Last week Imperial College Union Council voted to ignore the rules which govern it and ammend its constitution on a fast track route. As an Officer of the Union and a member of Council I was strongly opposed to this, on the principle that rules shouldn't be changed once the game is in play. But I was in the minority.
The integrity of the organisation was called into question this week when The President sought approval for changes to the Union Constitution and Regulations. The package of reforms clearly contained some important advances, like the creation the sabbatical position of Deputy President of Graduate Students, however there were also some controversial changes, like abolishing committees and overhauling the composition of ICU Council.
Had these proposals been packaged properly, in a sensible order, and presented to council in well thought out, considered manner then there is every chance that they would have been approved. Instead, in keeping with standard practice within ICU, communication was virtually non-existent, meetings were protracted and eventually failed due to inquoracy.
So, this week, the Union Executive, lead by Arif, urged Council to finally approve a slimmed down version of the reforms. But now there is no time for a second reading of this paper, as the Constitution requires, and so The President indicated that he intends to ask College Council to suspend this requirement, and approve the changes after only one reading at ICU Council.
This is despite the rejection of a motion presented to Council earlier in the year, to disallow two year sabbaticals, which was defeated precisely because only one reading could be held due to inquoracy.
This "pick and mix" attitude towards the rules worries me. But it's not the first time that the President has conveniently bent the rules during his two years in office.
Arif has consistently failed to produce Council papers in advance, to allow members to scrutinise them. In the 2003/04 session the Council Chairman issued verbal and written warnings to him in this regard. Nevertheless, at the crucial meeting of Council in May 2005 the President arrived some 40 minutes late, bearing the papers for the - now infamous - changes to the Constitution.
The summer period between his terms of Office saw Arif committing the Union to significantly increased expenditure to fund a rushed management restructure. None of this had approval from the Executive Committee, the budget holder, and Arif introduced his standard defence for the year: 'The Staff Student Protocol'.
Electronic Voting was introduced to elect the Ordinary Members of Council in contravention of the Regulations for these elections. Council was not consulted in advance of this either.
But back to the current matter in hand - the changes to the Constitution. There is a compelling argument in favour of accepting these changes now and suspending the rules. The Executive told Councillors that not doing so would set the Union back another year, that they would risk alienating students even further and asked if they wanted to be responsible for preventing progress within ICU.
These emotive statements may hold some truth, but they are hardly absolutes. It was my feeling that, as a matter of principle, an elected body should not be ignoring, stretching or breaking the rules which it is elected to work by.
But these are probably good changes and this is only the petty world of Student Politics. It would be a different matter entirely if the consequences were life changing and we were on an international stage... wouldn't it?