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Tempers flare as Council rejects Constitution paper

Jan 21 2008 22:20
Andrew Holland
The paper presented at tonight's council to ensure the legality of ICU's constitution was rejected with much dispute.
Jon Matthews puts his case (in an animated way, judging by the blurring)

The paper presented at tonight's council aiming to re-pass the union constitution was rejected by a vote of eighteen to six, with five abstentions. Jon Matthews, who was presenting the paper, was pushing for it to be passed on the basis that the changes to the constitution that were passed at the last two meetings of council were invalid. Union regulations state that changes to the constitution must be approved at two consecutive council meetings. However, in between the first and second council meetings changes were made, so the "second" approval was essentially the first passing of a new constitution. The papers' failure means that according to the proposers, Imperial College Union does not have a valid constitution, which could cause trouble in the case of any legal disputes.

The situation was not helped by tempers flaring. Both ICU president Stephen Brown, who voted against the paper, and DPEW Kirsty Patterson who supported it, were noticeably getting worked up. Both Miss Patterson and Mr Matthews were of the opinion that it would be better to pass the constitution now to ensure that ICU has a legal constitution, regardless of any problems there may be in it, and to work on solving them later. Mr Brown claimed that there were no problems with the constitution in its current form, with the College also agreeing that the present constitution was valid. Mr Brown also stated that he had sought advice on the issue from Chair of the ICU Court Hamish Common. Mr Matthews questioned this advice, as Mr Common was the author the original changes.

Eventually, after much bickering, the paper was rejected. It never seemed likely to pass, particularly once the arguing started. The unprofessional behaviour of some council members meant that the whole situation could not be taken as seriously as it should have been. Mr Matthews ended by thanking Council for rejecting their own constitution.

A number of members of Council requested that the matter be referred to the ICU Court for advice.

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Discussion about “Tempers flare as Council rejects Constitution paper”

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.
Jan 21 2008 22:27

Tee hee hee

Jan 21 2008 23:33

Oh please. I dare someone to try and get the Union proscribed as illegal. It will be hilarious!

Jan 22 2008 00:03

Here's a conundrum for you:

  • The current constitution is, most likely, currently "legal" in the "HM Government" sense due to College Council having passed it. There was no failing in that part of the process.
  • However, it seems that the constitution sent to College Council was not "legal" in the "ICU" sense: that is, it was not correctly passed by Council.

Why do I think it seems it's not "legal" in the "ICU" sense? Because material changes were added to the constitution at the last minute, WITHOUT being highlighted. This includes the quite important change from 2 readings at Council to pass a new constitution to 1 reading + 1 trustee board reading. The 2nd reading amendments were huge and distributed very late in the day. We were assured the meeting before that it would only be minor tweaking round the edges, not material changes.

Ergo, Council could reasonably assume that the changes were minor and tracked, so there was no need for them to look for more insidious changes in the non tracked sections.

My conclusion: the non-tracked changes in the last meeting of last year received NO readings, not even ONE. They were incorrectly presented by the President, at the last minute, with little to no chance of anyone spotting them before the meeting. Being the last meeting there was pressure from people to pass it to get the Trustee Board running for this year.

Regardless of whether or not the constitution is "legal" in the "HMGov" sense, I don't believe it was passed correctly and I expressed my reservations at the time.

We should "roll back" to the non-amended constitution, then re-amend it with more discussion. Which I think is exactly what Jon was trying to do, sadly I think personalities and perhaps egos got in the way.

So, it would be amusing if Court ruled our "legal (HMGov)" constitution "illegal (ICU)". Not sure what you do then - the (previous) ICU President submitted an illegally passed constitution to College Council. Dictatorship?

Jan 22 2008 00:26

the funny thing is .... the childish way in which Kirsty Patterson's put forth her case or should i say Jon Matthew's case, only led to the paper being rejected... rather more interesting is that Jon Matthews ended Council in a very "I'm so clever, you're all idiots" smarmy kind of way with his comment "I'd just like to have it on the record, that council has just rejected their own constitution" . . . What a t**t!

5. Hmmm   
Jan 22 2008 00:59

Paragraph 22(1) of the Education Act 1994

Oh dear, Steve?s sole (intelligible) defence was that the college secretary agreed that the constitution was valid? I guess this level of consultation from up high in college may have awed the more persuadable members of council? but it has almost certainly invalidated the constitution either way? (before tonight you might have got away with ?its HMGov legal, albeit a bit lacking on the democratic side?).

