All entries for Friday 29 April 2005
April 29, 2005
More on the charges
Follow-up to But what are the charges? from Benny Blog
We are still waiting for a list of charges in the John Cross disciplinary case.
The Union seems to be somewhat confused as to what charges actually are. A report from the Investigating Officer does not constitute charges. The Investigating Officer's report is supposed to detail the facts relating to the case. (On this occasion there is a severe lack of facts in the report, but never mind). It does not actually list charges, in fact the charges are supposed to be decided based on the facts (although it may be that this doesn't happen that often these days).
It is really important that John receives a list of charges which specify exactly which rules it is alleged he has broken, so that he can prepare his defence properly. To fail to provide a list of charges would be very unfair.
Anyway onto the question of whether it is possible that John could have opened the Union upto legal action from its own staff.
The answer to this is a categorical "no".
In general terms the action of an individual cannot open an organisation to legal action. For example if a fight breaks out at a Union event, the only people liable are those who caused the fight, unless it can be shown that the Union was negligent for failing to provide proper security measures etc.
Similarly if someone makes a slanderous statement at a meeting it is generally the person making the statment who is liable not the organisers of the meeting. (Of course no slanderous statement was made on this occasion, the point is if there had been, it would be John, not the Union, who would be liable).
Now there is another issue that could be relevant, the staff-student protocol. Now this is a contractual document between staff and the board of directors, which sets out the relationship between students and staff. It is true that if the Union breaks this protocol it would be a breach of staff contracts and the Union could face legal action.
But lets consider the relevant section:
17. Elected officers of the Studentsí Union share a collective and individual responsibility to ensure that under no circumstances shall discussion take place of matters relating to the responsibilities; conditions of employment; performance or conduct of members of staff other than at a meeting of the Board of Directors.
Note that it is elected officers who hold the responsibility. John is not and was not an elected officer. Therefore if there had been a breach of the staff-student protocol, then the people who have opened the Union up to legal action are those officers who failed to take any action to take the protocol being breached. Not one sabbatical attempted to raise any objection to what John was saying at the meeting or did anything at all to stop what was being said.
Of course, the fact that there was no mention of staff or discussion about them at all is another trifling issue that no one seems to be too bothered about.
So we now have a situation where someone is being disciplined for a circumstance, which, had it occured, would have been the fault of officers, such as the sabbaticals on the disciplinery panel.
But don't worry, we can be sure that the question of conflict of interest will be considered carefully. In response to John's objections to Gareth Barker being on the disciplinary panel, Gareth replied,
I have consulted with both the President and, in the spirit of fairness, the Deputy President about your concerns with my Chairmanship of the panel. Both concurred that I should remain as Chair.
So a person with a conflict of interest has consulted with a person with a conflict of interest, and, to make it just that bit more fair, another person with a conflict of interest, and found that there was no conflict of interest.
Now that's what I call fair!
No doubt I'll be adding more in due course.