OUSU’s Vice-President for Finance has admitted that the student union’s commercial arm, OSSL, “is not fulfilling its statutory obligations as a business”.
Rich Hardiman has raised concerns that both OUSU and OSSL are consciously breaking statutes of the student union’s constitution by failing to keep an updated register of constituent members at all times.
In OUSU’s termly committee report, he wrote, “If you’re a CR [common room] President or an OUSU rep, you’re a member of OSSL. Lots of people haven’t sent replies, so we’re not operating as a totally legal company”.
At the following meeting he returned to the subject, complaining that when he “mentioned this last term… the response was overwhelming indifference.”
According to the constitution, OUSU is required to compile membership forms signed by all representatives of the constituent colleges of the University to confirm their membership to the student union.
However a comprehensive list of members is yet to be compiled. OSSL’s last members’ list is dated 19 June 1987.
OUSU President, Martin McCluskey, has recognised the legal liability that OUSU is subject to for failing to abide by the statutes.
He said, “We do accept the fact that we are not meeting the regulations,” and admitted that the executive council had been aware of the problem since the beginning of the academic year but it had not been a top issue on his agenda.
However he noted, “We only have a few more weeks left of term and by next year we will have new CR presidents and representatives. The whole thing will start all over again.”
In the first week Trinity 2008 Council report, Hardiman said, “At the moment OSSL is not fulfilling its statutory obligations as a business and, as members, I’m afraid that you guys are legally liable.”
Hardiman responded to questions on this matter, saying, “We’re certainly not worried about it.”
“We were speaking to the lawyers about moving the system across and they said it’s a very common sort of a thing where you’ve got a huge members register. It’s just a sort of thing of pinning down the people that need to sign is actually pretty hard particularly when they are all such busy people.”
“I don’t really have a date in mind, it’ll be finished when it’s finished. I’m getting new people to sign down at every opportunity that I can. Every time I meet a JCR president, I sort of whip out the form and say ‘Can you put your John Hancock on this while we’re chatting?’ As long as it’s done by the end of term, I’ll be happy.”
According to the same council report, Hardiman currently holds membership forms from only eight colleges: Univ, Teddy Hall, Merton, Jesus, Hertford, Exeter, Regent’s Park, and LMH. All of them are out of date and some are also incomplete.
McCluskey added that the council has already consulted their legal representation, Stone King of Bristol, on the matter.
He said, “They have assured that they will assist us all the way, should anything happen. But they also said that this sort of situation for companies of this size is not uncommon.”