Tonight council members faced a choice:

1) A 100% all safe option take a vote to re-pass the existing constitution? nothing lost.

2) Take a significant gamble with only the word of Steve Brown, the College Secretary and the personal (not legal) opinion of Hamish Common (as he was personally involved a legal opinion would have been impossible) risking:

  • the current constitution
  • the current trustee board
  • the reputation of ICU court
  • The hard work and time of everyone who contributed to the last constitution.

?and possibly a few egos.

From here the paper?s proposers were backed into taking the constitution to court, here if ruled invalid we may revert to the last valid constitution of ICU, without the trustee board etc etc?

In a bizarre twist council?s final action was to reject the current constitution, if we weren?t in a constitutional crisis before we are now? (er Observer... you have a very strange definition of stupid)

Jan 22 2008 01:05

That paragraph of the Education Act 1994 being:

"The governing body of every establishment to which this Part applies shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to secure that any students' union for students at the establishment operates in a fair and democratic manner and is accountable for its finances."

Jan 22 2008 01:24

Sorry hmmm or should i say Jon... but when did i mention, or more to the point define the word stupid?

Maybe if you read what other people wrote, and listened to what other people said instead of being the most arrogant, egotistic dick head of a know it all, then you may find you could come to some resolve over issues that actually mattered rather than wasting councils time with the kind of unnecessary tripe you came out with tonight.

8. Hmmm   
Jan 22 2008 01:36

I am not Jon and never have been... I guess he's not the only person capable of a bit of research...

Perhaps I didn't word that last bit in quite the right way... but would you say council were clever to reject their own constitution?

Jan 22 2008 01:38

wait a minute, council passing the union constitution tonight would not have made it a valid constitution anyway since it would be a first reading. they would have to pass the second reading and then get college council approval in may to make it constitutional.

if some of the papers proposers think that the current amended constitution is unconstitutional, then getting it passed tonight would do nothing to validate the constitution anyway. if it has been agreed by all parties that the proposed constitution still contains errors then surely it would be better for council to consider the whole document in detail later on during the year rather than rush through several amendments, then have to do it over again to iron out these problems.

this was steves argument in a nutshell but it seems that several senior members of council could not differentiate between a difference of opinion and a personal attack.

not to mention defaming other council members during the meeting, for which the council chair should have expelled her from the room.

Jan 22 2008 01:47

what a stupid comment to make about the council rejecting their own constitution. fake pathos. its all about how you word it.

how about 'the council rejected a version of the constitution drafted and proposed by a member of the union, submitted at short notice without detailing what changes were made. council members decided it was not in their best interests to approve a document most had not read or taken in, nor was council the correct forum to be discussing this issue'.

11. Hmmm   
Jan 22 2008 01:48

5 months is not rushing...

The errors Steve was refering to were spelling errors... ask him, these can be failrly easily rectified even by council... unless we have to have a half an hour debate before somebody propses a vote to go away and consult a dictionary... before a decision can be reached. At which point council will vote against the motion because it may lead to a paid officer doing some work and we all know how valuable their time is...

Jan 22 2008 05:46

Jen and Tristen said they wanted to petition court to check the validity of the constitution. This is because of concerns raised in the meeting that there appear to be serious changes tracked and untracted between the first reading and the second reading which may make it invaillid. It's probably a good idea to find out.

I think they believe they have done this through the minutes of council. Have they or do they have to request a case seperatly?

Jan 22 2008 08:39


Has the low standard of grammar at Imperial plummeted yet again? I think you're looking for either irrespective or regardless. Not some hideous mangled portmanteau.

Jan 22 2008 10:36

ICU's constitution "was reject" with much dispute.

Live! needs a spellchecker and proofreader!

15. Editor   
Jan 22 2008 10:39

Sorry, Live!'s spill chucker and proofreader had been moving furniture in the Guilds office all day and wasn't paying attention.

At least you didn't spot the missing apostrophe in "tonight's".

Can we get back to bickering about Council now?

16. Pan   
Jan 22 2008 10:44

Hacks. All of you :P

Jan 22 2008 12:10

it all does seem like a bit of a battle between egos. both sides have fair views i think. though (understandably) perhaps some bias against jon matthews after the honorarium shenanigans.

Jan 22 2008 12:19

Thats right, if he had any sense at all he would have given back that money and his reputation might have been on the way to being salvaged. I hope he still will.

