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Council Farce

Jun 18 2003 00:23
Big Brother
Democracy descends towards farce, and this time it's not ULU - it's closer to home.
Even Einstein can't work out the motives of some people, and he was probably more organised!

Tonight, in a less than packed Main Dining Hall (more on this later) ICU Council attempted to carry some important items of business. Budgets, Colours Recommendations and Constitutional Reform were all on the agenda as well as many items delayed from the (inquorate) AGM.

ICU Regulations clearly state that all Papers should be circulated a week in advance of a Council Meeting. And to facilitate this, all items of business shall be submitted *more* than a week in advance of the meeting. Throughout the year, this rule has been consistently broken or ignored. Reg 4.b.9 states that "The President shall draw up and circulate the agenda, papers and minutes for General Meetings, the Council and Executive Committee.", so the blame for this mis-management lands squarely at the door of the ICU President. It should be noted that the Union is in the process of employing a Union Clerk to help the President in this role, however that is not an excuse.

The papers, when finally compiled (4 hours prior to the meeting) amounted to 250 A4 pages - which no delegate could be expected to assimimilate during the proceedings. Add to this that the council started almost an hour late, due to insufficient time being allocated for printing papers. (It could be suggested that it should have happened 7 days ago anyway).

The meeting quickly moved that Budgetary appeals, and the Budget be considered before the more routine items of business. By 7pm, the first paper of the night (Choir Budget Appeal) had been heard, argued and conceded (to Choir's benefit). The other 9 properly presented appeals papers also passed, leading the assembeled masses to allocate approximately £11,000 of extra funding to Clubs.

One notable point is that Ramnath Ramanan (a former OSC Chair, and now paid ICU Sabbatical) presented a paper appealing against a Budget decision on International Night (an OSC Exec event). Nothing wrong with this you might think, however it should be noted that the same Mr Ramanan was voting against many other Club appeals (as any frugal DPFS should).

Having concluded the Appeals on the agenda, you would assume that the next move would be to pass the budget, but oh no - more Budget appeals appeared out of the woodwork. The DPFS was not the only Sabbatical in arguing for something they had an previous involvement in. An ad-hoc appeal for Womens Football, by Nona Ahamat (DP Clubs and Societies, and former treasurer of - you guessed it - Womens Football) was successful, as was an appeal on behalf of Christian Student Action, by Andrew Smith (DP Education and Welfare - and former member of... CSA...). There is nothing wrong with Sabbaticals speaking up against budgetary cuts, especially the DPCS who should be the clubs' advocate, however it is interesting to note that the same Sabbaticals were not as magnanimous with all appeals...

With no end in sight at 10:30pm (4.5 hours after the actual start, and 5.5 hours after the published start) and Council suddenly talking about reneging on appeals already passed (after the Club representatives had left), one frustrated member called "Quorum", bringing to the Chair's attention that only 15 members were left in the room. (25% of Council Membership and half those needed to be present for a quorate meeting.)

The final nail in the coffin was two sabbaticals attempting to claim that a move to adjourn took precedence over a call of quorum, despite the rule of the Chair, the ICU Regulations, and the well held opinions of several senior hacks present.

Most people expressed amazement that the meeting was so poorly structured and organised, although praise was heeped on the Council Chair, Mr Edmonstone, who brought order to the chaos. More thought, preparation and knowledge of the rules will be needed by those in charge next year to avoid a repeat of the shambolic democracy that is pervading ICU at the moment.

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Discussion about “Council Farce”

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.
Jun 18 2003 01:11

Did the PostSoc thing get through? If it did that is a disgrace.

Most Postgrads haven't even heard of their exsistance...

2. Steve   
Jun 18 2003 10:02

The council meeting last night was only the second I have attended since starting at IC in 1998, and to be honest, if this is the way all meetings progress then it's a miricle that anything get done!

I know very little about Union structure & proceedures etc etc but it really seems rediculous to me that very few (if any???) of the papers were available in advance. Who's fault is this?

Although I didn't stay for the entire meeting I was pleased to see that the majority of the council members present did genuinely appear to be taking interest in the issues being debated. There appeared to be good representation from many differing corners, it was just a shame that the meeting appeared to doomed before it even began!

