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GSA Chair Resigns

Oct 30 2007 00:06
The Dark Knight
The GSA has been thrown into disarray following the resignation of the GSA Chair, after an automatic censure motion was brought at Council.
Jon Matthews

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.

Worth it?

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.

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Discussion about “GSA Chair Resigns”

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.
1. peter   
Oct 30 2007 00:37

Well done undergrads, you have managed to kill something you have no knowledge of!

Give yourself a round of applause

clap clap

Oct 30 2007 00:45

Killed off what exactly?

Oct 30 2007 00:47

This was more a case of euthanasia.

Oct 30 2007 01:12

Could somebody please reveal what the (recently resigned) GSA Chair has actually done for ?2000?

Oct 30 2007 05:31

Hang on a minute.

5 for, 6 against and around 11 abstentions? I can but hear the voice of Heeps bellowing "farce"... and it's not the first time in the short and undistinguished history of the GSA that "farce" is one of the kinder things one could use to describe happenings around it.

I'm not surprised Mr Matthews decided he'd had enough, and congratulate him on resigning at a meeting - a highly satisfying way to go, as I recall from my own adventures of many years ago.

With this, and the very imminent departure of a highly-valued member of Union staff (whose identity I presume I may not disclose), on the back of the recent financial problems, one fears for the near future of our friends in North Beit.

Oct 30 2007 08:13

I think council need to have their heads looked at. They're not going to find anyone better as GSA chair. I hope that in the cold light of day they have a chance to reflect on the consequences of their rash actions. Good on you, Jon, for not putting up with any more of their nonsense!

7. pg2   
Oct 30 2007 08:41

"what the (recently resigned GSA Chair has actually done for ?2,000"

Considerably less than he would have done had the ICU President followed the recommendation here:

It was stated last night that it takes a month to run a constitutional election. The GSA re-run took two.

Some other things from my experience:

  • getting an interruption of studies for less than two months (for example, 5 weeks to run the GSA over the summer) is nigh-on impossible because of all the paperwork. It is a painful experience.
  • when you are not on an interruption of studies the clock is ticking on your PhD. The deadlines don't move unless you get an interruption. Even when your supervisor says its ok, you can take a few weeks off, they don't mean it. You still have to work just as hard on the PhD as before, while doing whatever else you were doing.
  • organising anything as a postgrad one-man-team is nigh on impossible without your research suffering badly. The staff support ICU failed to replace was supposed to sort that out.

The GSA is in effect dead and buried and ICU should give back the ?25,000 it receives from College for postgrad representation. It hasn't spent the money on the postgrad member of staff (except apparently to keep a former sabbatical hanging around a bit longer) and the GSA has no functioning committee.

Oct 30 2007 09:05

At the first council we rejected the first one, and he resubmitted an updated report, but sadly still didn't give all the facts. He jumped, we didn't push. Maybe a little explination about what the summer honorarium, which seemed to be very below board.

If only everything could be look at in this detail.

Oct 30 2007 09:24

"but sadly still didn't give all the facts"

Which facts were missing? If you knew what "facts" were missing, why didn't you ask about them? If you didn't, then how do you know they were missing?

There isn't an explanation about the "summer" honorarium, because the GSA didn't keep minutes of anything.

To my knowledge the GSA committee approved it, however Shama had always pushed for a paid volunteer position instead.

It was decided that paying the GSA Chair for the year was politically unacceptable, as the undergrads in particular would object. The honorarium was a clever bodge by Shama (not quite as daft as she looks) to pay the GSA Chair for the year without people getting uppity. Hence it was called a summer honorarium like the Guilds one. Nice trick, poorly executed because Shama was completely useless at paperwork and screwed up her minutes and the election.

Sadly this appears to have not sunk in with certain sabbaticals and the rest of council seems mostly incapable of independent thought. The fact that half of them wouldn't commit one way or another shows they had no idea what was going on in the stupid squabble that took place last night.

Remember that Council currently has no ordinary members either: this is essentially the executive committee making decisions with a few extra CSC chairs and welfare reps thrown in.

10. Pundit   
Oct 30 2007 09:28

...and the undergrads have just shut down the GSA. It is dead. Well done.

Don't give me this carp about the FU's being able to do it - the GSA was set up since it was recognised the post grad representation was rubbish, and things needed to change.

Can't believe that we've just written off circa ?70 - ?80K since a few newbies didn't understand where a measly ?2K went.