19. Hmmm   
Jan 22 2008 13:39

I think the last two points completely summed up council last night... they are preparped to vote against a fairly sensible proposal based purely on dislike of the person who proposed it.

As long as this petty attitude continues, council has become the worthless body, that so many believe it to be.

What was the point of fighting to keep half of the positions on council last year when the majority of the officers aren't even aware what council exists to achieve, or how they fit into the picture?

20. what?   
Jan 22 2008 13:53

I'm quite sure members of council are quite capable of making decisions about a paper based upon its own merit. The paper was not correct and if council had rushed it through then they would have all been morons. Besides Kirsty is not disliked and she made a much greater song and dance about the paper than Jon did. Most ordinary members of council know exactly what it stands to achieve, however when the sabbs behave like that....

Council should be encouraged to have more discussion, not rushed through because people want to go home. It is very difficult for ordinary members of council to contribute when the responses given are so blunt and often patronising.

Jan 22 2008 13:59

I don't think people voted just because they didn't like Jon or his previous actions.

Jon presented his points well last night and, if it were not for the interventions of one sabbatical officer who undermined the authority of Council Chair and repeatedly refused to respond to valid points made by the opposition side, might have received more votes for his proposal. I might add that Jon was compelled to correct aforementioned sabb officer during the meeting when they made incorrect points of information/order, so fair play to him for trying to continue the intellectual debate.

22. Hmmm   
Jan 22 2008 14:10

The constitution presented was the current constitution... how can voting to re-pass it, unamended, to clear up a potential legal grey area be "not correct"...

Council should be encouraged to have more discussion, that's the Council Chair's job... he said at the start of the Iran paper that he was going to enforce the one question per member, he didn't do this for the constitution paper.

He was presented with all the proceedural motions earlier in the week and yet it appeared that he failed familiarise himself with them (let alone distribute to council).

He allowed members of council who did not propose the constitution to speak for more time than perhaps he should have.

However his job can't have been made easy by the behaviour of several members of council... whilst not perfect I think he could have been alot worse under the circumstances.

Jan 22 2008 14:10

Jon is a very good speaker and his composure and knowledge is excellent and fair play to him for behaving so well inspite of the situation last night.

However, the constitution is not invalid. It was passed by college council who are the soveriegn body. In any case, there is precedence for changing amendments between readings.

It is also in versions a, b & c of the constitution that any matter regarding its interpretation should go to the court. Court reviews any constitutional changes anyway so it would have had to be reffered there regardless of last night's outcome.

Jan 22 2008 14:13

Is it democratic to have the president sitting next to the council chair and whispering into his ear during the meeting?

Jan 22 2008 16:26

The constitution is not invalid!

I want to know what John Collins has to say!

26. er   
Jan 22 2008 17:51

Hang on, so wasn't jon matthews a sabb working on this very constitution last year? Surely if he thought there was a problem he should have picked it up at the time. He's made a mockery out of everyone involved last year, including himself. I'd like to congratulate him.

Jan 22 2008 21:14

yes, jon matthews was a sabb last year but when the last set of changes were made he wasn't all that involved in them as he was doing the summer ball. I know that he has said publically how angry he was that finance regulations were changed without anyone even speaking to him about it. Also, didn't he abstain in the second vote?

28. This post has been deleted.
Jan 22 2008 21:27
29. This post has been deleted.
Jan 22 2008 22:30
Jan 23 2008 11:49

Out of interest, was this whole question about first and second readings raised at the time or shortly after the meetings? If not, we would have to consider the test of "in good faith".

My personal suggestion is that the minutes of these Council meetings are checked and if necessary, the opinion of the Council Chair is sought on the matter first.

31. Person   
Jan 23 2008 15:25

Are you talking about the Council meeting last year?

32. Hmmm   
Jan 23 2008 20:34

Concern was expressed by last year's Medic President during the first reading about ammendments being presented in between readings. These were minuted.

Jan 23 2008 21:07

Extract taken from Live's (not particularly serious) review of last year's Sabb team:

"In a few years the Court and the Trustee Board will have a battle of Star Wars like proportion. Somewhere in the background John Collins will be watching, waiting to pick up the pieces. Mwuh-ha-ha."

Jan 26 2008 11:23

I *obviously* have no idea who wrote that sabb review, but you're right, they were obviously an oracle.

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