: Felix)

Members of Union Council met for 3 hours 30 minutes last night to decide the fate of the Deputy President (Graduate Students), who was defending herself against a no-confidence motion brought by the Deputy President (Finance & Services).

The papers ran to over 100 pages per person

The last no confidence motion was brought against Union President Mustafa Arif, who successfully defeated it. Members of Council should have read all the documentation beforehand - it ran to over a hundred pages, with over 20 pages of no-confidence, nearly 70 pages of defence and a 23 page Court determination all to be considered.

GSA Defence

During the meeting a number of Graduate Students' Association (GSA) committee members spoke in support of the DPGS, mostly students new to Imperial for their postgraduate courses. They praised her approachable nature and events ideas, but it seemed they sometimes failed to grasp the concept that the position was both GSA chair and a Deputy President, so required more than just organising events.

This theme continued throughout the evening, with GSA members expressing their view that it was unfair for an undergraduate majority to decide the fate of this particular Deputy President. However, there were quite a few voting postgraduates in the room, most of whom spoke at some point during the evening, to give support, identify shortcomings or even do both. It was also highlighted that as a Deputy President the role spans the whole Union, even if the core welfare role is for postgraduates.

A Fair Hearing

It was clear from the start that few people in the room had any clue as to how they would vote (even those who seconded the motion), allaying any fears that Council as a whole was on a witch hunt. The mammoth defence was picked away at, with a number of perceived inaccuracies discussed. At a number of points the atmosphere turned distinctly frosty as Council members and other sabbaticals identified shortcomings and questioned the DPGS about them.

The Council Chair handled the meeting in a fair and dignified way, with a good balance of speakers preventing an all-out attack on the DPGS for any length of time.

Paid vs Volunteer

The meeting took its toll (Photo: Felix)

The controversial evidence, such as monitoring of the DPGS' arrival times and information from the DPGS email account was barely discussed, as Council had more pressing concerns. Nevertheless the DPGS apologised for her lateness on several occasions, insisting that she was 'trying' to arrive on time. It was queried as to why she was merely 'trying' and not actually arriving on time.

As volunteer officers many felt particularly concerned that a paid officer was unable to turn up to important College meetings on time and submit correct documentation. Among the problems identified were:

The sabbaticals also raised concerns about the Deputy President regularly missing, or arriving late for, management planning group, the meeting where Sabbatical Officers and staff discuss activities for the week. Problems with finances were also raised, with the DPGS admitting that she had problems filling in the budget spreadsheet. One Councillor asked why a paid officer was incapable of doing it when volunteers running the Union's 280 clubs and societies successfully fill them out on a regular basis.

However those all occurred before the verbal and written warnings already given to the DPGS. More concerning seemed to be the lack of regard for her predicament, with a number of serious failures occurring after the motion of no-confidence was submitted. These included being late for the Strategic Education Committee (SEC) where PhD funding was discussed and on Friday failing to submit the GSA budget on time. After requesting an extension the DPGS was told that Friday 4pm was the hard, immovable, final deadline for her budget (other clubs had theirs in by 31st January), yet did not submit it until close to 5pm.


As the meeting drew to a close the mood softened, with a number of people speaking out to show that the DPGS was an approachable, friendly person who has helped increase GSA brand awareness this year. Despite missing much of freshers fair she did attend many introductory lectures in the Tanaka Business School and other postgraduate courses.

With this in mind, it was suggested by a number of people that the punishment should fit the crime and that perhaps dismissal was too harsh, particularly given the good work the DPGS is perceived to have done by some members of the GSA. During a brief recess it certainly seemed as if people were still unsure how they would vote because of these mitigating factors.


The Deputy President (Education & Welfare) suggested that it was far from clear that a no confidence was the correct solution, requesting that it be dropped to a censure. A censure is essentially another formal warning, calling for the behaviour described in the motion to change. It is however a final warning: once a censure has been passed, any further disciplinary motion must be a no confidence - a person cannot be censured twice.

A couple of Council members expressed the view that in light of previous warnings a censure was not appropriate: this was not a first or second warning, but way past that point. It was voted on, with 17 of the 27 in the room agreeing it should drop to a censure. A number of people Live! spoke to afterwards felt they had no choice, as despite believing a no confidence was in order they thought it would not go through.

The Vote

Here tomorrow

With the motion reduced to a censure, the mood hardened, with a clear attitude amongst Council that they wanted to move to a vote. The Chair permitted some final summing up, before the prosecution and defence were taken outside as votes were cast and counted in a secret ballot.

The new motion of censure passed by 25 votes to 2, becoming the first censure in over 20 years and passing by an overwhelming majority. At least one of the opposers stated to Live! that he wanted a no confidence, so voted against the censure. He described a censure as "totally pointless", sharing the view amongst some Councillors that enough warnings had already been given.

Picking up the pieces

ICU President John Collins is now left with the job of reassembling his team after a night which at times appeared brutal, at times caring, with people speaking passionately for both sides. In any event a clear message has been sent, that the DPGS must improve her timekeeping and meeting attendance and the other Sabbatical Officers are to assist her with any procedural shortcomings.

This article was originally posted just past 19:00 on 5th February 2007, with a headline of "No Confidence Underway". By 22:17 it changed to give the result of the motion. The current version was written the next morning, giving more details.

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Discussion about “DPGS Escapes With Censure”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Feb 05 2007 19:56

If the no confidence vote fails, can we now get the DPGS out due to causing the climate change everybody's going on about?

Feb 05 2007 21:16

How can someone who isn't guilty possibly require a seventy page reply to a twenty page accusation?

3. Law   
Feb 05 2007 21:40

"Innocent until proven guilty."

Feb 05 2007 22:26

"Innocent until proven guilty."

hmm debatable what that has to do with it, I thought with union politics, certainly in recent times it was "guaranteed innocent until you can get Council members to grow a spine".

Feb 05 2007 22:48

Woah Ashley - speedy journalism. I barely had chance to log onto my emails once I'd left council and joked 'I wonder if it is up on Live! yet...?' And it was!!!

Mightily impressed!

Feb 06 2007 08:30

Um...Are the people writing above (barring Kirsty) forgetting tat Council DID censure her? i.e. she was found "guilty". Perhaps council does have a spine! Though of course we did wussy out on the no confdence...

