After a five month enquiry into the behaviour and administration of Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA), the Proctors have denied the society affiliation with the University for the current academic year.
The decision, made on Wednesday by the Senior Proctor, Laurence Whitehead, will mean that OUCA has retrospectively been officially disassociated with the University of Oxford since the beginning of Michaelmas and can no longer use the word “University” in their title.
This is the second time in recent years that OUCA has had to drop the “U” from their name, the first occurring in 2009 when the University withdrew their affiliation following an incident involving racist jokes being told during hustings.
According to a spokesperson for the University, “[the Senior Proctor’s] decision to deny the Association permission to register with the Proctors at the beginning of the current academic year is a result of the Association’s failure to reach the financial and administrative standards of a recognised student club.”
Miles Coates, current President of OUCA, told Cherwell, “We inherited significant problems this academic year from our predecessors, and we have since worked closely with the Proctors on detailed structural reforms. We obviously regret the Proctor’s decision not to register the Association this year.”
Oxford University Labour Club Chair, David Butler said that in his view the ruling was fair, commenting “If OUCA have failed to meet the standards set by the Proctors, then it is right that their university affiliation is removed until they meet those standards.”
One anonymous source, claiming to be a former OUCA officer, alleged, “It seems that there may have been a few financial irregularities in the accounts, mainly in Trinity 2011, which couldn’t be explained.”
OUCA were the subject of controversy in the national media last term after a video showing one member singing anti-Semitic songs was leaked to the press. The investigation by the Proctors was instigated as a result of the reported behavioural misconduct and sparked a wider inquiry into the state of the Association leading to the decision made this week.
However, after almost two terms of examination, the Senior Proctor ruled against taking disciplinary action against OUCA. The University Press Office commented that the investigation “determined that no Proctorial disciplinary actions are called for in relation to the specific allegations of misconduct.”
Despite this, Robin McGhee, former Chair of Oxford University Liberal Democrats and a LibDem candidate in the coming elections, commented that, “OUCA have always been riddled with a rather nasty element of a privileged few, whose extreme opinion is in no way representative of the views of the Conservative voters or party. At the same time, they have apparently consistently demonstrated inability to actually bother to keep their books properly.”
The problems with OUCA’s records were criticised by the inquiry and led to the Association being disaffiliated with the University. This decision, retrospectively active from the beginning of last Michaelmas, is effective for at least two terms before the society in question can re-apply to the Proctors.
Coates stated that OUCA will comply with the outcome of the investigation and will attempt to reaffiliate with the University at the beginning of Michaelmas 2012. He commented, “The reforms we initiated leave OUCA with a comparatively rigorous administrative platform and I am optimistic that this will secure our registration on time for Michaelmas 2012.”
Nina Fischer, President elect of OUCA emphasised the importance of the reforms, telling Cherwell, “My predecessors this academic year and the committee have been working hard to address the administrative concerns we inherited. I believe our reforms leave the society stronger in the long term, and well prepared to deal with any problem cases.”
Former OULC Chair Colin Jackson commented that, “Regardless of how any of us may feel about their recent high profile actions, if the Proctors are correct in their assessment that OUCA have not kept up their financial records then they are being responded to appropriately.” He also added, “OULC collects dues from our members and proper financial record keeping is an obligation for us.”
Butler reiterated that the record keeping required by the University of all its associated societies is “not arduous” and “would be done regardless of whether or not the Proctors forced us to do so.” He concluded, “To keep appropriate records is key to running a well-functioning society, such as OULC.”
The anonymous former OUCA member said, “The Proctors’ investigation was kicked off by the scandal in the student media last term, but it turned into a much wider investigation into OUCA’s administrative procedures between Trinity 2009 and the end of last year.”