Oct 30 2007 12:03

Assuming Peter, Postgrad, Old Fart, pg2, Appalled, Also at council and Pundit are all individuals and all post grads then post graduate engagement doesn't appear to be dead.

Also assuming someone stands in the (almost but not quite yet ) cancelled GSA Elections - if you can take as much time and effort as it takes to moan on Live! to vote then we already have a turnout approaching that of the first GSA election.

Now imagine you each spoke to one friend...

Oct 30 2007 12:21

Scrap GSA and give a faculty level Postgraduate Students Union a chance. It can't be worse.

Oct 30 2007 12:29

"give a faculty level Postgraduate Students Union a chance"

Isn't that what we have (in theory) with the current GSA structure?

14. hmm   
Oct 30 2007 12:38

complete and utter farce.

that's what you get with a spineless group of sabbs, incapable of seeing past the next month. they've f**ked the GSA before it got a chance to get going.

i wait to see what felix says.

15. Farce   
Oct 30 2007 13:19

The RCSU president made an excellent point, unfortunately nobody listened to her... it went along the lines of "remember we are voting to accept the report and your descion should not be affected by the ?2000 honorarium".

Or perhaps they just voted him out because they don't like him... nice to see Steve taking a leaf out of Collins' book for getting puppets to speak for him in council to give his personal opinion more weight.

And slightly more concerning Ben was holding the Postgrad support position while they found a permanent member of staff... why did they wait until after he left to advertise the position. Am I the only one who's confused, or is their some obscure HR law that prevents them from doing it sooner? Or is it that they really just don't care?

Oct 30 2007 13:37

GSA is a top-down bureaucracy designed to satisfy QAA?s requirement for postgraduate representation and to work with the graduate schools. It is an inaccessible and non-inclusive bureaucracy, and that?s why pgs aren?t interested in it.

PGSU would be a club developed by the pgs, for the pgs. Like the other faculty unions, it would be self-governed by pg volunteers and have public space (for example in the form of a common room and an accessible office). Unlike GSA, it would be inclusive, and I suspect, much more successful.

Oct 30 2007 14:14

Why doesn't Yet Again get involved with the GSA!? Yes, the funding to set it up was in response to the college not meeting the QAA requirements in PG representation.

There is nothing to stop it from becoming an all-inclusive club developed by PGs. Get involved and you could make it whatever you think it should be.

Surely, it's a good thing to get rid of a chair who has done nothing but get elected and take ?2K. I think we need to get over that and move on if the GSA is to offer anything for PGs this year.

If past record is anything to go by, ICU won't do anything for PGs so we have to make it happen for ourselves.

Before the GSA was in existence, there was literally NOTHING for postgrads, not so much as an e-mail was sent! So no matter how little you think the GSA did, it was atleast an improvement on what went before. Looks like we're back to the nothing of old thanks to the UGs messing around with the system and scrapping roles before they had a chance to become established.

Oct 30 2007 14:45

I knew it was a bad idea to pay someone. I never accepted the nonsense about Postgrads being unwilling to volunteer.

Unfortunately I expect Jon (who I'm sure will correct me if I'm wrong) resigned due to the fact that his report had been rejected twice, and hence the constitution forces him to be censured, and he would take mild glee in following the constitution to the word.

Could council resist censuring the man who bought a sabb the closest to a no confidence in a long time? And what's with 11 abstentions. Come on guys!

19. ummm   
Oct 30 2007 16:44

I remember there was a long debate at Exec last year regarding this pay for the GSA chair. Exec should have stopped it and not have lowered the matter back down to the GSA to sort out.

The honararium for C&G president is very different to that of the GSA chair. C&G pays the president using money donated by numerous people while the GSA chair is getting paid by grant money.

When you make the GSA chair position into volunteer position then the union shouldn't be paying for it, otherwise the ACC, RCC, SCC etc will start to question how that is fair. There is also a huge issue of conflict of interest when deciding how much the GSA chair should be paid since the GSA chair is suppose to chair the committee which decides how much he gets paid.

Oct 30 2007 17:04

I'm sorry 'ummm' but where does the C&G get their money from? I heard that for the last two years the CGCA haven't coughed up and the Guilds President was paid from Union funds by mistake.

Now tell me what the difference is between the Guilds Honorarium and the GSA Honorarium?

Oct 30 2007 17:54

"Also at council" (#9) makes a good point. A rump Council had potentially caused irreparable damage. Silly, silly, silly.

Oct 30 2007 17:54

s/had/has, obviously.