Feb 06 2007 08:39

Tee hee hee

Feb 06 2007 09:05

"can we now get the DPGS out due to causing the climate change everybody's going on about?"

It is well known that bovine excretion is a major source of methane, so after the DPGS and her Tanaka buddies' performance last night...

Feb 06 2007 09:09

another fine example of why students arent interested in their union...

i've been involved at a club level for 3 years and i havent got a clue what this "censure" means. instead of writing an article for speedy release, why not make it a good article, just take a few more minutes on it.

so, can any one of you hacks please explain what this censure means?


ps dont take it personally ashley, youre just doing your job

Feb 06 2007 09:13

James - this article changed a few times during the evening, so the first few posts were made while Council was in session.

non/hack - some members of Council didn't know what a censure was either. I didn't much feel like writing a full piece at 11pm! Now I'm awake it will change again...

Feb 06 2007 10:27

FYI non/hack, a censure is an official 'slap on the wrist'. It means that any other motion brought to Council about her conduct *must* be a no confidence motion.

Also FYI, the last successful censure motion was in 1981, against a certain Barney McCabe (he was Deputy President back when we only had three sabbs). He later went on to be no confidenced, I think.

Feb 06 2007 10:31


Feb 06 2007 17:34

Woo. I gave photos to Live! for once.

Feb 06 2007 19:28

The official censure, passed with the majority that it did, indicates that few members of council believe that the DPGS is doing her job.

When will the DPGS realise that unless she can commit to DOING HER JOB (rather than "try to do better"), the best thing for her, and the Union as a whole, is to tender her resignation and bring this debacle to a close?

Otherwise we will be right back here in a Council or two's time, with more time spent re-hashing the whole thing all over again.

There is a job to be done, and she should either step up to the plate and take it on, or admit that for whatever reason she is unable to fulfil her duties, and step down.

Feb 06 2007 22:53

I would just like to say - despite having a bad back for sitting through such a lengthy council meeting - this is the best Council Meeting I have ever seen Danny Chair. I think he deserves congratulations for the way he handled such a hot topic which could very easily have been reduced to bickering if it hadn't been handled so professionally.

I think this is precisely what Ben was saying when he suggested that the union officers (especially the sabbaticals) are some of the most professional people he has ever worked with. I wish them all the best of luck with the rest of their term and am sure that they will continue to achieve the results we have seen them get so far.

I'd also like to give congratulations to Ashley as this article is not only one of the longest I have seen on Live! it is also one of the best written and most informative. A very accurate reflection of the proceedings.

Oh... and I thought the quality of the photos was much better than usual. ;o)

Feb 06 2007 23:07

Well said.

Also, I thought Shiv gave a good summing up - so all respect to him.

Though now the focus is on Shama, however unpleasant it must be for her. I doubt a motion will get back to Council about her; I think the almost four hour grilling was painful enough.

Respect to Danny and all at Council for keeping a lid on the proceedings, and debating calmly and rationally (for the most part). I can't say the same for some members of the GSA exec, who should have thought a little more carefully before speaking.

And I thought John Collins spoke very well; good job, sir.

Feb 06 2007 23:26

Oh man, those GSA people!

I went in to that room not intending to speak, I had had lengthy conversations with both Jon and Shama over the last few weeks, and (correctly) thought I'd heard everything I needed to hear.

But then they come along and completely (unwittingly) rip apart her defense! I partly responded to their points because I was offended by them, and partly to try and protect Shama. With friends like those...

Feb 07 2007 00:28

As Ashley said all the comments before Kirsty's first were posted during the actual council meeting to what in effect was a different article as the time stamps all relay.

However you do point out that council did 'wuss' out on the no confidence, which my post predicted, I've since had the reasons explained to me, however I'll still have personal reservations as to whether they justify the end or are still an illustration of council taking the easy way out.

Feb 07 2007 02:23

The no confidence would have fallen, and left us with no official "you messed up" motion.

Censure was the only sensible option.

Feb 07 2007 09:01

Ideally the procedures should be changed so a disciplinary motion can either end with both votes- censure and no confidence, with the strongest motion to pass being carried- or even STV so people can say, "No confidence if possible but better censure than nothing."

Also fixes the pointlessness of making the final vote a secret ballot when the vote that really decides the officer's future will ALWAYS be when SOMEONE proposes downgrading to a censure, and that's still done as an open vote.

Feb 07 2007 09:05

Out of interest, of those people who answered that the censure will damage the Unoin a lot, how many meant that the motion being put forward was damaging, and how many meant that the motion being downgraded to a censure was damaging? And how many meant that the DPGS's performance as revealed to Council was damaging?

22. Pedant   
Feb 07 2007 09:21

But, Reform!, shouldn't censure amendments also be done by secret ballot?

Regulation 4.92: "Any final vote or disputed amendment to a motion under the Disciplinary Procedure in Regulation 5, [...] must be held by secret ballot."

23. asdf   
Feb 07 2007 09:56

pedant: I believe Reform! meant that the vote to downgrade was open; both the deciding votes for both censure and no-confidence are secret ballots.

Feb 07 2007 10:00

asdf: that regulation says "or disputed amendment to a motion". The amendment to downgrade was disputed so went to a vote, so should have been a secret ballot.


Not that it would've changed anything, but a bit of a slip-up. The current rules mean a censure is more likely than a no-confidence, simply because there's more chance of it going through.

This should also serve as a bit of a warning to some of the people standing for sabb positions: make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. This is not a game.

25. hmm   
Feb 07 2007 11:43

Actually, making the deciding vote a secret ballot would make it even more advisable to change to some kind of double/transferrable vote.

If the vote to downgrade to censure sees more than half, but less than two-thirds, supporting a full No Confidence, then people need to know this as it shows a No Confidence is likely to fail and they would need to swap to censure if they want anything passed.

