A motion of no confidence in Trinity 2014’s Returning Officer (RO), Alex Walker, was withdrawn from OUSU Council last Wednesday.

The motion was withdrawn by proposer Jack Matthews and seconder Will Neaverson before the meeting. Cherwell understands that the motion is intended to be brought back to OUSU Council in 7th Week.

The motion originally called for OUSU “to have no confidence in Alex Walker, Wadham College, the former Returning Officer, Trinity Term 2014”. It went on to “mandate the President to inform Council so that Council might consider expelling Alex Walker,” if Walker asked to resume his membership of OUSU.

The motion additionally proposed mandating OUSU President Louis Trup to inform the University Proctors of Council’s decision and to remind them that “Council still wish for the Proctors to resolve this important issue.”

A copy of the agenda for Wednesday’s OUSU Council, which was later replaced, indicated that, “Following a complaint, the Chair of Council will propose a procedural motion to postpone this motion, so that the matter be reconsidered by Steering Committee on Thursday 26th February.” This was later updated to read, “At the request of the proposer and the seconder, this motion has been withdrawn.”

Walker told Cherwell, “I don’t quite know why Jack is so intent on pursuing this nasty little vendetta, and I don’t particularly care. Doubtless, it will buy Jack an extra few column inches to support what he is pleased to call his political career. Their motion is factually incorrect, omits vital information, is totally misleading, and most of all, just plain silly. I’m not a particular fan of the nauseating Jack Matthews Show, and since my resignation from OUSU I have been better off for its absence. I will now, like every other student at this university, continue to ignore student politicians like Jack and get on with my life. Jack’s existence may, as it has for the last decade, revolve around throwing stroppy tantrums in OUSU; mine most certainly does not.

Matthews told Council, “Because of an ongoing complaint, the motion has been withdrawn.” He added that he wanted “to say to Council that the motion will come back to Council once the irregularity is ironed out”. 

Adam Roberts, who ran for President in last term’s OUSU elections, commented to Cherwell, “A panel of OUSU’s Complaints Committee recommended that the motion be postponed; whether they were right to or not, I think the proposer and the chair did the right thing in respecting that decision. I don’t personally welcome the motion at all. Council can debate what it likes, but I hope it thinks hard about the motion and throws it out when it returns. Steering Committee will have to look at the motion afresh if it’s proposed again for the next meeting, but we don’t yet know whether they’ll decide to refer it to a working group for a preliminary discussion.”

Matthews told Cherwell, in regards to the motion being withdrawn, “The motion was withdrawn due to a procedural irregularity completely beyond my control – it has nothing to do with the content of the motion itself. Once this matter has been resolved, the motion will come back to a future meeting of OUSU Council.”

He went on to defend the motion, saying, “Out of respect for the importance of due process, and for the benefit of the welfare of all those involved, I will not be drawn into a trial executed by the press or social media. This is a matter for Council to decide upon, with the facts being presented, and discussion properly mediated. I wholeheartedly stand by my decision to bring this motion to Council – the place which not only has the right, but also the responsibility, to make these resolutions so fundamental to the preservation of our democratic system.”

After the motion was withdrawn, OUSU Council considered an unrelated motion of censure, against two members of the Part Time Executive. Council subsequently voted to censure former Access and Admissions Officer Annie Teriba and former BME Officer Alba Kapoor. The motion of censure was proposed again by Jack Matthews, and seconded by Maryam Ahmed.

The reason given for censure was the failure of both officers to “provide adequate handover” to their successors. In 7th Week Council of last term, they committed to provide such handover and agreed “to be censured” if they failed to do so. The motion of censure proposed that as of 3rd Week Council this term, they had not done so and thus deserved to be censured.

Matthews, a candidate in the upcoming by-election for VP for Graduates, told Council, “This isn’t a nice thing to do, but it is the right thing to do.” A motion of censure, whilst not officially defined in any of OUSU’s governing documents, is generally taken to mean an official condemnation of the person in question if passed. If those censured ever run for an OUSU position again, they must also mention the censure on their nominations and disclosures form.”

Matthews went on to explain to Cherwell, “Students deserve the best from their elected representatives, so it is absolutely right that when officers fail to live up to expectations, they are held to account by OUSU Council. Handover is an issue I have particularly noted failings in over the past five years, which is why I made clear in Michaelmas that those who failed to adequately hand over their duties would be censured. It may not be easy, or even nice, but it is the right thing to do.”

Teriba disputed the motion, telling members of Council, “I don’t accept the facts as Jack has laid them out.” She argued that she had in fact made reasonable attempts to provide adequate handover. She pointed out that she had attended the general handover meeting, but that her successor, Henna Shah, of Regent’s Park, failed to turn up. It was unclear at Council which of Teriba or Shah was to blame for failing to set up a one-on-one handover meeting.

In the process of debate, Teriba proposed a procedural motion to split up the motion of censure. The procedural motion passed, causing the three ‘resolves’ clauses to be voted on independently. Council voted overwhelmingly to pass the first clause, which resolved to “remind the Executive Officers of their duties to adequately handover to their successor upon completing their term in office.”

The second clause to censure Annie Teriba passed with 28 votes for, 27 against, 11 abstentions and three spoiled ballots. The third clause regarding Alba Kapoor passed with 58 votes in favour, four against, four abstentions, and three spoiled ballots. Voting took place through a secret ballot, as requested by Nick Cooper, VP-elect for Graduates.

Henna Shah, the current OUSU Access and Admissions Officer explained, “I think this motion demonstrates how important handovers are to the smooth running of our Student Union, particularly in an area as crucial as access. I think it also highlights how important it is for anyone who represents students to respect what those students decide in a democratic context, such as in OUSU Council, and it is this kind of a lack of respect for students’ opinions that results in disengagement from the Student Union.”

Teriba and Kapoor could not be reached for comment. 

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