Oct 30 2007 18:45

Exec did not "lower the matter back down to the GSA to sort out". Exec rejected the idea that the GSA should recieve a summer honorarium paid for out of union funds as was proposed by Sharma. It was passed back to her to redo the proposal and it was felt that if she could get half of the funding for the honorarium from somewhere else (like the CGCU honorarium is paid for by the CGCA) then exec would CONSIDER meeting it half way with union funds.

Even if the GSA committee did have the authority to give the honorarium out of the GSA ?25K-ish pot then it seems utterly absurd that the GSA chair should recieve a two month honorarium for 5 weeks work.

Most concerning to me however is the nature in which the honorarium was paid to Mr Matthews. Mr Matthews wrote a claim form for himself for the ?2K. We use claim forms for getting money back for the ten bottles of coke we bought from sainsburys for such and such an occassion. There is no way an honorarium should be paid in this manner - it has serious tax fraud implications amongst other things.

Just to put this into perspective - this would be like me having an unofficial (unminuted) meeting with my executive and getting them to authorise giving me an honorarium out of the RCSU budget and me then writing myself a claim form for it - It would be outrageous - well actually less outrageous than whats happened with the GSA because my executive is made up of 12.

And just to clarify I do not personally believe that honorariums should be given. There is a line between sabbatical officers and volunteer officers and it shouldn't be made fuzzy.

Oct 30 2007 19:03

Minutes of Exec state: "Refer back to GSA".

How this is interpreted may differ.

Oct 30 2007 21:18


I'm afraid that you are quite incorrect with regards to the claim for the honorarium. I did not fill out a claim form for myself, I requested the agreed honorarium be paid and it was decided (and not by myself) to pay the honorarium from the GSA accounts rather than central Union accounts. As such, a claim form was completed but by whom I do not know, this claim form was presented to the DPFS along with documentation. The DPFS then signed off the claim. My involvement with it was simply asking for it to be paid.

As for the accusation of tax fraud, I would rather people marshalled their facts before accusing me of criminal activity.


I did not resign because my report had been rejected twice, the rejection of my report by such a small cabal was a symptom of my reasons for resignation, not the cause. Also, if a motion of censure had the same number of abstentions as my reports, the motion would have fallen.

Oct 30 2007 21:52


I would expect you of all people to know that it was wholly inappropriate for you to be given money via a claim form and I have not accused you of tax fraud - I merely said there were implications. There is no way, to my mind, recieving an honorarium through a claim form is above board.

Oct 30 2007 22:28


I don't wish to be drawn into a public slanging match at all, but I did think that I made clear that I had no control over how the honorarium went through the books and did not choose how it was done. I was only aware of it having been done via a claim form after the event.

Best wishes,


Oct 30 2007 22:32

It would be nice if the members of council could make up their minds for a change instead of abstaining to not have to make difficult decisions. How is it fair to vote for important issues such as this when half of the voters refuse to decide which way they stand? It's pretty pathetic.

Oct 30 2007 23:19

Quite, I don?t believe council had enough discussion on this paper. In general, members seem more interested in arguing the trivial points in papers such as the correct phrasing of this and the correct punctuation of that without enough attention to the actual content.

Let me make it quite clear that Jon has done some fantastic things for Imperial and I have a great deal of respect for him, often having been to him for advice and regarding him as a friend. It saddens me to speak out about this but I do believe that everything which happened with the honorarium was wrong and that it should be paid back.

Oct 30 2007 23:40

Let's also make one other thing clear here. College gave around ?25k to ICU for postgraduate representation, which was originally in the form of a deputy president. The new model sees a member of staff employed with some of that money to support the GSA officers, with the rest going to the GSA supposedly for events, advertising, support etc. A permanent member of staff hasn't been employed yet and there will be at least a month of that salary which has not been paid - I wonder if the GSA will get the money back?

I just have this horrible feeling that ?25k is going to get swallowed and postgrads will be left with nothing yet again, while undergrad officers insist that as its the union's money they can spend it on awnings.

The more the GSA farce drags on, the more I become convinced College should have formed a second postgraduate union and given it ?30k. Frankly, giving so much money to ICU has proved to be a waste of that money and if I were College I'd be looking to have it back.

Oct 31 2007 02:04

'...College should have formed a second postgraduate union and given it ?30k'. Here, here.