Feb 07 2007 15:33

thanks a lot ashley! was very nice of you to update the article and thank you andy for replying and explaining! very much appreciated.

on another note, just out of curiousity, i was wondering if it would be possible to discuss an issue relevant to PGs. How many people voting were actually PGs? It seems to me that oftentimes UGs, especially UGs which do not understand nor care for the issue at hand, are deciding the fate of certain questions. Take the "praying on the lawn" problem. A lot of non-muslims, and especially ACC reps were fighting against using some of their space and time for prayers. Now, obviously, theyre not happy that Tae Chae whatever all of a sudden has to be an hour later, but, in essence, this is absolutely absurd. We're talking about religious freedom! And then theres the DPGS. Whatever is said about a Deputy being responsible for union matters on a whole as well as focussing on PGs is true, however the essence of the position lies in dealing with PGs. and if they feel she has done a good job it is unfair for UGs to slate off something they havent a clue about!

Not sure how to solve these problems but surely an all-white, UG council (i know i'm exaggerating but you get the point) is not the way forward.

Concluding, is there any possibility of discussing this in its own forum??

Feb 07 2007 16:02

Actually, the motion was proposed by a postgrad and seconded by several others- probably outnumbering the five who Shama brought along to speak for her.

And frankly, the "We're postgrads- you couldn't possibly understand us" card was severely overplayed in the meeting. They'd have us believe NO postgraduate gets up before 11am (conveniently forgetting all the MSc students- a good forty-something per cent of postgrads last time I checked- who have to start at 9 or 10, or for that matter, PhD students demonstrating in morning classes).

and to say that the undergraduates "Do not... care for the issue at hand" is just plain insulting: plenty of people were angry because they have been putting in more effort to help the student body, including or even specifically postgrads, while doing other jobs or their degrees, than she had as a full-time paid officer.

Oh, and at least everyone in the meeting had the decency not to play the race/Muslim card, which would have been truly absurd. All-white Council? All-UG Council? There is a subtle difference between exaggeration and fabrication.

OK, sometimes Council have to balance the needs of the whole student body and can't please every single interest group as much as they would like of the whole Union was being run for them alone (just like those five postgrads thought it quite unreasonable that the person costing the Union upwards of 15K should be expected to do anything other than throw nice parties for them and visit them in some lectures). We like to call this real life. You should acquaint yourself with it.

Feb 07 2007 16:28

As a postgrad, I feel better served by the ex-undergrad sabbs who went to the SEC meeting to secure fairer pay for PhDs than by the ex-postgrad sabb who jeopardised it by walking in late and making the whole Union delegation look grossly unprofessional.

I also feel better-served by all the officers (undergrad and postgrad alike) who run the club/society activities that I enjoy, than by certain 'reps' (past as much as present, and I'm not including the present DPGS here or specifically picking on her supporters from Monday) who seem to think their job is to sit in every possible meeting moaning about how they are so special and mature, and how the silly little undergrads couldn't possibly understand them.

Feb 07 2007 18:19

Another interesting point is that not only was the DPGS voted into position by mainly undergraduates (many more than postgraduates), the DPGS position itself was created mainly upon the vote of undergraduates.

Us undergrads own a big share of the DPGS, and we certainly deserve at least an equal say in the debate

Feb 08 2007 05:41

"UGs which do not understand nor care for the issue at hand"

Erm... why would they be on council if they did not care or understand? Perhaps it is precisely the term 'hack' which is attributed to so many of us that demonstrates that we do care and understand. Something which "non hacks" don't understand perhaps?

31. Seb   
Feb 08 2007 09:46


With respect, that's a rubbish argument. The UG's voted to create the DPGS because the QCC or whatever it's called, and therefore college, were concerned about the relative lack of PG (particularly untaught) participation and representation. The difference in Taught postgrad students problems and undergrads due to getting to grips with the representative structure of the union for the one year they are here are minimal compared to the untaught postgrad students.

The point of making it a sabatical position was because there was no way a PhD student would have time to take it on as a part time job, and no way that a 1 year masters student (taught or untaught) could ever stand.

Either way, it had to be funded, sabatical position.

Now the fact that the DPGS position was created in a damned stupid way (as a DP rather than a "small s" sabatical, like the once vaunted plan to raise funding to pay for CCU (FU's now) presidents to be sabatical) is at the heart of this problem.

The second one is that the vote to elect DPGS simply shouldn't *BE* open to undergraduates, anymore than the accademic rep for Sciences should be open to an engineer or medic. It's asinine, and to proudly go around stating, as was raised at council and again by you "aha, but the position was created by undergraduates and the DPGS was elected by undergraduates so basicaly we should be holding the conduct to account on what we as an entire body want" is not a clever point. It merely highlights just how badly concieved and implemented the structure is.

Is the DPGS supposed to be a sort of CCU chair for the GSA, and a paid position to make it accessible to untaught PGs, or is it supposed to be a generic sab with extra welfare duties?

No one seems to know. Some people at council were seriously suggesting that the DPGS could be no confidenced on the basis of a bad perfomance as a DP, even if it was determined she was a competent chair of the GSA! That's absurd: the DPGS's priamary reason for existing is to run the GSA.

Certainly, I find it disturbing that my aledged representative could be removed by a vote on whether council has confidence in the representative, when the body and organisation he or she runs still obviously has enormous confidence.

If Council no confidenced the medics president over the head of the medical FU, what would you imagine would happen to ICU's standing amoungst medics?

32. Seb   
Feb 08 2007 09:52


If Council, predominantly made up of UG's, consistently year on year understood PG issues, they wouldn't have so badly botched the creation of the GPA and DPGS in the first place. It's created a "representative" position that is not accountable to the people it is supposed to represent, which is not elected by the people that it is supposed to represent, and for which a large chunk of the people it is supposed to represent, the same people who college and the QCC think are in need of better representation, could never realisticaly stand for.

I've been a UG here, I'm a PhD here, I've been a hack, I've been on council, and I'm certainly not going to say I speak for every PhD student (and you can find my views on whether we need a GSA and DPGS online here), but the fact is there is a defecit, the union doesn't cater amazingly for PG's particularly untaught PGs, but council clearly has absolutely not a clue how to fix it, so I'm deeply dubious of their ability to decide whether the current incumbent of the attempt to fix that is doing a good job at fixing that defecit. The only people that could concievably tell you that are the PG's.

