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Staff-Student Protocol Under Question

Aug 09 2008 13:21
Bugsy Malone
Questions have been raised again about the wording of the Staff Student Protocol, with possible loop-holes paving the way to potential embarrassment.
Better proof reading needed

In the final meeting of the Trustee Board for academic year 2007/2008 changes to the SSP presented by the Union media were accepted. These changes now explicitly allow comment to be published referring to the performance of any ICU Department while attempting to maintain protection and anonymity for its individual members of staff. This followed on from a perceived censorship of Felix after then ICU President, Stephen Brown, ruled that comments on the performance of the Finance Department were prohibited under the Staff/Student Protocol.

On closer inspection of the Code of Practice (it's a slow Summer for news) a significant omission appears to have been made. This could potentially allow for the performance and conduct of any individual member of 'Union Staff' to be discussed in public without breaching the current Staff/Student Protocol.

The omission relates to the description of the Union as an ?employer? and referring to 'Union staff'. Changes made during John Collins' Presidency meant that all permanent staff working in Imperial College Union, including the Sabbatical officers, are now employees of Imperial College, not Imperial College Union. Simply put, the Union is not an employer and there are no ?Union Staff?.

As with all things constitutional, the exact wording is open to interpretation: firstly by the President and ultimately by the Union Court. A simple solution to the problem would be to define ?Union Staff? as ?those staff who are employed by the College to work in the Union's Buildings or Services?. However, this could prove to be even more problematic for College Human Resources.

As staff employed by the College to work within the Union, ?Union Staff? are afforded protection under the SSP. The same is not true for other College employees with comments and interviews regarding their conduct and performance being considered fair game. This calls into question the justification that College uses for allowing a small fraction of their staff protection under the SSP while not providing the same for academics, commercial services or other Imperial College employees. Owing to this disadvantage and discrimination we should either be free to comment on all College Staff, regardless of where they work, or the SSP should be amended to afford all staff the same protection. If the latter becomes the case then the Union will be unable to comment on any member of the College, including the Rector, and its existence under the 1994 Education Act becomes dubious.

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Discussion about “Staff-Student Protocol Under Question”

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.
Aug 10 2008 16:07
 

I can't see any justification for an SSP if the Union is no longer an employer. Protecting the Union from employment legislation disputes was the whole point of it.

Aug 13 2008 00:27
 

Bloody hell, someone's got too much free time. I thought everyone was happy with the latest changes in the SSP at the last Trustee Board, evidently not, which is sad to see.

Is an employee of College working for say, the Department of Earth Sciences and Engineering, and has the Head of Department as a line manager, although employed by the College not still an employee of the Department of Earth Sciences and Engineering?

C.

Aug 13 2008 13:07
 

No

Aug 14 2008 13:48
 

Are the various parts of the College separate financial entities under any circumstances?

i.e. does the union still have a separate financial entity or is it now inextricably tied to the College financially?

Aug 15 2008 12:28
 

Live! has been informed of a new interpretation of the Staff-Student Protocol by the ICU President. The interpretation stands as follows until new wording can be worked out:

'Union Staff' are those staff which work in the Union's Buildings or Union Services, regardless of the fact they are employed by the College.

Aug 15 2008 12:49
 

Danger, Danger! A member of staff recruited by College and reporting to College finance division is now covered by the SSP? Don't let this creep start, or before long every member of College staff will be immune from public criticism, at which point we might just as well close the union down.

Maybe Paddy Jackman should come and work in the Union building to avoid criticism. At least if he pitches up outside Beit in September 2009, just before Eastside is due to open, we'll know the contractors didn't deliver it on time.

Only members of staff whose sole line of management arrives at the General Manager should be covered (these are the only people the President has control over, via the GM). I'm afraid everyone else in College - to retain some semblance of independence - is fair game.

Aug 15 2008 13:19
 

Day to day operational management of the new position is still the responsibility of the Union General Manager and ultimately the ICU President so the analogy with a member of College staff who is evidently not working to further the business of the Union is not appropriate in this case.

Aug 15 2008 13:30
 

I guess the big question is this: if *College* finance say, over-ruling the President/GM, "you are to freeze the accounts until x occurs", would the accounts get frozen? If the answer is yes, that should not be immune from SSP. It isn't the day-to-day running that's important, it's what happens in exceptional circumstances and who has precedence under conflicting instructions. Not that I'm suggesting it would happen now, but things like the SSP have to be written by thinking of every situation which could occur, and that's a definite possibility at some point.

Aug 15 2008 13:42
 

From what I can remember the finance regs make the procedure for freezing an account quite clear and that the decision rests with the DPFS/President.