Jun 18 2003 10:20

"Who's fault is this?"


He is fully in charge of the paper submission, paper collation, presentation and the agenda.

Jun 18 2003 11:27

Even with the hard work of the chair, the entire council process is a shambles. Something (dont ask me, I'm not on council and I dont see why anyone would want to be with the current way of running things) should be done.

For example -

If the union knew that the to photocopiers had broken down in that day, surely it doesnt take the rest of the day to find one inside IC and borrow it. But, why at 5:45 were the papers still not delivered? What time did they even start copying them? After 5 sounds about right in my view.

Of course, once the papers had arrived we had the dicussion about waiting to open the meeting as you needed quorum. People where actualy phoning other members to get them to come to council. Surely there is a better way to organise this. Let's face it, if you're on the council you should turn up; or at least let people know in advance that you can't. Not just bother not to turn up at all. Then it'd be easy to find if you'll have the quorum needed (22). Luckily this was eventually met - good for those who wanted appeals or votes in general - esp. after waiting an hour (!) for the meeting to start. Not a good showing for the council IMO.

[Also one should consider that at the AGM they couldnt get a quorum - which in itself is totally ridiculous, you'd expect most members there for an AGM.]

I even heard from the friend on the council that once, they "voted on whether or not to vote on an amendment to an amendment on a paper". Sure, great to do it the proper way, but perhaps it's time for change somewhere so that it doesnt take hours and hours at each meeting.

How can council expect to get interest from the student body if this is the way they work? How can they expect to represent the student body *efferctively* if they are plagued with the troubles that we saw yesterday. I for one, will personally keep away from those meetings unless i have to go in future...not because I'm not interested, it's because it's (as the original author says) democracy descending into a farce.

5. eddie   
Jun 18 2003 13:02

Procedural motions may be a pain at first, but are simple if you read the relevant reg, and keep up to speed. it gives a meeting structure, and allows them to progress...

"obviously" though how meetings run is never explained to people.... like at training. Barry has tried hard to do it, it would be easier if people just read through the relevant side of A4 that covers how to run a meeting but hey, thats one of my pet moans.

This year we have had usually one major piece of business per meeting. whihc often has not been released prior to the meeting (and that has been a blight all year) what you want are a number of smaller motions, quick discussion (and informed discussion because people have had a chance to look into stuff before) and speaches for and against even.

Ironically, we have huge informed debates at exec. not that i have been a member... and then several times exec has just swept these decisions away next time.

(as an aside, one of these would have been to find sponsorship for all clubs and societies. now wouldnt that be something?)

Its possible to deal with big things like the constitution in stages, just like we did with the possible renaming of some of the Deputy Presidents. then when we actually revised the thing, we knew already what everyone thought.

I think next years president should ask for more interesting motions to be brought to council.

Never know. someone else might like to be mike bearer ;-)

6. ekkk   
Jun 18 2003 13:34

... I can think of many interesting motions to bring to Council... I love wasting everyones' time... hahaha

7. eddie   
Jun 18 2003 15:06

Wow, the live rendering engine now goes through union websites looking for its own relevant links....


you cannot waste a spineless councils time. Dont like long meetings? dont discuss c**p papers, "Mr Chair, motion what ever, lets chuck it out" cool.

Jun 18 2003 17:30

The author of this article claims that:

"With no end in sight at 10:30pm (4.5 hours after the actual start, and 5.5 hours after the published start) and Council suddenly talking about reneging on appeals already passed (after the Club representatives had left), one frustrated member called "Quorum", bringing to the Chair's attention that only 15 members were left in the room. (25% of Council Membership and half those needed to be present for a quorate meeting.)"

This is, to put it mildly, a mis-representation of the situation. In the ten minutes prior to Katherine McGinn shouting quorum, there had been a good debate about the merits of putting the remaining money in a pot, specifically earmarked for the use of clubs, but not to over-turn budget decisions made by council. We were literally seconds away from voting on this proposal, when the meeting was halted by Katherine, against the advice of most (though not all) of those present.

Regardless of her motives, which were no doubt spotless to a fault, calling quorum after *five hours*, when it had been abundantly clear for some time that attendance was below quorum, was nothing more than a "tactical measure" designed to negate the discussion of the previous five hours. An idiotic call to make, and an insult to the people who had stuck it out to the end.

