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Live! - Opinion

This article is an opinion piece and should be taken as such. It is highly likely to be biased, but either the article itself or the ensuing discussion will probably be entertaining. Live! takes no editorial line on opinion pieces.

Rules only made to be broken?

Jun 21 2005 10:02
Simon Rawson
One of the Council memebrs who voted against the "fast-track" constitutional change explains their reasons.

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?

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Discussion about “Rules only made to be broken?”

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.
1. Rebel   
Jun 21 2005 15:22

Sack the bastard

Oh Yeh tried that...

2. Seb   
Jun 21 2005 15:52

Another one to notice is the bizzare indicative non-vote to disregard the regulations on who is eligable to stand for the PG Sabb.

"registered postgraduate student"...

Which apparently can be interpreted, if council wishes it, to mean "someone who has graduated at some point".

Jun 21 2005 17:26

I think Gulix sums Arif up very well - a garde a w**ker - muahahahaha

4. tom t   
Jun 21 2005 17:39

If you read the interview with Arif in Felix you will get an understanding of his psyche. He's 'burnt out'. He apparently likes being 'burnt out', since he *never* takes holiday. That may explain some of the more bizarre behaviour in the last 23 months. He also claims to work 80 hour weeks. At one of the Council meetings this year that figure was inflated to 120 hours, leaving only 48 hours a week to sleep, wash, shop, launder, relax, etc etc. I have my doubts! The weekend I organised the pugwash conference in Beit, I didn't see a single Sabb in the offices the whole time, even though we were based in the UDH from 0900 to 1800 every day. Time's running out!!

He was also on a holiday for almost two weeks I believe, in the last few months!!

But really what made me laugh was the clarification I should have sought instead of my 'silliness'. I sought and sought clarification but never got any reply to my emails. I asked questions in Exec and was fobbed off. I was lied to. (Honestly, the Sabbs thought of the Strategic review all by themselves, and the building masterplan was entirely the work of Sabbs and students, no, really).

I've been threatened all year for being on Council and not necessarily agreeing with 'them'. Sadly many other Councillors just thought that agreeing with every pronouncement was their job. It isn't. The fact that I raised certain issues didn't 'keep the Union going round in circles'. It was the problem that inspite of the issues raised, Arif continued to blithely push his own agenda, helped by his right hand* and others. I hate long meetings as much as anyone, but inspite of my efforts, the Union has continued to make serious mistakes this year, errors that could have been avoided with more transparency, trust in student officers, planning and less bravado. I trust with the new president, that that attitude had better change!

The Union is going forward now, entirely thanks to Arif the article would have you believe. That's complete twaddle as well. There are hundreds of dedicated students who run clubs and committees, represent students, organise and get on with it. Yet Arif only recognised last year's Colours recipients at the end of May this year! He was too busy, I presume, to bother keeping the really Union workforce on side!

Today i recycled my copy of teh Union strategy, the legacy that Arif will leave. money well spent, stating the obvious, such as 'the student body has multiple stakeholder groups - with differing needs and expectations of the Union'. Blow me down if that bit of analysis didn't cost 20k. Meanwhile 'budgets will not be cut' (said minutes of a meeting at the beginning of the year). Hmm. I recently heard that there's a 67k hole in ACC budgets. I might be wrong, but then again, I might be right. If the strategic review, management restructuring, and architects had been foregone, in favour of serving the students who use teh Union (and College) facilities, then we might have had a better chance of funding these gaps. But then maybe not, as I've never been given a clear, broken down, analysis of the Union's income and expenditure inspite of my role as an Executive member.

Finally I'd like to say that it was certainly not my opinion that the Union would go backwards if Council were not steamrollered to accepting half baked constitutional changes. By doing it properly, according to the rules, the Union could make the right decision in a sensible timeframe. When my two term Sabb motion fell because of inquoracy, I knew not to bring it back. A member of staff now departed grinned broadly when he told me that an inquorate meeting was deemed to have occurred and all motions voted against, when I tried to argue that a second reading hadn't actually occurred. Whether or not that was a breach of Arif's beloved Staff Student Protocol I dont' know, but it irks me no end to see the arguments used against me forgotten and indeed ignored when it suits them.

WHen I joined the Union in 1997, it was indeed going forwards. By the time I'd been drawn into the hack domain in 2001, it was beginning to come off the rails. The last year, in particular, has seen a major rail crash as the unstoppable has hit the buffers. New people, new faces, new ideas, (but the same old gym!) is what the Union needs. The King is dead. Long live the Queen!

5. Sid   
Jun 22 2005 00:44

Thanks Tom for that brief summary of this year at council, for me its been very entertaining.

I hope everyone picks up a copy of Gulix, support the cause!

Also did anyone hear about the physics department losing all the answer sheets to the Physics Group Theory paper for the 3rd years?

Jun 22 2005 00:55

Yeah, heard that one from a physicist friend. Rumour was they were lost/stolen/misplaced/whatever on a train or tube, and that everyone's been called for interviews to determine grades...

Jun 22 2005 10:01

Did you not actually join the Union in October 1998, when you were a first year, with me, Tom?

Jun 23 2005 17:33

This is facinating. I remember that Sen Ganesh put forward a similar proposal - in fact the second reading of council was inquorate but Sen wanted to push ahead with changes anyway - and Taffa (who new he had been elected) fort very very strongly against dissobeying the constitution in such a way, claiming that it was the very bed rock of the institution and to defy it called the whole integrity of the union into question. If I remember correctly STOIC filmed that meeting, so they probably have it on tape - all the minutes from before last year appear to have vanished.

9. Sam   
Jun 30 2005 13:13

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