The recently-elected GSA chair, Jon Matthews, has resigned from his post in a dramatic end to last night's Union Council. His decision came after Council rejected his GSA report for the second meeting in a row, triggering an automatic motion of censure under the new constitution.
At the very first meeting of term Matthews had submitted a GSA Chair's report after approximately five weeks in the job, due to the original GSA election being made void when then Deputy President (Graduate Students) Shama Rahman complained about her own election. Despite a mandate by the ICU Court to hold a new election before the end of July, results were not finally announced until the end of August leading to a massively reduced summer period for the incoming Chair.
Members of Council - in particular Medic President Tim Wills - appeared to take issue with the amount of work done during this time, querying if it was worth the £2,000 honorarium paid to the GSA Chair over the summer. The honorarium issue reappeared at this Council, despite the executive committee last year taking the view it was nothing to do with them. Last year Miss Rahman asked exec to approve a "summer honorarium", however they felt it was the GSA's money so the GSA should decide. According to the ICU President no minutes appear to exist and Miss Rahman has been unable to confirm what decision was made by her committee.
Much of the friction at council surrounded whether the report reflected £2,000 of work. There has been confusion over the nature of the payment finally decided: whether it was intended as a full-time summer position as alluded to in the original paper to exec, or as compensation for an entire year as was suggested in some of the original GSA models. With no minutes available finding answers has proven difficult.
In the original vote on whether to accept or reject the report four people voted to reject, four against with around twelve abstaining. After the vote was taken again at the request of Mr Matthews five voted to accept, six to reject and around eleven abstained. Given that the last two Council meetings have consisted mostly of unanimous "rubber stamping" votes and little discussion, this reporter wonders if Council knows what it is doing: such a high level of voters unable to make a decision does not bode well should future difficult decisions have to be made. Following the rejection an automatic motion of censure was brought in accordance with the constitution, leading Mr Matthews to resign.
The GSA Chair was also returning officer in the GSA elections, leading Council to cancel them and call for a re-run as soon as possible. Given this will be the fourth GSA election this year and the third in as many months, turnout seems likely to be exceptionally low once again thanks to election fatigue.
The GSA looks set to have no committee for at least another month, while yet another set of elections is arranged. Although some in Council felt Mr Matthews had not done enough during his five weeks in office, he is likely to have achieved more than the GSA will over the next five. Despite having no committee the GSA should have been able to function thanks to a staff member employed to support it as part of the DPGS review; sadly there has been no-one employed in that position since the start of term, despite plenty of warning that the member of staff originally in that role was to leave in early October. A functioning GSA before 2008 now seems unlikely unless the current sabbatical team are willing to put a lot of work in, or the staff support role is filled quickly.