All entries for April 2005
April 29, 2005
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.
April 27, 2005
Writing about web page http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/johncross/entry/union_disciplinary/
I have to say I still completely baffled by the misapropriation of logic that appears to have occured in relation to the John Cross disciplinary case.
If I were to point out every logical inacuracy in the Union's position in one entry I would be here all night, so I've decided to split it up into bite-sized chunks to make it easier for you to digest.
Today's installment is on the subject of the actual charges. The notification letter of a disciplinary is supposed to say what the alleged offence is, but all that John has received so far is an outline of the substance of the complaint made against him. Now summarising a complaint that has been made is no substitute for a statement of what the charges are, John is entitled to be told which of the 12 grounds for disciplinary action the hearing has been called under.
I now turn to the logical problems in the summary of the complaint.
"you have therefore exposed the Union to the possibility of legal action from both its own staff and a private company."
I can only assume from the investigating officern's report that the private company referred to is the Union's Auditor's, Baker Tilley, as the investigating officer claimed that John's vote against the accounts
"extends his allegation of fraud and corruption to a forth party: The Unionís auditors, Baker Tilley"
Lets us consider whether it is plausable that John's comments or vote could have anything at all to do with Baker Tilley.
John's comments were about the Union's accounts for the 2004–05 academic year. These accounts have not yet been audited by Baker Tilley. Therefore the comments John made have nothing to do with Baker Tilley whatsoever.
Could John's vote against the accounts have had anything to do with Baker Tilley? It is true that he voted against accounts that they have audited "as a protest". But he wasn't the only one. A significant number of other members cast their votes against these accounts. I voted against the NUS accounts at Conference this year and voted against the Union's accounts last year, infact it is perfectly normal for members to vote to reject the accounts if they wish to do so. Can a vote be an allegation of fraud? No of course not.
I certainly hope that it may prove possible to get some clarification from Baker Tilley before the hearing as to whether they view commenting on unaudited accounts to be an accusation of fraud against the auditors, or indeed what action they feel should be taken against all those members who dared to vote to reject the Union's accounts.
I am amazed that a Sabbatical Officer could make such a patently absurd claim.
In my next entry I'll be dealing with the subject of whether John could have opened the Union up to legal action from its own staff.
April 26, 2005
I have resigned as Chair of Union Council with effect from midnight tonight.
The text of my resignation letter is as follows:
Mr S. Lucas
University of Warwick Studentsí Union
26th April 2005
I am writing to inform you that I am resigning from the position of Chair of Union Council with effect from Midnight tonight. I have taken the decision to resign as I have been informed today that a member of the Union is being taken to a Union disciplinary as a result of comments that he made at a Union meeting, despite the fact that there is no evidence that any rules were broken.
I wish to stress that I am resigning on this issue and on this issue alone. This has been a good year. You have managed to revitalise interest in Union democracy by your visionary attitude that has silenced the doubters. At this time last year no one could have imagined that we were going to have two quorate General Meetings, two quorate referenda periods, and a brand new Constitution, putting to rest the myth that students are not interested in Union democracy. You can be truly proud of what you have done, and I know you have done a lot of other good things for the Union that I have not mentioned here.
However I find that my position as Chair is now untenable, as a member is being sent to disciplinary for making a speech at a Union meeting, despite the fact that no evidence has been produced that he did anything wrong. I have reviewed what happened at the Annual General Meeting, and I am convinced that the member involved did not break the Constitution, its Appendices, the Regulations or the Staff Student Protocol. Indeed he is yet to be told what section of any of these documents he may have broken.
You have also sent the member involved what is a frankly bizarre email making quite ludicrous claims about his conduct. You use anonymous questions against him, despite the fact that I have at no time told you who asked those questions. I find it unacceptable that you should be suggesting that you know who asked anonymous questions, as there is no way that you can know this.
You also claim that the memberís vote constitutes an allegation of fraud. Whether or not to approve the accounts is a decision for the Annual General Meeting to take; this is set out in the Constitution. It is totally unacceptable to suggest that a vote against the accounts is an allegation of fraud, how could it be?
You also claim that the member has opened the Union to legal action from the Unionís Auditors. Considering that the member made comments about the 2004–05 finances, which have not yet been audited, the suggestion that the comments that were made have anything to do with the Unionís Auditors is palpably absurd. The fact that at the Annual General Meeting there was also a debate about whether the Auditors should be reappointed makes your point doubly absurd.
You claim that the member made an allegation of fraud and corruption against the Unionís Finance Manager and his team. Not only is there no evidence that there was an allegation of fraud and corruption, the member did not say anything at all about any members of staff. It is ultimately the responsibility of the Finance and Internal Affairs Officer and the rest of the Executive Committee to ensure that the correct amount of money is in each account, and it is quite proper that members are able to fulfil their constitutional and legal right to scrutinise the accounts, provided they in no way refer to any members of staff.
So you have failed to produce any evidence at all that any Union rules have been broken, indeed unless you have a large stack of evidence that you have not yet disclosed to the member involved it would appear that there is no prima facia case against the individual at all.
I am committed to ensuring free speech within the Union, provided that those speaking stay within the rules of the Union. As I am no longer able to do this I feel that I have not option other than to resign.
ďThis Union is directed by its members and aims to enhance the experience of students whilst at the University of Warwick.Ē
We have failed in this mission today.
Chair of Union Council