If the College really wanted to f**k the Union over I think they have far better cards they could play than freezing a subset of the Union account. For example witholding the subvention is always a nuclear option that the College (as the Union's main funder) has.

Aug 15 2008 14:45
 

Yes, but the accounts being frozen may not be merely those of a subset of the Union such as a club or society, but the Union's accounts themselves meaning ALL accounts would be frozen, that would be just as effective as withholding subvention but involve far less paperwork and would be easier for them to do (they can't easily withdraw the subvention once they have paid it, they could easily just stop us accessing it by freezing all our accounts).

This is precisely the dangerous situation that needs to be avoided. Perhaps the preliminary interpretation should be challenged for clarification.

11. what?   
Aug 15 2008 16:02
 

College cannot freeze the Union accounts.

Aug 15 2008 16:07
 

The finance department can, and the finance department is effectively run by college.

13. what?   
Aug 15 2008 16:14
 

No it isn't it.

Aug 15 2008 16:19
 

Is anybody actully running the finance department?

Aug 15 2008 16:31
 

The subvention gets paid in monthly installments so it is very easy to turn off that tap.

Oh and technically the College can throw the Union out of Beit Quad if it can claim it has a better use for the building. Stop wasting sabbs time with your stupid conspiracy theories that only serve to inflate your own egos. I'm sure that Jen and her team have better things to do with their time than worry about superficial amendments to the SSP as a result of contrived articles written by

disgruntled hacks.

Aug 15 2008 16:32
 

The subvention gets paid in monthly installments so it is very easy to turn off that tap.

Oh and technically the College can throw the Union out of Beit Quad if it can claim it has a better use for the building. Stop wasting sabbs time with your stupid conspiracy theories that only serve to inflate your own egos. I'm sure that Jen and her team have better things to do with their time than worry about superficial amendments to the SSP as a result of contrived articles written by

disgruntled hacks.

Aug 15 2008 16:34
 

Whether or not it is controlled by College is the crux of the matter really, and also affects how the SSP should be modified.

The Union's finance department, according to the previous job advert, reports to both College finance and the Union GM. If College management, for some reason, decided it wanted to freeze the union's accounts against the wishes of the union, could it do so without too much grief? I'm not talking about day-to-day running, where the union is in control, I'm talking about exceptional circumstances. If it couldn't, then SSP should apply to finance as College has no say in what they do. If College could override the union, then SSP should not apply.

Aug 15 2008 16:44
 

The union is *supposed* to be able to run from its reserves if the subvention was turned off in any given month. I can't remember the length of time it should be able to run for, but its at least a few months (if clubs are prevented from spending money). This is covered in the risk register the Trustee Board has.

Eviction from Beit Quad would also generate a lot of paperwork and various other problems with academics at management meetings etc.

It's all very well assuming that things will run in a fair and sensible manner, which they very often do. But what happens when someone decides to screw you over?

I hate constitutions, regulations and the code of practice. They are only needed when things go wrong, and must be written with that in mind - should we just scrap the space agreement because we trust College not to screw us and build a coffee bar where the RCSU office is?

An agreement drawn up on the assumption that everything works ok would be a blank sheet of paper.

Aug 15 2008 17:26
 

The subvention gets paid in monthly installments so it is very easy to turn off that tap.

Oh and technically the College can throw the Union out of Beit Quad if it can claim it has a better use for the building. Stop wasting sabbs time with your stupid conspiracy theories that only serve to inflate your own egos. I'm sure that Jen and her team have better things to do with their time than worry about superficial amendments to the SSP as a result of contrived articles written by

disgruntled hacks.

Aug 15 2008 18:22
 

Freezing of accounts:

In reality, it would be quite difficult for College to effectively halt use of the Union accounts - although the subvention is paid monthly and could be turned off, our staff are also paid through the College bank account and only later does College invoice for the money paid out; if they unilaterally halt subvention payments any effect would be negated by still paying the workers (and if they stopped doing that, ther'd be some serious firewoks!).

However, coming back to the joy of constitutions and the like;

College Statute 10 - ICU shall be treated as an integral part of the College, governed by IT'S OWN constitution approved by College Council.

ICU Constitution - "80. The President is responsible through the Trustee Board to the Imperial College Council for the finances of the Union."

There are provisions for the reporting of potential or actual irregularities in the finances, but nowhere are Finance staff (either Colege or Union) empowered with a general 'freezing' ability.

The important point to remember is that the staff are there to _advise_ nad support the Officers; not to control the Union. If they are taking decisions that are not sanctioned by policy, then they're out of order and acting beyond their job descriptions.

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