The final phase of Imperial College Union's Governance Review has been completed, with the recommendations in a paper to the Executive Committee tomorrow.
The core issue for discussion was the model ICU will adopt when new charity laws come into effect: at present ICU is an exempt charity, which means it has no need to register with the Charities Commission, but this is set to change. If the proposals of the working group are implemented, ICU will assert greater independence from College by becoming a registered charity in its own right.
The main effect this has on ICU is who should become the 'trustee board', the body ultimately responsible for the charity. At present this falls to the Executive Committee, even though they may be over-ruled by Council. Recommendations on best practice from the Charities Commission warn against the committee remaining as a trustee board: the make up of paid and volunteer officers with short terms of office provides little in the way of apolitical thought and long term strategic oversight. Council is too large and ineffective to be the ultimate trustee board.
Many months ago ICU determined it should probably have a new trustee board, which would sit above Council, Executive and the Court to have the final say in all matters. While this board would be ultimately responsible, it is intended to be a hands-off body which intervenes only when necessary, similar to the Court but providing a broad range of general experience, rather than judicial and hack experience. By contrast, the new trustee board at Kings has far more control over the union.
The style of trustee board proposed in the review would provide a body capable of strategic planning, with a range of experience from external members feeding into this. It would also have an opportunity to scrutinise finances with non-students again providing valuable insight. Both of these functions are currently inadequately performed by the executive and Council, if they ever happen at all.
Members of the Board
It is proposed that the trustee board be made of the following people:
- Council Chair
- Court Chair
- 4x student trustees
- 4x external trustees
- 1 College governor
The attempted no-confidence of the Deputy President (Graduate Students) provoked squeals of horror from College human resources, other students' unions and at least one trade union due to the position of sabbaticals as both elected officers and employees. Under the proposals outlined by the governance review Council would be deprived of its ability to fire underperforming or incompetent sabbaticals. Instead a no-confidence would remove the officer from their position, removing their right to represent the union or take part in its governance structures. The officer would remain an employee, with absolutely nothing do, until the trustee board met to consider whether to terminate their employment.
Other students' unions also react with horror when they find out that ICU allows sabbaticals - or anyone involved in the ICU political process - to act as returning officer. Following this year's elections farce, which prompted other unions to ask "what on earth are you lot doing over there?", Court looks set to take over elections for central positions.
The much-maligned and outdated Staff-Student Protocol is also to be replaced, as the current one is open to misinterpretation and no longer suitable.