The allegations were made in response to an email sent by the GSA President, Keke Zu, to all Council members from the four current GSA Principal Officers, outlining all of the options available to Council in the wake of the resignation of Taha Rajab, the Academic Affairs Officer.
The email explained that he and the other principle officers preferred to have the council appoint someone to the position rather than hold an election.
At the beginning of the meeting on Saturday there was a debate over the transparency, or lack thereof, within the Association. There was also a suggestion to add policy to the constitution to clarify what needs to be done in the event of a resignation as some felt it was too vague.
Ted Brown, the Chair, told Nouse, “The Council is the primary decision making body; however, nowhere in the constitution does it grant council the ability to appoint an officer. Ultimately, the proposal is a blatant disregard of the rules, and simply unacceptable.”
The Council was told the Principal Officers believed that ‘option 1′, in which the Council elects an interim Officer at the meeting on 19th January for an immediate post until May 2013, was “the most sensible.”
In response to the proposed option of holding an immediate election for the position of Academic Affairs Officer and then another election in May 2013 for the rest of the Principal Officers.
Council members were told, “If we went with option 2, then our reputation would be at risk, especially after being forced to rerun the ballot at the recent election. In addition holding an election takes up a large amount of time and resources.”
The email requested that Council members did not discuss this with anyone outside of Council until a solution was in place.
GSA Policy and Communications Coordinator, Ken Leach told Nouse, “I am also sure it is immediately obvious why we would inform the GSA Council about Taha’s resignation before making the news public, since this is considered standard practice in most organisations.”
“While the Principal Officers put forth their recommendation, they also put forward other options for Council to consider. I think it would be insulting to the members of Council to suggest that they would rubber-stamp any suggestion put before them and were incapable of coming to their own conclusion about the issue.
“They were asked to consider this issue more than a week before the Council meeting took place. There can be no suggestion that anyone is trying to ‘forgo the democratic process’ – which is an accusation insulting to our Officers; both principal and voluntary.”
YUSU International Officer, Mike Anstey told Nouse, “Without getting too deep into the nitty gritty of the situation, I was asked my views on the Principle Officers or Council possibly ‘appointing someone into the position’ – which I wholeheartedly reject.
“The Council should not have any leniency to decide what they believe to be ‘an appropriate course of action’; there should be adherence to the GSA’s constitution which I am told, warrants an election to be held. I believe for the GSA to retain their reputability as a representative organisation is to hold an election for the position to fill the Officer slot until their main elections.”
Brown continued, “The GSA is supposed to be a democratic representative body and as such it needs to operate in a transparent and accountable manner. Appointing someone to the position effectively removes the students’ right to selection.
“We cannot withhold someone’s right to vote or run for office, and I find it odd that the Officers are willing to do so. I doubt I need to remind them that this is exactly how they were selected. Furthermore, we need to let the cat out of the box. They shouldn’t be withholding this information; the students have a right to know.”
Leach concluded, “It could be argued that the proposal put before Council is in the best interests of postgraduate students at the University, since it means they will continue to be represented at senior University committee-level in a way they would not be if we had to hold another election which requires significant time, resources and a gap in provision.
YUSU President Kallum Taylor commented, “The GSA Council made the correct and sensible decision. Not doing so through a creative interpretation of the rules, or for the inconvenience it brings, would have really harmed their credibility.”