Disha Hegde has been automatically resigned as Librarian of the Oxford Union after missing three access committee meetings. She has also missed the deadline to appeal against her dismissal.
Hegde, who originally volunteered to attend the access committee, has not attended any of the access committee meetings this term. This means her auto-resignation should technically have been triggered as early as the end of 3rd Week, but a union source told Cherwell no one had noticed until yesterday.
Under the Union’s rule 23 (e)(i)(1), “Any Member of any Committee absent without good reason from three Ordinary Meetings … in the same term shall be deemed to have resigned from that Committee … resignations from Committees that a Member is a Member of by virtue of them holding another position shall also constitute resignations from that position”.
The access committee meets every Thursday, and normally the Librarian is not required to attend. However, Hegde emailed the Returning Officers (ROs) at the end of Michaelmas and registered her intention to vote the access committee for the rest of term and during Hilary. Hegde was mandated to attend the meetings this term and failure to do so made her subject to rule 23 and auto-resignation.
Absences can be excused if the committee in question votes that the absence was due to “good reason”. The good reasons listed are attendance at a public examination, “disabling or infectious illness”, “unavoidable” engagements, or doing something “of paramount importance” for the Union. Hegde was injured on the night between Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th February, but by that point had already missed three access committee meetings. She could have presented evidence of “good reason” to the committee 72 hours after each of her absences, but did not.
Following her third absence, Hegde could have appealed against the auto-resignation by submitting a “Special Adjournment Motion”, however she failed to do so before the deadline.
In an email to the Standing Committee, Hegde wrote: “[S]everal weeks ago, I suffered an accident that left me with broken bones and temporarily unable to walk. As a result, I spent a lot of time in and out of hospital. Whilst I am currently awaiting surgery, I have not been able to attend several committee meetings or pass my absences. Librarians are not obliged to attend access committee under the rules and therefore I did not pass my absences. Autoresignation clauses exist to ensure good governance of our society and while I have been recovering from my injury and spent time in hospital, I have struggled to attend as many meetings as I would have liked to. This does not reflect my willingness to work hard in my position, nor does it reflect how deeply I care about the society.
“There is an ongoing dispute over my position. Spanning 196 pages, the rules of this Society are quite complicated and open to interpretation by the Returning Officer – who is due to issue a ruling. It may be that he decides to rule against me, for my lack of attendance at meetings and therefore announces my resignation. A disciplinary body could overturn this if they believe it to be an abuse of power, but this appeals process will take some time to come to a decision. Pending further developments, I will not be sat in the chair at debates.”
It was confirmed to Cherwell that the RO has now ruled against Hegde.
Hegde noted these developments have “highlighted … even more how important it is that this Society makes our rules more accessible and less convoluted”, and emphasised that she still plans to run for President “[d]espite the health battles I am facing”, as she has “seen how difficult it is for people from non-traditional ‘Union’ backgrounds to excel here, and my experience has made me realise how important it is that I continue”.
Just last term, Ahmad Nawaz lost his Union presidency after his absence at three successive access committee meetings triggered an auto-resignation that Nawaz then failed to overturn in a vote put to the chamber.
Following the auto-resignation, officers will most likely be moved up a rank as per standard practice, meaning Hegde will most likely be replaced as Librarian by the current Treasurer. It does not preclude Hegde from running in any upcoming elections.
This article will be updated to reflect ongoing developments.