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Exec Passes new Guilds Constitution

Apr 05 2009 19:54
ICU Exec have unanimously accepted a new CGCU Constitution, despite numerous errors and the fact it has never been seen by a quorate Guilds General Meeting.
Mark promised better Representation for Miners but at the erosion of democracy?

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':

The 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.'

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Discussion about “Exec Passes new Guilds Constitution”

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.
Apr 05 2009 20:51

Mark looks sooo hot in the photo!!! :P

I would!

Apr 05 2009 22:08

Whoever wrote this article is almost as bad as the Another Union is Possible campaign in terms of over-dramatic scaremongering.

Apr 07 2009 22:51

Or whoever wrote this article is somebody with an (over?) active interest in academic affairs and independence of the media. I can think of one current media editor and ex-DPEW that could apply to.

I suppose it all depends on your priorities. If you don't have an interest in media independence or academic representation then you'd think this is 'over-dramatic scaremongering'. If you do, you'd write this article.

It all comes down to an individual's point of view. Although from the discussion I'd say both the reporter and 'ridiculous' commenting above are on the extremes of these points of view and everybody else can't give a damn either way.

I can't see how it compares to the Another Union is Possible campaign however.

Apr 08 2009 15:32

I'd just like to say that I was involved in the decision not to have the AAO on the management comittee. The simple fact is the weekly running of the office and day to day financial stuff is not something the AAO needs to be dealing with. Its just another meeting, on an already busy schedule.

Apr 08 2009 21:19

Out of interest, how many other people were involved in that decision? Or was it just your personal opinion that was sought? No offence, and I'm that sure should they have been asked others would agree with you, however even engineers could see that asking one academic representative is a very small statistical sample to make a decision on. Especially when this decision will never affect you personally.

Also, how often did you have to go to the meeting? I'm struggling to get the context of all this.

6. yawn.   
Apr 08 2009 23:44

Everything surrounding this article suggests that some people are taking themselves and CGCU far too seriously

Apr 09 2009 02:09

Of course it will affect me personally; the new constitution will come into effect immediately.

The Management committee meets every week and mainly discusses issues with club budgets, finances and ents, none of which affect the AAO role or the academic representation of students in the faculty. If it did the AAO should attend.

In terms of meetings the AAO sits on more College committees than any other guilds officer, and a lot of work goes into preparing for these meetings in terms of forming opinions from relevant departments. These meetings do affect students academically, which is why I put so much time and effort into preparing for them and don't see the need for the AAO to attend meetings that are not relevant to the position.

Apr 09 2009 09:42

"Bizarrely the Royal School of Mines CSC Chair, who is elected entirely seperately of the CGCU, is listed as a voting member of the Executive aswell which is perhaps 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"."

You can see that this is not marked as tracked changed so must of obviously already been there.

Also the RSM President is voted from the students from the two RSM departments, all of whom are in the Faculty of Engineering.

Apr 10 2009 14:17

Guildsman is correct. The voting membership of Exec for the RSM President is not a new addition. While the article did not expressly state that it was a new addition I can easily see how the writer could be misleading and have ammended accordingly. Along with correcting some of the terrible spelling.

Apr 10 2009 14:48

And on a personal note... I don't agree with the whole of the article but it raises some interesting questions which is why it was published. It's a slow news season...

Alex, I recognise that Management Committee was useless to you this year, there was no point in you turning up. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think you only turned up twice, when we were discussing academic representation, which seems like a sensible arrangement and can't have taken as much time away from you as your comments suggest.

However, I don't think Management should be that way. A well 'managed' committee should be overlooking all aspects of Guilds, not just the events and finances. Representation shuld be discussed more often. But this doesn't have to be in a formal meeting, and it doesn't have to be every week. (There isn't enough to discuss for a start, and paper pushing for the sake of it winds everyone up).

'Management Committee' should cover all aspects of Guilds work and should be a way of informing the President of what is going on in those multiple facets. It is a good way of ensuring that the President keeps a broad overview of what is going on. No criticism to Mark as this is mostly a problem with the structures but I imagine Mark knows more about what is going to be kept in which filing cabinet drawer than he does about the academic and welfare concerns of his students. Which is more important?

I agree that the current set up is not favourable to an AAO but if that is the case the Consitution needs changing so that it is more flexible to the Officers trying to implement it and to allow a more effective 'Management' strategy. I would have liked to have had a wider discussion about making the AAO a 'Vice-President (Education)' or something similar but these Constitutional Changes were really rather half-hearted and did more damage than good (in my opinion).

I'm dangerously close to ranting so I'll stop there but in answer to yawn, no one takes Guilds seriously, which is maybe the problem. Rewriting constitutions isn't going to solve that but the underlying principles of an organisation are laid out in those pages and I think Guilds has got it all wrong.

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