Those of you who've seen this week's Felix may well be feeling hard done by - what are these three stories they can't publish? And why can't they publish them? For those who haven't seen it: Felix has felt unable to run three stories this week as a result of the Staff Student Protocol (SSP) and elections regulations, so they've run the front page shown above along with an explanation on page 3.
The Felix Editor has been placed in an unacceptable position, a result of scaremongering by the ICU President and the returning officer of the sabbatical elections being over-cautious.
The first story, one which could fall foul of the SSP, was concerning £1,800 which went missing from the Union safe. Our version of the story was very carefully worded to avoid assigning blame to any individual, letting you figure it out for yourselves. What we hope you figured out was that a log book has been requested on numerous occasions, with the weak link in its implementation being on the staff side (who shall not - and can not - be singled out here). Had requests by elected students - who are supposed to run the organisation - been listened to and implemented by the department responsible, the problem could never have occured in the first place. Unfortunately this is symptomatic of an entrenched attitude that certain things are "operational issues" and hence none of the concern of the Sabbatical Officers, which is an attitude that needs changing.
What commenters also identified was that the money has appeared in the accounts of the Chinese society, despite the fact that the money has not apparently turned up - i.e. the missing money was covered up by sourcing money from elsewhere, without the approval of the Executive Committee. This is the subject of an investigation by the College audit team, so we won't point any fingers.
The second story was of concern to the returning officer in the current elections, as it involved one of the Presidential candidates, Jon Matthews, who has returned the £2,000 he received as GSA chair. At the time of his resignation there had been concerns raised about the way this money was paid, with Mr Matthews requesting the claim, which was then signed off by the Deputy President (Finance & Services) Chris Larvin, then at the very start of his term (something Mr Larvin realised afterwards he should not have done). As the claim was apparently not signed off correctly, it was requested that money was returned and a proper audit trail for authorisation was provided. The audit trail took a very long time to appear, with accusations from the ICU President that this was due deliberate stalling, while Mr Matthews insisted he was busy over the summer and the previous DPGS kept lousy records. Following his resignation there were further calls for the money to be repaid, which he has now done. Any complaint about the article - either from other Presidential candidates or from Mr Matthews himself - could have risked Felix being impounded so as to preserve the integrity of the election.
The third story was also likely to fall foul of the SSP. I'm not willing to discuss it either, until I have far more information to present a balanced and fair view. It covers serious and sensitive issues, so we have an ethical obligation to tread carefully. You'll have to wait for a bit longer to get this one!
Why have you published (two of) them?
I am fully confident that what has been published here does not break the SSP or election regulations. There is the distinct possibility of a complaint, in which case this will disappear. Don't worry, Live! will let you know what caused the problem.
The staff student protocol protects individual staff members from harrassment and hounding by the student media. Attacking a a failing area of ICU activity is perfectly legitimate. Exposing an area of ICU which is failing due to ignoring the requests of elected students is perfectly legitimate - we can't attack anyone else if the elected officers we would normally go after have been ignored.
The election regulations state that student media must be balanced - if we run a feature (manifestos, interviews, biographies, advertising) for one candidate, we must run one for all candidates. The reporting of factual information about people who happen to be in the election is perfectly fine, providing the coverage is balanced. Normally, the election would not be mentioned with the factual report (to avoid drawing attention to the association), but unfortunately the story is now inextricably linked to it.
Why didn't Felix publish them?
The ICU President and Returning Officer scared them too much. Felix feels that it was effectively banned from running stories involving staff, by an over-zealous interpretation of the SSP by the ICU President. I was not privy to this conversation, however it seems that the even the suggestion that staff in general might be to blame for something was ruled a breach of the SSP. I strongly disagree.
On the elections side, Felix were under the threat of being impounded should there be a complaint about the article referred to above.
Felix has chosen to make a principled stand for freedom of the press, rather than publishing and facing the consequences. The student body as a whole has the right to know that the student media cannot always publish everything it knows, a message which Felix has communicated loud and clear.
Felix has the backing of the whole student media - if we can't highlight controversial issues which directly affect the delivery of services to students, no matter who is to blame, then what's the point? You might as well rely on the ICU propaganda site and weekly emails for your news. Thankfully the more enlightened elements - including staff who are fantastically supportive of student activity - have allowed some of Live!'s anti-propaganda to return to the ICU site after an 18 month absence.
Keep the cat - and the rest of us - free!