Note - I went off to labs for an hour in the middle, so I'm not claiming that I was there throughout...

Jun 18 2003 17:39

Interesting to note that, if the article was written by a member of part-time staff, it's a rather blatant breach of the staff-student protocol. Ho hum.

Jun 18 2003 18:00

As i remember it, sitting at the back, and straining to hear; For the prior 10 minutes, several ideas were bandied about, several times, with no move to a vote, and the meeting was descending into a shouting match. At one point during that discussion the idea of going back and rescinding the successful appeals was suggested, which is disgusting. the Girl who called quorum (katherine??) had her hand up for most of that discussion, but kept putting it down as it looked like headway was being made.

What made the whole process farcical was one guy saying "i'll withdraw my appeal if you do" to a guy on the other side! Sorry guys, that was the worst example of debate i've ever seen - and i've watched House of Commons TV!!!!

Jun 18 2003 18:04

And to call a "decision" by 15 members of a body that i assume should contain 60 or more a "decision" at all, is well... cr?p

12. Eddie   
Jun 18 2003 18:23

Dear Blah, Blah etc.

It was really simple what I was doing. An appeal from the floor was put forward, and suceeded (i think) so that was it. open flood gates. I *had* to then put in the change to subsidy levels. I am the Arts and Entertainments Booard chair, I thinkawarding only one terms worth of something that is FUNDEMENTAL to the socities activities is wrong.

On reflection i can think of much fairer ways of achieving the unions goal. There is an amazingly simple way of making it fair.... can you guess what it is yet?

Toms decision to go for Instructor fees is fair enough, for exactly the same reasons (with a few obvious words changed) as to what I was doing.

Now. I had the floor. It was in my hands. what should i do. We could have a melt down. or we could draw the line. At that point I suggested drawing a line in the sand. THE END. BUT. I f it was to work, it had to have toms agreement. so thats what that was about. Now. It was late, people had done a lot, people still had a lot to think about, and certainly for me, i am still working for my final year project due in tomorrow. So I, and then Ettienne too proposed what in the end happened.

I dont see whats wrng with what I did. Coming to an agreeement is what it is all about.

Jun 18 2003 19:09

Education Act 1994: 22.(2)(i) ?the procedure for allocating resources to groups or clubs should be fair and should be set down in writing and freely accessible to all students?

Where exactly is BAG policy on allocating budgets written down? Was it written down before people applied for budgets? Is it even "accessible to all students" - I can't seem to find it on the Web.

It seems to me that budget allocation is neither fair or particularly well documented - yet another rule broken... ho hum.

14. Eddie   
Jun 18 2003 19:16

Thats really one of the things that was done , if not wrongly, then messyly.

The subsidy levels were set prior to budget submissions. but. in BAG, as far as i can see, a number of things then changed.

the *big changes* advertised at SAC/Subsidy Leval Advisory Group were not the only big chnanges in budgets this year.

Like you say. Ho Hum.

But lessons here are evidently not for this years sabbs, but for next years. and its not jsut the sabbs. the union officers, and the clubs committees, all 270 of them, need to think about this. I recomend they start, erm, well, no time better than the present frankly.


15. sporty   
Jun 18 2003 19:38

I confess to not fully being aware of the result of this meeting. Were the changes which were agreed before quorum called accepted, or were they rendered null by the fact that quorum was called?

Jun 18 2003 20:25


it was my impression that we were about to vote on the "end the madness now" resolution. it might have been better if k. had checked with barry or someone else before quorating, but I may be wrong (it has happened).


the changes were voted on by an emergency meeting of the executive committee, which took place after the council meeting. this was done by exec acting on behalf of council, which is allowed in certain circumstances.


in case you're wondering, I've finished my report!

17. sam   
Jun 18 2003 21:27

ok, you can send that email then ;o)

Jun 19 2003 11:03

With regards to the Budgets Advisory Group (BAG):

It was established as a sub-committee of the Union Finance Committee (UFC) way back in the mid-90s along with another group called FAG (Five Year Plan Advisory Group). It's terms of reference where to fairly distribute grants and to recommend general budget policy to the UFC. BAG was also empowered to collect and disseminate all budget applications and to apply general UFC policy to those submission (such as 2/3rd funding late or incomplete budget applications, take into account club/soc activity and financial responsibility and so on).