To be honest I do not think it can be fixed, my experience of PhD is this: I feel far closer in my working life to the staff and college than the union. I would only turn to the union for accademic welfare support after exhausting every other option, which includes: supervisor, ionternal assessor, head of group, departmental ombudsman, head of department, graduate school... and the principle reason: I would not want an undergraduate or masters student representing me in something that affected my close working relations with the rest of my research group. I'd probably be cautious with a PhD union rep too to be honest, but at least I could gaurantee that a PhD student had some appreciation with precisely the situation I'm dealing with.

It's a question of having confidence in your representatives, ironicaly. So, if you want to even try fixing the unions representative defecit in the manner we seem to have embarked upon, with a pseudo-CCU structure for PG's, then the best way to start would be to give up this notion that the UG's can have "a share" of the PG's representative.

Feb 08 2007 10:31

Right - let's start a debate on the future of the DPGS role.

A blue sky discussion paper is being presented by Shama and me today. This is ONLY for discussion and we intend to consult more widely after this meeting.

You can find the relevant paper here:

Please let us know your thoughts.


34. Seb   
Feb 08 2007 10:38

That is a much, much better plan.

35. Seb   
Feb 08 2007 10:43

I'm still not sure you would see PhD's easily taking on the president position at six hours a week, I think I'm right in saying that's more than lab teaching.

But it would be good if they could count towards transferable skills GSEPS stuff.

Feb 08 2007 13:15

DPGS/GSA is quite simply an inappropriate infrastructure for postgraduate affairs, concentrating too much power at the top and thus being too sensitive to problems there, as we have now seen twice in succession.

DPGS/GSA is just the latest in a consistent string of ICU postgraduate policy failures stretching back at least 10 years; Postgraduate Affairs Chair (discontinued 2000), PostSoc (marginalised 2003), Postgraduate Rep structure (impotent), DPGS I (ineffective 2006), and now DPGS II (censured 2007).

PostSoc, NPC and I predicted (to the Research Students Group in 2004 and Pro-Rector Postgraduate Affairs in 2005), that this type of structure would again be likely to fail. We suggested many times that what postgraduates really need is as association over which they have genuine sovereignty, which provides a informal forum for discussion and debate on postgraduate affairs, and in which they can develop their own postgraduate community.

With six years of practical experience under our belt (1999-2004) PostSoc proposed the most suitable form for the postgraduate association is a faculty-level Postgraduate Students Union comprising a part-time elected president and council, with an office, common room and adequate budget (like the CGCU setup). Conversely, DPGS/GSA is seen by postgraduates as an ICU/College owned bureaucracy over which they have little effective involvement or control.

Put the DPGS/GSA budget into a faculty level Postgraduate Students Union and finally give Imperial postgraduates an association they can use.

37. What?   
Feb 08 2007 13:30

You can't pay reps, does the union pay the ACC Chair or any other CSC, FU Chair for the work they do, why should we pay the PG Reps, do they do something that the exisiting Academic Reps have been unable to do?

Why not fund the Research Groups with all the money that is being saved, I am sure they would appreciate a fund for a researc group bar night or cakes and biscuits.

Feb 08 2007 13:46

While the suggestions in the discussion document are an improvement on the DPGS/GSA structure, it still produces just another virtual bureaucracy which lacks a community basis in which postgraduates can participate.

The proposal could be improved by reducing the amount paid to officials and spending the money on an accessible Postgraduate Union common room and office instead. Given the right infrastructure(as we have seen with the other faculty unions), students are more than willing to volunteer their time, provided they feel they are investing in something they own and control.

39. Seb   
Feb 08 2007 15:32


The pay, if you read the document, is to try and get postgrads to substitute it instead of lab/classwork etc. supervision. Otherwise, bluntly, many research students simply don't have the time.

I don't know if you are a postgrad student, but the workload is larger for the untaughts. Significantly larger and unstructured too.


Hiving postgrads off into a separate union with a cry of "Naff of you undergrads and give us a wadd of cash"

is just crazy. A CCU might work, but I think is divisive and damaging.

We ought not to be talking so much about creating a PG community, but ensuring that PG's are part of the college community, that's the main problem. Part of that is ensuring post grads have a community, but all your proposals involve making it a separate community.

You say that "DPGS/GSA is seen as a college beauracracy", but I don't think that is true from my perspective at all, nor from the other PG's I know.

Indeed, that was the basis of the DPGS's defence: she had actually built up a pretty good "face" and brand recognition for the association, has been developing a community. The problems have been *not* keeping up with the bureaucratic side of things.

Feb 08 2007 16:22

I?m not suggesting that PGs tell UGs to naff off, anymore than CGCU engineers tell RCSU scientists to naff off. But it should be recognised that PGs make up a unique community with their own particular culture and needs, which would be best served by allowing them to form and control their own ?club?. Participation in a PGSU (Postgraduate Students Union) would be open to all who have something to contribute ? UGs too. Any PGSU would operate under ICU at faculty level so I am not advocating splitting ICU.

The proposed new p/t president role seems uncannily like the old PG Affairs Chair that was abolished in 2000. Then the PGA Chair was a bureaucratic role which produced a remote leader with no followers, compared to PostSoc inclusive, active social society. ICU were right to abolish the PGA Chair and I suspect the same fate will befall the proposed new p/t president and VPs.

Ms Rahman may have succeeded in putting a friendly face to DPGS/GSA by having an open door office policy, but that does mean that PGs will freely assemble in it. Its still a private office in the heart of the ICU complex. Establishing a freely accessible PGSU common room and office in a neutral location (like CGCUs ) would go a long way to encouraging greater PG participation their own club.

A combination of a community on the ground, with its own premises, complemented by financial and authoritative support from higher office is what is needed.

Feb 08 2007 16:50 short: restart PostSoc (and rename it PGSU), give it an accessible office and common room in which PGs can freely assemble. Then provide high-level financial and official ICU+College support through the part-time PGSU president and VPs described in the new proposal.

Feb 08 2007 16:54

I do have deep reservations about paying part time student officers. Not only would it cause tension with the unpaid student volunteers, but I truley believe that it would attract the wrong kind of people.

People who are truely willing to volunteer are more likely to do a good job, as they will care in the first place. People who are paid may well be doing it for the money (and course credits as was discussed at Exec) alone, and would likely do the bare minumum required.