Oct 31 2007 02:26

he's the bloody voice of reason 99% of the time. and he knows more about what's going on than most of the sabbs.

jennifer, you strike me as more than a little naive. i'm pretty sure jon wouldn't do anything underhand if he could possibly avoid it (i do know him reasonably well, though i'm choosing to be anonymous).

the way the ICU finances work, i'm not surprised it got paid in a strange way. and i'm not surprised jon didn't know about the way it was paid.

Oct 31 2007 04:32

Can see the GSA Chair's report that was rejected? Is it available on-line?

Oct 31 2007 08:57

Papers/minutes for all future committees can be found at

The paper in question is here:

Oct 31 2007 12:28

Guilds Sceptic,

I think you should get your facts right before making such comment. The CGCA does not pay for the Guilds President. The Guilds President is paid for by the numerous donations collected through the years by people or organisation related to the Union.

Oct 31 2007 13:33

When you say "by people or organisation(s) related to the Union", where exactly does your money come from?

Oct 31 2007 14:05

The money is supposed to come from the city livery companies, but it seems they're writing cheques to City & Guilds College Union so it takes a while to get it changed...

Either that or Fok didn't bother last year and the cheque I have in front of me for ?500 was never re-issued.

38. An0n   
Oct 31 2007 16:26

So our "honorable" President has finally let his feelings of inadequacy get to him, and brought about the resignation of one of the most knowledgeable and useful Union Officers....

Great one Steve, bet you are hugging yourself for that one! Talk about cutting of your nose to spite your face.......

Not everyone may like Jon personally, or think his rather direct methods are the best way to go about things, however i don't think anyone can deny that he has always acted with the best interests of the Union at heart, and his resignation from the GSA Chair role is a loss to both the GSA and the Union.

39. So...   
Oct 31 2007 16:49

Does he get to keep the ?2000? By my calculations he should probably be paying about ?1800 of it back.

40. Fok   
Oct 31 2007 22:56

Ashley FYI.

The task was entrusted to Boon... by the hand-over time, I rediscovered the cheque and the cheque was swiftly passed to Tristan and I personally asked him to deal with that asap. For the rest of the story, please ask Tris.

Oct 31 2007 23:43

Ashley, I am genuinely shocked by your comments! Really!

Ok, so we know a DPGS doesn't work. We tried it for two years. It didn't work. Full stop. Next.

We try a GSA chair. Personally I would have prefered this as a PURELY voluntary position. So ok, maybe it's working, maybe it's not. Possibly some people have objections with Jon, possibly not. The sheer number of abstentions make this difficult to ascertain, I think many of the Jon haters left council last year.

Personally, I do not belive Jon's reasons for resigning are truely, er, honorable (?), but I do NOT see this as a flaw in the concept of a GSA chair. Give it a chance!

Nov 01 2007 07:35

Hoorah for Millen!!

But seriously back to Jon's resignation.. His paper details he's spent most of his time on 12 welfare cases and thats why he's been near uncontactable and done nothing much else in the past however months - firstly why on earth didn't he pass those on to the support staff like dpew or student advisor if he didn't have enough time to fulfil his other duties and secondly if he cared that much about those 12 cases which cannot be spoken about then how on earth can he justify resigning and leaving them high and dry? ooo arrgh

Nov 01 2007 11:47

Uncontactable... he is a sub-warden, it would be unhead of for him not to have his phone switched on at all times... and I hear email is really catching on these days...

I believe he has no intention of abandoning the cases and will still carry on with them (with the individual's concent). I believe they weren't passed on to the DPEW because it was the GSA's job to deal...

Bearing in mind that DPEW (Jon's boss, not his support staff) stated in council after Jon resigned that she did not want to be the one to babysit the GSA as she was too busy.

There is no member support staff, that's the real issue... WAKE UP!

44. Seb   
Nov 01 2007 12:18

Seems to me that the automatic censure motion should not have come about: my personal recollections of the constitution is that a censure only comes about if the report is a required one, and I don't believe the GSA Chair is required to give a report.

Frankly, I wonder about the need for a GSA, but the WHOLE POINT of the new structure was to make the GSA chair accountable to it's membership primarily, not the sodding Council, to avoid the farce of having a DPGS censured primarily for failing to do work in Beit Towers.

If Council sacked or censured the Medic President, the Medics union would have a fit.

How on earth do you expect, politicaly, an organisation to even have a chance to do it's job if Council and the Hackery keep it locked up in the Quad before it can even begin to set up it's grass roots awareness?

45. hack   
Nov 01 2007 12:42

Interesting point Seb.