After UFC was stood down, the whole remit fell to the Executive Committee, and BAG became a sub-committee of Exec.

So the best place to find the Section 22 of the Education Act (the procedure for allocating resources to groups or clubs should be fair and should be set down in writing and freely accessible to all students) are the minutes of the UFC from 1994-97 and also the Finance Manual.

Hope that helps.

Jun 19 2003 11:05

I should add that BAG reported/s to UFC -> Exec, where the decision is made.

Appeals may then be lodged to the Council.

20. tom t   
Jun 19 2003 11:54

"An ad-hoc appeal for Womens Football, by Nona Ahamat (DP Clubs and Societies, and former treasurer of - you guessed it - Womens Football) was successful, as was an appeal on behalf of Christian Student Action, by Andrew Smith (DP Education and Welfare - and former member of... CSA...)"

Well, CSA may have had their budget appeal upheld by friendly Sabbs, but their failure to turn up to SCC committee meetings has resulted in that committee FREEZING their budget, so it doesn't seem as though they really want to spend that extra money!

Shame I missed what sounded like such an exciting meeting. Did the MoU ever get discussed?

Jun 19 2003 12:24

I think you'll find that those procedures are not written down anywhere, simply because the BAG process was policy and policy lasts for 3 years. The BAG policy lapsed in 2000-2001, and hence the whole budgets process is no longer defined by policy. - Which probably does break the Education Act somewhere along the lines...

Jun 19 2003 13:03

"praise was heeped on the Council Chair" - Freudian typo or new Imperial College verb?

23. alex C   
Jun 19 2003 14:41

No, the MoU wasn't discussed. I think the decision was made to leave it to next year's sabbatical team well before the meeting, as it wasn't even on the agenda.

24. tom t   
Jun 19 2003 14:48

A 'pair of safe hands' then! OK 'tafa, battle no. 1 commence!

Jun 19 2003 19:16

It was noted that the policy had lapsed and thus BAG was established as a sub-committee of SAC earlier this year. BAG's role was to make budgetary recommendations to SAC which are then approved (or not) and handed to the higher powers (Exec and Council).

Jun 19 2003 21:28

mmm... are those SAC minutes on the Web then? Are they accessible to all students?

Jun 20 2003 04:19

OK, as much as I don?t wish to be dragged into this conversation, I feel I must comment because my actions appear to have been misunderstood by some of the people who have posted to this thread. With regard to me calling quorum to the Chair?s attention, I held off from doing this for as long as I thought was sensible. I wanted everyone who had come to Council to lodge their appeal to have an opportunity to present their case. I thought it would be a crying shame for those students, many of whom had never been to Council before, to go away from that night with the impression that Council isn?t willing to listen to them.

I had hoped that passing the budget at the end of the appeals would be straightforward, but this proved to not be the case. As blahblahmeetingsblah has suggested, after 20 minutes of going around in circles, with various conflicting points of view and a number of very different, and conflicting, suggestions being made ? some of which would have been a terrible abuse of the trust that ICU members place in their Council (I refer to the idea to rescind the appeals decisions made that night), it did appear we were going nowhere. Every time it looked like we might be making progress, we descended back into to a shouting match and quite frankly this is not the correct way to discuss such matters. I did indeed have my hand up for about 10 minutes, taking it down when it looked like we were getting somewhere, but we ended up going around in circles again and while Etienne may feel somewhat upset that I cut him off mid-speech by calling quorum, it did not appear to me or those around me that we were going to reach a sensible conclusion any time soon.

As I said just after calling quorum, I felt that everyone needed to cool off and think about what they thought was the best solution to the problems that had arisen.

I would like to point out that my action was not a ?tactical? move to negate the previous 5 hours of discussion, as any decisions made by Council up until the point quorum is called are considered valid and binding.

I would also like to point out that nobody could have advised me before or after I called quorum, as they would not have known I was about to call it. So to imply that a number of members advised me not to call quorum is inaccurate to say the least.