People who are willing to do unpaid work on top of their studies are often more passionate.

I freely accept that this may cause an issue with people wanting to do the job, but I think if its spread between a chair and several vice-chairs the work load would be small enough to be managable.

However, I also understand college isn't particularly happy with this idea...

Feb 08 2007 17:07

"Give it an office/ common room"

And back on Planet Earth, where we can't even get one of them for RCS?

James: But we're often told how unrespresentative hacks-who-give-a-darn are. Surely the "wrong sort of people"- apathetic about the Union, wanting some easy money/ course credits- would be more representative of the supposed "random" student? (note sarcasm)

44. Seb   
Feb 08 2007 17:25

James, I think this is where people will come in now and say "You don't understand" blah blah blah

I, as a fully hacked up ICU political junky, even if based on campus, would simply not be able to afford to take on a volunteer officer position of the kinds I did as a UG, certainly not of a cross faculty nature like the research rep. Supervisors are generally unsympathetic to people running off halfway through work because they have to go to a union meeting.

Not on top of research and teaching (rather necessary to earn top up money). Now, if I could substitute the paid work for lab supervision and teaching with paid work for running around campus making sure I could represent PG's, then that frees up some of the time to do that.

Otherwise you will get passionate people with no time to actually do the job effectively.

45. Seb   
Feb 08 2007 17:34


The Bureaucratic bit is the bit that the QAA worry about though: Representation. Accademic Welfare. All that stuff.

What we have now in the GSA is fine for the provision of social stuff.

Obviously, you need the social part and bueaucratic parts fused, without a face and membership, you can't really do representation.

The principle problem with the current set up is simply the fact that we have a position that half respresents postgrads and half is a generic ICU Sabb officer with duties to the entire union. Get rid of that, and make it a position that PhD and Mres students could reasonably stand for and it'd be fine.

Feb 08 2007 17:36

Jon Smith: "Ms Rahman may have succeeded in putting a friendly face to DPGS/GSA by having an open door office policy" - you have obviously not walked past her office much, the door is shut most of the time with loud music blaring out, not the most open and inviting policy...

Feb 08 2007 18:24


There is a wide range of PhD lifestyles across campus and many supervisors adopt a flexible style to allow their students to work to their own timetable, as long as they ultimately deliver. In my case, I had far more time as a PhD student than as an undergraduate - which I largely spent on PostSoc!

In PostSoc we used to talk a lot about representation, welfare, etc, between ourselves and with the students in a relaxed and informal way on neutral territory, and so were able to understand many of the real issues and how to approach solving them. For example, having ICU represent PhD students in problems with supervisors turned out to be a fundamental representation requirement. What we lacked then was ICU/College support to action it. With ICU/College now willing to provide that support to a PostSoc/PGSU type community, I don?t see a problem.

48. Seb   
Feb 08 2007 22:59


Bully for you, but most experimentalists don't get a flexible timetable during the day. The aim is to make this open to all the people that the post will represent, not a subsection. That way, those that are lucky to have a flexible time table can stand, those that are not can also stand.

Talking about representation in a "relaxed and informal way"? Do we mean the same thing here? I'm talking about things like going to SEF and the Graduate schools meetings etc. Representation is talking to the College bureaucracy, and to a lesser extent the Union bureaucracy you can't get around that, and it's never going to be informal at the high levels.

As for neutral, I'm not sure what you mean by that. Is this a conflict?

49. Mark   
Feb 09 2007 10:26


Can you pay me to please? I normally work 2-4 hours a day (5 days a week) for the RCC. Admitidly at the moment I'm working nearer 8 trying to get the budgets done. Luke probably wants a slice, as does james and james and maggie...

The RCC asked for £117K this year - we'll get between 50 and 60 (I hope). After 23 hours of budgeting we're still not there though, so WHY THE HELL ARE YOU F***ING PAYING F***ING VOLUNTEER F***ING OFFICERS. "Oh we've got spare money, lets pay officers with it since we don't know what else to do with it.

If you've got spare cash at least as a minimum spend it on postgraduate activity. Underwater club (mainly postgrads) could do with it. They only spend £10K a year on travel, mainly in the summer, mainly for posrgrads (since the weather is better then).

Not impressed at all.

50. duh!   
Feb 09 2007 11:38

Since a "substantial report" was done last year into this, why are we doing it again? why not implement its suggestions (including those lost to administrative errors!) and then see whether they work or not.

If you give it a chance with a decent DPGS, it might be that we don't have to go through all this rubbish about paying volunteers!

Feb 09 2007 13:46

the idea of paying volunteers is outrageous! Especially only paying some volunteers because they are *special*. If the dpgs position doesn't work as a sabbatical (and I've seen no evidence that it doesn't - only 2 rubbish sabbs) then scrap it completely. Don't go for some half-ar*ed middle-ground that's only going to be a waste of money and annoy everyone.

52. Seb   
Feb 09 2007 13:52


How many Sabbatical officers have we ever had who have been PhD's?


And you say that the graduate sabbatical (lets stop saying DP because it screws up the concept of what the position was supposed to achieve) position works?

It does not. It aboslutely fails from the word go, no matter how dilligent the occupant of the office works. It fails because half of the people that it supposedly represents can't stand for it, and that half are the ones that are least represented.

So, are we talking about creating volunteer officers, or part time employees?

Feb 09 2007 14:28

To duh:

Last year two reports were written. The first examined the structure of the GSA. The second the role of the DPGS. The second report never made it to Council for some reason.

This report picks up from where last year's second report left off.

To Mark:

The college has given us £30k to spend on postgrads only. We can't spend this money on the RCC, though I entirely sympathise with your wider point about hard working volunteer officers not getting paid. And no, I don't think it would be prudent to spend £30k on parties either...

54. Mark   
Feb 09 2007 14:48

Dear all

I apologise for getting so angry earlier. john - you're probably right, and while i gather that this money isn't right fenced I do agree that I can't have it (shame that) right now.

I still can't see why, since I'm a PhD student volunteer officer, we have to pay to get a PhD student volunteer officer in to run the GSA. I was under the impression (misguided?) that it was doing a good job this year, with PhD'ers in top posts.

Anyway, must try and do some work.