"The Council shall receive such reports from Officers and committees that it may require, with Sabbatical Officers reporting to each ordinary meeting. The Council may require any Officer and any other post-holder in the Union not on the Trustee Board or Court to attend and answer questions."

Thus the GSA Chair is not constitutionally required to present a report. The Council did not resolve that the GSA Chair had to report so no report was required.

"A member presenting a report shall move that ?The report be accepted?, or that ?The report be received?. A discussion shall be held, and if the report is tabled to ?be accepted? a vote shall be taken on approval of the report. Reports tabled for the meeting?s specific approval must be tabled to ?be accepted?."

The report did not have to be accepted but only received.

"A report by an officer or representative which he or she is required to table to Council or General Meeting by the Constitution, Regulations, prior Union policy or their resolution shall be either approved or rejected by that meeting. A meeting may only reject a report (or lack thereof) submitted under a policy or resolution if it was in force before and at the start of the meeting."

There was no policy or resolution in place before and at the start of the meeting and so the report could not be rejected.


Jon Matthews he knew all of this and knew that the censure couldn't stand. Perhaps the threat of censure wasn't the real reason for his resignation after all.

It would be nice if the Council Chair and President checked the constitutional basis of what they were trying to do in advance rather than having to sit there in Council poring through the constitution showing their lack of knowledge and experience.

46. Seb   
Nov 01 2007 13:43

Indeed, and if you check under the procedures for censure...

47. er...   
Nov 01 2007 16:03

"would be nice if council chair and president checked the constitutional basis of what they were trying to do in advance..."

are you you implying that the chair and the president were working together to bring about the censure of the GSA chair? Is the chair allowed to do that?

To be fair to the newer members of council, I'm not sure that many of them new what they were doing and what the intended consequences of their actions would be. The chair only informed council of what they wanted to happen next (the censure) after the vote to reject to paper had already been passed.

48. hack   
Nov 01 2007 16:37


That was not my implication but the chair called for the report to be accepted not received so was incorrect. The President, however, does appear to have been attempting to engineer the censure of the GSA Chair.

49. Hmmm   
Nov 02 2007 13:24

Well I'm glad to see this week's Felix article brought a bit more clarity to the situtation. Felix is finally getting the kind of reports it really needs: factual, balanced and really getting to grips with the issues in hand.

Keep up the good work. Well Done Tom!

Nov 06 2007 10:27

"the chair called for the report to be accepted not received so was incorrect"

but the constitution says: "A member presenting a report shall move that ?The report be accepted?, or that ?The report be received?."

Jon did neither and so the Chair made an assumption.

51. Seb   
Nov 06 2007 11:26

[email protected]:

True, but if you look in the procedure for censuring and no-confidence:

"By a nominee of the Council Chair, if the Council has twice rejected a report submitted by any person required to do so under regulations 6.75 to 6.81."

Note the use of the word required.

Whether the report is rejected, or not accepted, or not recieved seems somewhat besides the point.

Nov 06 2007 15:49

Fair enough, so whatever the report is tabled as, because it was a resubmission which was rejected, a motion of censure must be brought immediatly?

53. Seb   
Nov 06 2007 16:09

No, a curssory reading would seem to me that a censure only follows if a *required* report is twice rejected, and the GSA chair's report was invited, not required.

54. hack   
Nov 07 2007 10:58

well it is common knowledge that matthews has been swindeling his way around ICU the past two years, getting paid the extra money as DP for not taking up the place in halls even though he did in fact take up a place in halls, just as a subwarden, and now the ?2,000 here. I think legal action should be taken against jon matthews, and i refuse to see why the union hasnt done so to this day. he's done far more harm to ICU during his time there and this last GSA farce simply adds to his everlong list of shortcomings.

55. Seb   
Nov 07 2007 14:10

While controversial, the honorarium was approved. I think a court case would go down very badly.

56. @ hack   
Nov 07 2007 22:07

Council agreed that a subwarden room (which he was already in and so did not take up on becoing a Sabb) in halls is completely different to the room offered by the Union and agreed to pay the allowance based on that. That's democracy, don't like it? Write a paper to council to change it, or shut up and stop whinning!

Personally I would favour a change in the current system which allows the Sabbs who take up a place in halls to commit ?100s of pounds of income tax fraud... how many Sabbs do you really believe declare the benifits they receive... do you care or is this personal against Jon?

Is it fair that accomodation rates are rising faster than wages are increasing and so to give Sabbs free acomodation is giving them a much larger effective pay rises than their colleges?

I don't think you are a real hack anyway.

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