Last month ICU Council approved a new Constitution and Code of Practice, putting the final touches on a year-long governance review set to revolutionise the way ICU was run. The changes had massive support within the College, as the new trustee board structure would bring much needed long-term planning and strategic skills to ICU.
These changes are now in jeopardy after the College Secretariat made controversial changes to the documents before they are presented to College Council for approval. The ICU President was not consulted on or informed about the changes, discovering them only when he read the papers for the College meeting.
The most concerning change is regarding the Code of Practice, which governs the relationship between Imperial and ICU. This document has traditionally required the approval of both parties, which allowed controversial parts to be removed at the request of the Union. The secretariat has removed this requirement for mutual agreement, allowing College to impose anything it likes upon the Union without consultation.
A second change seeks to clarify some ambiguity regarding the legal status of the Union, but not in ICU's favour. The constitution passed by ICU states that the organisation "in law could be treated as part of Imperial College", however this has changed to "which is part of Imperial College".
As an unfortunate consequence they also flattened the numbering hierarchy, replacing 23 paragraphs with 114, making the document much harder to read.
ICU President John Collins has withdrawn his support for the Constitution and Code of Practice in its current form, telling Live!:
"I am extremely disappointed by the behaviour of the College and feel personally let down by the Central Secretiat. Unless this matter is resolved before the College Council meeting this Friday I will withdraw my support for any proposed changes to the Union's governing documents and explain exactly why to all present at that meeting. If the College attempts to impose these changes on ICU then I will consult solicitors about further action."
College is still at liberty to pass the constitution anyway, as it is able in law to enforce changes upon the Union. The spirit of the law, if not the word, indicates that this should only be done to keep ICU as a fair and democratic organisation operating legally. Passing a constitution without democratic approval from ICU nor the support of the ICU President would certainly be one of College's more bizarre decisions.
Should this political power play reach stalemate it is possible that the constitution will not be changed, wrecking the timetable for the introduction of the trustee board and requiring a new constitution to be passed at the start of the academic year.
At Monday's Centenary Ceremony the College Chairman, Lord Kerr, declared "independence is fun". Apparently ICU is not allowed the same luxury.