Following the No Confidence Farce of the CGCU President in 2007-2008, it was decided that the CGCU Constitution needed a drastic overhaul. Welcome changes, such as "3.9 Abstentions do not count towards the two-thirds majority." should allow the Constitution to be a much easier document to refer to when trying to ensure that the correct rules and procudeures are being followed. This addition has, ironically, been made following a determination by the ICU Court which also stated that the "Faculty Union constitution remains in unchanged form since 2002 ? a welcome shift from
previous practice where such constitutions were reviewed with remarkable frequency."
Various other Constitutional tidy-ups were also needed following the introduction of several new positions to CGCU for 2009-2010 Session and a new Sabbatical Officer in ICU. However, these failed to appear in the document passed by ICU Executive on Thursday with references remaining to the Deputy President (Education and Welfare) and the newly elected 'Web and Systems Development Officer' and 'Egg Race Coordinator' being left out of the document entirely. Despite this, other changes have managed to creep in which have never been discussed at a quorate General Meeting (a requirement for Constitutional Changes), after the Autumn Term meeting failed to meet it's 50 person minimum.
Post Graduate Representation
In line with the changes to the ICU Constitution during the Autumn Term, CGCU's Constitution has now been updated to remove the Academic Affairs Officer (Research) and change the Academic Affairs Officer (Taught) to represent only Undergraduates. However, the Postgraduate Business School Representative and Engineering Representative still remain voting members of CGCU's Executive despite voicing concerns last term about the added work with belonging to two committees. Bizarrely the Royal School of Mines CSC Chair, who is elected entirely seperately of the CGCU, will continue to be listed as a voting member of the Executive perhaps as a token gesture from Guilds President, Mark Mearing-Smith who promised in his manifesto to "protect the RSM identity and make welfare and representation accessible to Miners". This is akin to the RCC Chair sitting on Guilds Exec, as the RSM President is not responsible for representing students in those departments (that's why the ESE and Materials Dep Reps are on the committee). The result is that Clubs and Socieites in a different CSC are offered more representation within Guilds than the Clubs a Societies under the CGCU Clubs and Activities Committee.
With regards to the CGCU Colours Committee the following has been added:
"8.3 At least one member of the Committee must be a postgraduate student"
This Reporter is not interested in disputing the merits (or not) of adding such a sentance to the regulations. Rather, there is a concern over the practicality of adding this stipulation to the Constitution at all. It doesn't state where this postgraduate should be appointed from, as the membership of the Colours Committee is defined by appointments from other CGCU Committees. This new rule will affect the decision of committees when nominating members to attend, resulting in any Postgraduates being favoured above potentially more appropriate nominees. The regulation does not suggest what to do if no postgraduates hold positions making them eligible to be on Colours Committee which is very likely now that representation of Postgraduates is looked after by the GSA.
Media Independance Challenged
Guildsheet has long been an effective way of promoting Elections in City & Guilds College union and while, undoubtedly, help from the CGCU Officers is always welcomed the publication has always remained independant for obvious reasons. The removal of the following sentance,
"Candidates are obliged to submit a manifesto for inclusion in Guildsheet." serves no purpose and backtracks on the good relationship between guilds Exec and the CGCU Media Group. However the following amendments, which seek to remove the Guildsheet Editors Independance entirely, are inappropriate and verging on what one seasoned Guilds hack described as 'dangerous':
Guildsheet Editor and the Returning Officer shall agree decide on:
- 6.4.1 The maximum length of the manifestos
- 6.4.2 The requirements for a photograph
- 6.4.3 Other publicity for the elections in Guildsheet.
Not only does removing the Guildsheet Editor's independance over election publicity bring into question the meaning of 'free press' it is also in contravention of the Guildsheet and CGCU Constitution.
In addition, sensible constitutional requirements such as keeping copies of campaign material in case of disputes has been removed with no explanation:
7.1 The Returning Officer must approve all campaign material,
and a copy shall be lodged with the Returning Officer in case of any dispute.
Erosion of Democracy
Perhaps the most shocking amendments to have been pushed through are with regards to the 'Managment Committee' of CGCU.
In terms of the infringement of election rules the following has been added to the new Constitution:
8.1 The enforcement of these rules shall be in the hands of the Returning Officer, and in certain cases the Executive or
Council Management Committee as detailed below.
CGCU no longer has a Council, which would have been a large Committee of Senior Officers with powers between that of the Executive and a General Meeting. The proposers of the new constitution have seen it fit to replace the responsibilities of this large diverse group with that of a small day-to-day Managment Team. Additionally, the membership of this 'Management Committee' has been decreased giving four people an unprecedented amount of power more akin to a dictatorship than a democracy:
2.3 The members of the Management Committee shall be:
- 2.3.1 President,
- 2.3.2 The Vice-Presidents,
- 2.3.3 Honorary Secretary,
2.3.4 Academic Affairs Officer (Education Representative), 2.3.5 Two Ordinary Members elected from the members of the Executive Committee,
These four Senior Officers of the Union now have the authority of throwing out a CGCU Election within five days and enforcing elections regulations and disciplinary action. This is in stark contrast to the Central Union's 'MPG' (Management Planning Group) which is a weekly planning meeting of the Sabbatical Officers which is deliberately not able to make decisions. The removal of the Academic Affairs Officer and the Ordinary Members from the CGCU Management is not only a kick-in-the-face for Guilds Democracy but also shows the proposers disregard for Academic Representation, especially when Live! has been told that amendments to include the Welfare Officer on this Committee had been rejected without a wider discussion.
The changes to the CGCU Constitution are available to download here with tracked changes marked by CGCU President Mark Mearing-Smith, Chairman Ton van den Bremmer and Vice-President (Activities) Matthew Taylor. Live! is concerned that the ICU Executive passed the changes unanimously despite the glaring problems with some of the amendments. One ICU Exec member told Live! that when questioned on whether the changes had been passed by a CGCU Committee Mark Mearing-Smith answered 'yes'. Then, after only 20 minutes discussion, the changes were accepted noting 'we decided that changes to the CGCU Constitution were'nt worth the drama because it is overridden by the ICU Constitution anyway.'