Second vote of no confidence vetoed

cross posted from Edd Bauer’s VP Education blog

I’m not writing this to have a go at anyone in particular I don’t see the point. This is a serious failure in good governance. I don’t think it can pass without comment. When two votes of no confidence are rejected by an unelected committee, denying debate at guild council it does need some analysis of what has gone wrong.

Last December 34 Guild Councilors called for a vote of No confidence in the trustee Andrew Whitehead    A few weeks ago the vote of no confidence in Mark Harrop was rejected, now the vote of no-confidence in Andrew whitehead has also been rejected. On both these important and highly politicised issues students have been denied the right of a debate at guild council. All the grounds of the dismissal of the votes of no confidence are ludicrous. You can read about the dismissal of  Mark Harrops VONC here.

The vote against Andrew Whitehead, was rejected on this single ground  

 1.      The Committee noted that the Alumni Trustee was appointed to the Trustee Board in a personal capacity and that, as his own practice area is energy (advising utilities), he had had no connection whatsoever with the injunction commissioned by the University. It had not been discussed at his firm’s Management Board, nor had it been discussed at the Guild of Students Trustee Board, so there was no conflict of interest.

This is ridiculous because the vote of no confidence asked Andrew to step aside because

“We believe that Andrew Whitehead’s position as a Trustee is no longer tenable due to his association with Martineau and demand that he step down immediately”.

At no point does it make any reference to Andrew Whitehead being “personally” responsible for the Injunction. Making it ludicrous that it should be rejected because he doesn’t have a direct personal responsibility.

The claim is that due to the injunction being dealt with at a lower level in his firm to him, that there is therefore “no conflict of interest”. This is impossible to judge and clear jump of logic, certainly not reasonable for the scrutiny committee to assume on behalf of students. Further the claim that it had not “been discussed at the Guild of Students Trustee Board” is completely ridiculous as the board are well aware that the injunction was on the agenda of several upcoming trustee board meetings.

The motion of no confidence is requesting his removal because of his association and management of firm that is so directly counterpoised to the values of the student union. It is asking for Andrew to be symbolically removed because the board should be representative of the values of the union not his personal actions. Further the assumptions about “no conflict of interest” being possible are clearly wrong, are not based in fact and should be the subject of debate. see the rejection letter in full in the appendix below.

It is interesting to see how these two applications for votes of no confidence have played out. The grounds of the rejection of Mark’s VONC was even more spurious, the most important point, his giving evidence against Simon Furse, was rejected because the committee “couldn’t find a copy” of Mark’s witness testimony. This is despite it having been widely available in the public domain and Mark having a copy himself.

The motivations for clique who are in control of the trustee board protecting some of their key members are obvious. I’m amazed however that they feel they are able to veto both these motions in an openly ridiculous way and expect to maintain any sense of legitimacy.

Appendix

Dear Ben,

In respect of the recent petition for a vote of no confidence, please find the outcome from Scrutiny Committee below.The Guild of Students Scrutiny Committee met on 27 February 2012 to consider a petition for a vote of no confidence submitted to the Guild on behalf of 26 Guild Councillors. The petition alleged that one of the Guild’s Alumni Trustee’s role was incompatible with his employment at SGH Martineau LLP due to the firm’s involvement in obtaining an injunction commissioned by the University of Birmingham.

Both parties were invited to provide further evidence to support their positions and to attend the Committee meeting if they wished to make further representations. Neither party chose to avail themselves of that opportunity, so the Scrutiny Committee considered only the petition and the response provided by the Alumni Trustee.

The Committee noted that the Alumni Trustee was appointed to the Trustee Board in a personal capacity and that, as his own practice area is energy (advising utilities), he had had no connection whatsoever with the injunction commissioned by the University. It had not been discussed at his firm’s Management Board, nor had it been discussed at the Guild of Students Trustee Board, so there was no conflict of interest.In the absence of further arguments or evidence the Scrutiny Committee agreed unanimously to reject the petition for a vote of no confidence.

[Name Removed]

Chief Executive

(On behalf of the Scrutiny Committee)

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