Feb 09 2007 15:13

Seb: "Outraged/Mark:

How many Sabbatical officers have we ever had who have been PhD's?


Er, Chris Ince (DPFS 1998-1999)

Kevin Butcher (DPEW 1999-2000)

Jon Matthews (DPFS 2006-2007)

That's three by my reckoning and I'm sure there are probably more.

Feb 09 2007 15:33

"this money isn't right fenced"

It would be quite difficult to de-ring fence this money without the body that gives it to us each year (the college) finding out!

Feb 09 2007 16:17

look, part of the reason that the DPGS got censured at council was that many student volunteers felt they comparitivly pulled their weight at least as much as her and they don't get paid. You just had to be there to see that this was a recurring theme.

So, nearly all student volunteers on council voted her to censure. The job was unstable.

If we downgrade to paying a GSA chair (even though its part time) do you not think the, lets say it, jealousy of other student volunteers will make the position unstable? And that in another couple of years time the GSA chair will be on the hot seat.

They shouldn't be paid. It's just not right in my opinion. Volunteers will be found

Feb 09 2007 17:10


Eric Allsop (President 1996 - 1997)

...was a PhD sabbatical. Which would make four, and, like 'The Informative One', I'm sure there's many more.

59. Seb   
Feb 09 2007 17:41

Mark and James:

Problem would seem to be that the DPGS is supposed to be doing the representation and with college meetings, and the GSA volunteer officers supposed to be organising events.

The argument for creating DPGS was that it was too big a role for Masters or PhD student to do part time. Another problem is that very few PhD students could stand for it.

If we can accept the argument for a sabbatical DPGS, paying someone full time for a year to ensure postgrads get representation then what is so controversial about spending that money on paying for two people to do it part time?

That's what I don't get with these explosives cries of "don't pay volunteer officers". If we have these volunteer officers, and they work well for representation, then basicaly shouldn't we tell College and the QAA that they are just wrong and we do do PG representation without need of a DPGS?

An alternative explanation, there isn't actually a big structual problem with the Union and represenation of Post Grads at all, and this whole shebang is a bit of a waste of time. Post Grad representation can be done through the existing faculty unions (spreading the load a lot wider), and the DPEW can represent post grad interests perfectly adequately to College providing the DPEW does a competent job of keeping in touch with the faculty and departmental PG reps.

Meanwhile, the Union itself needs to work hard in establishing and keeping in touch with PhD's and MRes' rather than letting the faculty PG representation become dominanted by taught PG's.

So this could all be dealt with in the pre-existing faculty structure.

Alternatively, we can create FU's to match the Graduate School structure in the union, and work that way, or one FU (the GSA) to be the unions public face to the PhD's, and have departmental and faculty reps meet there and not through the current faculty structure, with the DPEW being responsible for the formal stuff and volunteer officers doing events.

But if we already accept the QAA position that there is a problem with post grad represetation, and the way to fix it is to have a paid, employed, Post Grad rep, the distinction as to whether they are a DP, a "small s" sabbatical, or two part time employees is frankly irrelevant. You've already accepted the principle that PG representation *isn't* being done adequately by Volunteer Officers, and it needs to be done by paid part time or full time employees. Right? I just can't see how you can be FOR a paid full time DPGS and against two paid part time GS reps.

What is more, we have an FU sabatical officer already, the Medic president. This is entirely uncontroversial. If the money is comming from college, and it is for the specific purpose of paying for a post grad rep, it's not like it is ICU diverting funds from everyone else. Medics president is self funded in some way is it not?

Would a small s sabbatical (whether part time or full time) ever be no confidenced by council? Would council ever consider no confidencing the Medic president, or would it consider that an issue for the Medics?

And James, I was there, unfortuantely. I don't want to go too much into a specific case, the Court Code of Conduct prevents me from getting too involved in commenting on these things, and even though it's over I'd feel more comfortuble not even using it as a factual reference point. Particularly as I'm not able to express an oppinion.

If Council was making decisions based out of jealousy, then they really ought to have read the court determination better. We would be treading on thin legal ice to sack an employee because officers were jealous over the employees pay packet. Particularly for a second year sabb who would get full employemnt rights (a one year sab is not protected against unfair dismissal, but still protected by some other laws). Reference should be to whether the employee is doing the job they are expected to do in an adequate way, not whether they should or should not be paid to do that job in the first place, or that because they are paid they should do more than the job description. I think we should trust Council members to have voted in the manner in which they are duty bound to (see recomendation 4:

The informative one:

So that is one in the last seven years then. Hardly convincing. To be able to stand for a sabb position from a PhD you need to either have well timed start and end points (and I believe Jon maintains he only managed to run because of the repeated DPFS election) or an unusually flexible project and an open minded supervisor.

Feb 09 2007 19:18

Seb - convincing of what, exactly?

You asked a question in how many Sabbs had we *ever* had that had been PhDs and then answered by stating we had only had one.

If you meant how many had we had in recent years you should have asked that. If one wishes to make a convincing point, perhaps one should start by asking the right questions.

Just my eight-penneth worth, oh hang on, that's a different discussion thread but hey let's flame Viktor here as well.

61. Eugene   
Feb 09 2007 23:51

So to a non-hack/non-Council member UG (me), a lot of what is written above is jargon, esp all these things like QAA (wtf?)...

What is wrong with creating faculty PG welfare reps, who are on CSC/FU level answerable to DPEW and each have a team of PG welfare reps for individual departments? I know little about how FUs work or who FU presidents are answerable to, but it seems like a semi-straightforward solution. As has been mentioned, it would appear that PGs do not use the union as a first point of contact for academic affairs anyway so does it justify a position as big as a DP to run it? Would tagging it to the DPEWs job description severaly add to his/her growing workload?

I also agree with Mark and James that it is unfair to pay volunteer PG student welfareofficers; seeing how hard Flower/Millen and other volunteers work to represent their clubs, it doesn't seem right to pay PGs to do 'representation'. I can think of plenty of PhD students who are heavily involved in clubs and devote plenty of time towards their chosen activity despite being very busy with research/teaching. If they can chair a club/csc whilst balancing their academic work, why can't an academic/welfare rep?

