The President of the Oxford Union has proposed a series of reforms to the Society’s rules that would change how it deals with both criminal complaints and complaints under the Society’s own rules. The proposals were presented at a meeting of the Union’s Standing Committee on Monday.
The proposals, which follow the arrest of Union President Ben Sullivan last term, include hiring a ‘Complaints Consultant’, automatically suspending officers arrested on criminal charges, and removing criminal conduct as a grounds for impeachment. Sullivan was released without charge.
Another change is the creation of a complaint information pack. The pack would contain both information on how to contact the local police, and a form for those wishing to make a complaint under the Society’s rules.
The Union will also hire a third party ‘Complaints Consultant’, who will determine if any complaints of misconduct, which can be levelled againt members and non-members, potentially constitute criminal conduct.
Further to this, if an officer or committee member of the Society is arrested on suspicion of committing a crime, then that member is subjected to an automatic leave of absence.
However, the Standing Committee still has the ability to overturn an automatic leave of absence in the meeting following that in which the suspension was issued.
The rules regarding the impeachment of officers are also being clarified, with 300 valid signatures being required within 48 hours of a motion being posted on the Union noticeboard. For signatures to be valid, they are required to be accompanied by the name and membership number of the signatory.
In addition, the potential new rules specifyÂ that grounds for impeachment “shall not include any criminal conduct, or allegations thereof”. This would mean that the vote of no confidence debate that occurred over the Presidency of Ben Sullivan in Trinity, while the police investigation into the accusations against him was still ongoing, could not occur again.
Hamish Forbes, a Union member at Merton, commented, “These changes demonstrate that the Union understand the gravity and seriousness of the events of last term, and it is good that they did not seize the opportunity to sweep those events under the carpet over the summer as I and many others feared they would.”
However, the news was met with concerns from other members. Annie Teriba, a former Secretary candidate, commented, “The Union must remember that combatting sexism is not just a PR exercise. It’s no use writing rules that are deliberately designed to prevent members from using them. It is ridiculous to require double the number of signatures for impeachment as the Union does for any other poll, at the same time as setting a minimum turnout for voting, when three of the last four Presidents didn’t have a single vote cast in their names. Yet again, Standing Committee has placed the interests of presidents over its duty to members.”
Oxford Union President Mayank Banerjee told Cherwell, “We hope these changes are a step in the right direction for the Union and go some way to addressing some of the shortcomings of the Society.”