And finally, I do not feel that calling quorum when there are only 15 Council members present is an ?idiotic? move ? the ICU membership has the right to decent representation and having only a quarter of Council present at a meeting where major decisions are being taken is not my idea of adequate representation. While I appreciate that everyone there on Tuesday tried to make the best out of a less than ideal situation, we owe it to our members to provide them with better example of democracy than was given at this week?s Council.

Feel free to disagree with me if you wish, but I hope that this clears up at least some of the confusion surrounding this topic.

Jun 20 2003 10:03

I would just like to correct one of Katherine's points: the decisions made up to the point where quorum were called were absolutely not considered binding. We were passing ammendments to the budget - however when quorum was called the budget itself fell, hence no amendments.

Jun 20 2003 11:09

I think that is a matter of interpretation, as the appeal papers themselves were presented seperately from the budget and were either accepted, rejected or amended seperately from the budget.

I can not see any 'special case' regarding budgetary appeals in the Constitution and therefore I think that to assert that none of the decisions taken are binding is wrong, and that the appeals papers are just like any normal paper to Council.

As we don't have a formal, openly accessible budgets policy it may well be the case that budget appeals used to have be considered amendments to the budget itself, but as I can't find anything that tells me this is the case now, I can only assume that these are considered normal papers like every other.

Besides, for Exec to vote against the previously declared wishes of Council when passing the budget on behalf of Council, would be totally improper.

Jun 20 2003 11:26

You cannot amend a paper that has not been presented. That means that these appeals can't be considered amendments, and hence are definitive statements of the wishes of council. They are free standing, and therefore if Exec vote without regard for this, the Council has the right to reject what Exec has done.

Jun 20 2003 13:02


I wasn't "upset that [you] cut [me] off mid-speech by calling quorum" - rather, I was annoyed that you didn't bother to alert the chair, since if he had known of your intentions he would probably have brought the matter to a conclusion one way or another. I still maintain that we were on the verge of agreeing to approve the appeals made up to that point, and put the remaining money in the SAC reserve.

Finally, on the question of whether 15 people should take the decision - you are correct that it was a non-ideal situation, but at this late stage in the term it was the best situation that was going to be attained - the alternative was for an even smaller number to meet as the Executive Committee, and go over the same ground again before coming to the decision that Council was about to reach.

So, it *was* an insult to those who'd stuck it out, though I accept that it wasn't tactical. Idiotic is still my favourite adjective for calling quorum without first consulting the chair. However, we're all entitled to be idiots occasionally! ;-)

Jun 20 2003 13:15

Well let's just agree to disagree about whether we were on the verge of making a decision as I am sure a number of people hold your opinion, and I know a number of people who agree with mine on this matter.

As to consulting the Chair before quorum was called - I did have my hand up for 10 minutes, but didn't get the opportunity to say anything because other people present, including yourself, were shouting their opinions and ideas out before the Chair had indicated for them to speak. How I am supposed to ask anything in this kind of situation I don't know. What I saw at that stage was a meeting descending into disorder and so I called quorum, which I was entitled to do.

Jun 20 2003 13:16

And I was one of the people who has stayed for the whole meeting, and I don't feel insulted.

So ner! :-)

34. Seb   
Jun 20 2003 13:21

I feel there were better ways to call a halt to that discussion, though from my position, having moved the floor, it looked very much like they were about to vote to "end the madness".

Calling quorum ends a meeting, this was the last council of the year.

Jun 21 2003 09:32

Sorry Katherine, I have to disagree, I strongly believe a decision was going to be made in those next few minutes.

Though the debate wasn't conducted very well, it was going to reach a conclusion very soon, and a lot of people were disappointed when you called quorum.

But it's all done and dusted. hoorah

Jun 21 2003 14:25


"And I was one of the people who has stayed for the whole meeting, and I don't feel insulted."

They say that the true test of a fine mind is the ability to hold two contradictory opinions at once; the ability to feel insulted by one's own actions is not, however, in the same category...

Jun 22 2003 23:28

Hmm, sounds like a very interesting meeting.

You should have sold tickets to make some money for all these appeals!

Jun 28 2003 13:11

On the contrary Mr Mole, PostSoc has a 600 strong member list and this year's main PostSoc events attracted almost 200 people to each. Check our photo's on our website

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