Feb 10 2007 00:03

Eugene - you've just described the pre-GSA setup. We currently have research faculty reps with research dep-reps beneath them.

63. DA   
Feb 10 2007 01:05

Seb, I don't think you're supporting the argument that PhD students are too busy to to do volunteer work when you take the time to write essays on live. In working hours too, by the look of your post times.

Feb 10 2007 01:36

I appreciate what Eugene has said as from following this discussion from the side lines, giving the responsibility back to the DPEW seems like a logical conclusion. However, there is a concerning rift that seems to be growing between PGs and their confidence in the union (and particularly it's UG officers) to represent them. I am not a PG so I may be considered unqualified to comment but I think that given the current course of conversations, the PG community would not feel properly represented by an UG DPEW. In my opinion this is absurd, as if this was in the DPEW job description then I hope our elected officers would have the competency to address all areas with equal enthusiasm and care, but this will not stop PGs feeling any less in touch with the union if they do not see themselves represented by a PG officer.

In this way I think the DPEW should by all means have close contacts with the PG Welfare and Academic Reps, as it is part of their job to represent all student Education and Welfare issues no matter whether they are UG or PG. However I think PG should also have another channel for representation in which they would feel more specifically catered for. I like the idea of creating the PGSU, making it equivalent to RCSU, CGCU or ICSMSU with the PGSU President becoming a 'sabb with a little s'. However, whether this should be a paid position or not requires much more discussion. More would need to be known about how much time and support the president of a potential PGSU would need. If there were to be a team of vice presidents I do not believe it would be fair for these positions to be paid. I am sure Seb would be surprised at the amount of people who are keen enough to hold these volunteer positions that they WILL find the time.

65. Seb   
Feb 10 2007 02:17

Informative one:

Hardly convincing of it being the case that PhD's can easily stand for such positions.

Yeah, you run the risk of answering a rhetorical question in an anal fashion of getting an answer that assumes you are also being rhetorical. You are technicaly correct, but I think I have still made my point.


As a PhD who has been a hack, I'd consider organising events fun, and do it in recretation time, becuase it is fun. I wouldn't want to go around canvessing genuine oppinions and turn up umpteen college meetings in a formal capcity etc. etc. even if you paid me the part time funding that the paper proposes.

That is the difference.


I work, regretably, terribly, in a horrible, horrible mistake that I wish I could undo, at a government Lab. I was writing while I was waiting for an engineer to get back to me after countersigning a PERF (Permision for Enginerring something or other From) in order to get time in the mechanical workshop to drill a hole in piece of die cast Aluminium (which I "can't" do myself becuase UKAEA doesn't allow people to do so unless they have been on a six week course at Harwell) so I can put a Lemo 0S socket in it (which I also can't do myself because I want to put 200V through it, which can only be done by the HV people), and also waiting for the guy who works on EBWH to get back to me on how to modify our power supplies to be proof against voltage spikes (because the Operations division don't trust "Physics" people to run plant).

In the mean time, when the neutral beam people have got up and running (over year and half overdue), I may get the experimental time I have been waiting for over the past year and a half. As you might guess, I have a bit of a gap to fill meanwhile.

Oh, and by the way, if anyone was expecting Fusion to work in the next 20 years, it's not going to happen in Britain.

Clever-clogs comments asside, have you got a point?

66. Seb   
Feb 10 2007 02:37

"I am sure Seb would be surprised at the amount of people who are keen enough to hold these volunteer positions that they WILL find the time."

If Kirsty read my posts very carefully, she might be surprised to find what I actually think. At least I hope she would be because I've deliberately tried to be ambiguous as to what I personally think.

That said, hiving off an entire faculty representation to a single person (i.e. not just your department)... I doubt you will get many candidates. The CV points for someone embarked on an accademic carrer are less relevant, and there isn't much fun in it. To top it off it is something QAA say we do badly. If we think we don't then we need to be robust with College. If we think we do it badly, we need to think how to improve it, and if that means using part time employees, lets not be squeamish about it if we already have a full time employee for Medics and have had a full time employee for PG's already.

But by all means, if we can find volunteers, why pay for it (other than the fact that College thinks the previous situation failed, though they may be wrong), go for it.

Council, and the Union, already seems to have decided on a particular model that says PG reps's need payment otherwise it doesn't happen. This is the path we have embarked upon. Being *for* a Sabbatical officer to do PG representation but *against *two part time positions is totally nonsensical. It's bsicaly saying that the Union is happy to have pay one person more than two part time employees to do the same amount representation, provided that the one employee who is paid more is full time rather than part time. Seems fairly arbritary to me. If full time, why not part time?

Feb 10 2007 11:19

Because there are 800 part time people working for the union who don't get paid. They may get a little upset.

68. Seb   
Feb 10 2007 13:49


Nobody gets too upset about the Medic FSU pres being a Sabb while historicaly, the engineers presient, the scientists president, and the miners president (when that was actually a separate CCU) were not.

What you can't do is have a representative Sabb position that a large chunk of the people the position is supposed to represent can't or feel they can't stand for election to. That's crazy.

So either pay, or do not pay. But don't pay in such a way that the position creates fresh representation problems.

Feb 10 2007 15:30

I don't think noone is upset that the ICSMSU president gets paid and the other presidents don't. I think in an ideal world we would want them all paid. There have been a number of suggestions in the past to do precisely that. However, we are all aware how tight finance is and are resigned to the fact that it simply won't happen. So there isn't (much of) a fuss. However, suggesting we add another paid position into the fray which is equivalent to the CGCU President, RCSU President etc etc is downright insulting. Just because their is no opposition to the Medics President getting paid and the City and Guilds/Royal College of Science President's not doesn't mean people think that is the right way to do it. And certainly DOES mean they would oppose making a new paid FU position. It simply isn't fair.

Feb 10 2007 16:41

Just to make it clear and before anybody gets their nickers in a twist, the ICSMSU President is not paid by the Union. It is funded from the alumni of the old Medical Schools, charitable trusts and the Faculty of Medicine and is a full time job that couldn't be performed without taking a sabbatical.

Mr Collins, if you are reading this, didn't your manifesto say something about trying to get the other Faculty Presidents sabbatical status and funding?

