The St Hilda’s College administration has been accused this week of causing much of the college’s MCR committee to resign, after various members left their positions prematurely at the end of last term.

MCR committee members at St Hilda’s are normally elected in Trinity term, and carry out their roles for a full year. However, seven members of the 2011-12 committee, including the President, Vice-President and Treasurer, announced their resignations in November, having served for just one term.

A member of the St Hilda’s MCR, speaking to Cherwell this week and claiming to be “familiar with the events that happened last term”, alleged that these resignations were the result of an ongoing conflict between the MCR and SCR.

The MCR member, who wished to remain anonymous, said that conflict arose after disagreement surrounding an MCR cocktails event, which had been scheduled to take place in St Hilda’s MCR on Guy Fawkes Night but was cancelled shortly beforehand.

The MCR member’s account of events suggested that college authorities stopped the cocktails from taking place, on the grounds that the MCR, as they saw it, had not followed correct procedure in arranging them.

The member claimed that “This event fuelled a state of confusion within the MCR, as the MCR was no longer sure of what the college rules were for running events”, and also criticised the college Dean, Dr Margaret Kean, claiming that when asked about the rules “she gave snippy remarks and avoided answering.”

The MCR member continued by alleging that meetings were held following the incident between MCR and SCR representatives, but that “no resolution was reached in the course of those meetings, as it seemed that the SCR was unwilling to hear the other side or make any concessions.”

The member gave an account of events leading up to the seven committee resignations, saying, “It was quite apparent that events had reached a stage in which the MCR Committee and the college administration were no longer able to work together.

“This breakdown exhibited itself as the administration’s breaking of agreed protocols, the administration’s unwillingness to communicate new rules to the committee, and the administration’s unwillingness to take steps to resolve the contention between the committee and its representatives.

“Given these circumstances, the MCR Committee felt that they were no longer able to work in an environment where what had been agreed upon was randomly changed, while the new rules were not being communicated.”

However, the source criticised the manner in which the resignations were handled, saying, “The resignations were poorly announced. The MCR body was not made aware of the underlying problem with College (only the committee knew what was going on). Likewise, the college was not officially informed of the reason why the MCR committee was resigning.”

The St Hilda’s JCR President, Sarah Finch, though not endorsing this version of events, seemed to accept the notion that some kind of conflict with the SCR was to blame for the multiple resignations, telling Cherwell, “I can’t really comment on the details of what happened, but I understand that it was a clash with college. It’s a shame that things went to such extremes, but a new committee has been elected now, so that is good news, as Hilda’s has a really strong graduate community.”

By contrast, those MCR committee members who resigned last term have offered alternative explanations. In a joint email, they told Cherwell that they left the committee “principally in relation to time commitments”, saying, “These were all roles that people had taken on in Trinity term last year, before knowing their schedules and commitments for 2011-12.”

They denied that the MCR cocktails were cancelled by the college against the MCR’s will, saying that the decision not to hold the drinks was due to the fact that they coincided with a memorial event for Chao Cao, an engineering fresher at St Hilda’s who died in tragic circumstances last term.

Outgoing committee members also refuted the claim that “the MCR Committee and the college administration were no longer able to work together”, claiming that they continued to organise “events planned both prior to and following the cocktail party, and which were, where relevant, agreed with College.”

One resigning member, speaking individually, added, “There were some misunderstandings and miscommunication between the MCR and college but certainly nothing sensational. As one of the members who chose to resign, I can assure you that my decision entirely based on
time constraints as I explained at the college and MCR committee at the time.”

Dr Georgina Paul, Tutor for Graduates at St Hilda’s, echoed the account of outgoing committee members, and suggested that relations between the MCR and SCR are now healthy, saying, “Communication channels between the MCR and the relevant College officers are functioning excellently as the incoming MCR President and her team set about organising a schedule of events for the forthcoming term.”

The Dean and the Tutor for Graduates issued a joint statement, saying, ‘The College is grateful for the hard work of the outgoing Committee members and is looking forward to working with the current MCR Committee this term.’