Feb 10 2007 19:51

Thanks Danny - I had an idea that the union didn't fund the Medics president but I didn't want to say anything without getting my facts straight.

John's manifesto bit was what I was alluding to without mentioning any names... Knew someone would though. :D

72. Seb   
Feb 11 2007 13:33

The union does not pay the DPGS nor would it be paying the proposed two part time-ers. College is paying for it out of ring fenced money.

What simply isn't fair is creating a PG sabatical to claim to reperesent all PG's which un-taught post grads would find very difficult to stand for. There is a problem of fitting the post grads into the current model. If there weren't then we wouldn't be having this discussion now.

Ensuring representation of post grads is surely more important than consistency in funding? Which is the more important principle: fulfilling the core objective of the union in terms of representation, or the principle that all officers other than Sabbs should be unpaid? If the basis of opposition is a distaste to paying, then you need to have a workable alternative, and hopefully something better than "I'm sure volunteers will be found", because if they aren't that's another year of duff representation.

Feb 11 2007 16:52

It doesn't matter which one is the more important principle; you're being unfair in that respect.

The ideas raised so far seem viable, but if one of the stated aims of this whole review is to reduce the "political visibility" (or whatever term JC & SR used in the paper) then you're not helping matters by paying a volunteer officer.

They'll face close scrutiny again, and it'll cause tension, and we'll be back in the this whole damn farcical situation again.

74. Seb   
Feb 12 2007 01:07

Absolutely it matters!

The whole REASON the union exists is to represent students, surely the important thing is to fix representation by whatever means necessary. Failure to adequately provide representation is a massive and cripling failure to meet our aims and objectives. Full consistency on hacks positions, work loads and pay on the other hand is *not* one of ICU's core aims and objectives, and god forbid it ever does. It would mean the Unions main objective was to keep hacks happy rather than serve our members.

The priority should be on fixing any representation problem. That this is done in a "fair" way should be a secondary concern.

I'd suggest the really important thing is not to come up with a report on the matter that has an analysis of the problem, proposes a solution and then we go and do a totally different thing that is inconsistent with that analysis for "political" reasons. I don't know what the mood in College is on this (not remotely) but it'd probably look pretty bad.

Of course, people might be quibbling with the assertions in the report and analysis of the problems of untaught PG representation rather than the budget at the end, but that hasn't really come across so much. It's all rather been in regard to the idea of paying someone part time rather than full time.

Any officer could be paid, part time, full time, provided the money comes externally. If the sports club got enough money together from whatever source and paid for their CSC chair to be a part time employee, would we block it? Guilds pays for their president to work during summer. If college wants to stump up the money for a part time or full time employee/student to represent post grads to meet it's QAA obligations, for the Union to turn around and say no to that because no one will fund other similar positions, and holders of those positions may feel disgruntled is a bit odd. Ultimately, it's not union money, it's college money stumped up by them because they are concerned they are not up to scratch on the QAA Audits.

As for scrutiny, the only reason it's come to Council this time is because the position is a DP. Council would hardly *ever* consider no confidencing an FU president (volunteer, part time employee of full time employee) over the head of the FU unless the entire FU was failing very badly. I believe Heeps did it with guilds once... Basicaly if future GSA presidents are deemed to have screwed up, the appropriate place for scruitiny to occur is in the GSA's committee.

Feb 12 2007 09:31

Since college are so goddamn keen to buy a Sab why don't they create a member of staff themselves to sort it.

If they're gonna throw money at us to improve representation then they need to also give us the decision as to what to do with it.

Rightly or worongly if we pay GSA chair or whatever i bet my Tankard that in 5 years time max the position will be scrapped again because its unstable "politically" in the eyes of student volunteers. And if we payed ACC chair trust me, his job would become a lot harder.

76. Seb   
Feb 12 2007 12:47


How is a staff member going to represent students? Be serious please.

Otherwise, that is *exactly* what they are doing. They are willing to pay for a student to do this, and I don't see yet a good reason yet as to why we should stop them unless it distorts representation (as a full time Sab definitely would). Indeed, I think a concern we ought to have is that if College is willing to chuck money at this because they think it's a big enough problem for them to warrant it, might they not consider (if we continue to fail in their terms) going over ICU's head and grant some of the more fevered wishes as once espoused by some PostSoc fundies and create a separate entity?

I really don't understand why nobody makes a fuss about Guilds and the Medics getting funding external to the union for a Sab/tempSab, but are so opposed to the same for post Grads.

On the question of "political stability" student volunteers outside of an FU should mind their own business frankly, unless the entire FU is imploding or a nest of corruption.

I think the idea of paying people part time to take on sigificant burdens like FU chiefs is significantly better than the more popular idea of trying to find ways of funding them as Sabbs much better. Professionalisation of student politics is probably a bad idea (a Sab, lets be blunt, isn't really a student). It might give better results in provision of some services, but then so might scrapping the entire upper echelons of the Union and employing permenant staff to do everything instead. The point that is getting lost in this murkey debate is that a part time student employee is still much closer to our membership than a fully paid person effectively doing a gap year and spending all of their time in their office.

Now it still might be a terrible way to do PG representation, but that should be the focus of the argument here, and so far it isn't: it's all about the money.

Meanwhile, if other volunteer positions are creating an intolerable burdon (like CSC officers for example) for the people running them, perhaps we should look at ways to accomodate the same number of clubs we have in more CSC's?

Feb 12 2007 12:55

I know of several postgrads who spend hours and hours running clubs. Why is it that they cant find a couple of decent ones to do all the academic representation stuff? If there is really that little demand for postgraduate representation then why not just wrap the whole show up and leave it to undergraduate welfare officers instead? It won't take that much training to get them up to speed on the issues unique to the postgraduate community.

78. Seb   
Feb 12 2007 13:37


I'd suggest the following reason: Running a club is fun. It supports your social activity. And if you are running the club, you have alot of influence in ensuring that it doesn't conflict with working hours. Doing welfare representation can be boring, difficult, and entails going to formal meetings with college people that you can't duck out of if you want to be taken seriously. It also has far less relevance in terms of buffing the CV. You might get some people ideologicaly committed to it, but then at research level you have already selected for people fairly dedicated to their research.

As to your other points, I can only say indeed, why not?

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