On the 5th of March 2020 an Extraordinary Scrutiny Panel was called for the University of Nottingham Students’ Union President, James Pheasey.
In general, the purpose of a scrutiny panel is to provide a way to hold SU officers accountable for their actions. Thursday’s scrutiny panel came as a result of the controversies surrounding the Democratic Procedures Committee (DPC) meeting that was held on the 20th of February.
“Such actions were perceived by many in the student body as undemocratic, with some suggesting James had abused his power.”
Since soon after the Democratic Review referendum, which was voted down 3:1 on the 19th of February, it was revealed that in the DPC meeting two motions were put forward with legislation that were included in the proposed new democratic system.
Such actions were perceived by many in the student body as undemocratic, with some suggesting James had abused his power. More specifically, the Panel stated that they “find the motions regarding the positions of Union Development Officer and Liberation Officer to be in contempt of the referendum outcome.”
In accordance with Article 16 of the Student Unions’ Officer Accountability bye-laws the President of the SU, present at the DPC meeting and supposedly the member who proposed the Liberation Officer motion (although contracted) as well as the Union Development Officer motion, was called to sit in front of a scrutiny panel.
The Panel ran largely without hindrance or hostility. James was asked questions primarily pertaining to his role in the submission of the two motions and whether he thought that his actions were against the democratic mandate of the student body vis a vis the referendum result.
James insisted that it was not he who had put forward the Liberation Officer motion, but instead chair of the DPC Athena Potsos. Athena, in a full statement posted before the scrutiny panel was held, confirmed that this was the case.
James also stated that the change to the name of the President to ‘Development Officer’ proposed as a part of the motion in the DPC was different to that of the change of the president role as a part of the Democratic Review.
Throughout the evening James was accused of misleading the student body and of engaging in actions that had not communicated well to voters..”
The former was merely a change of name with very little change to the function of the role, with the later involving a more significant functional change on top of the name change. When asked what the point of this change was James clarified that the name change removes the hierarchical nature of the title.
James stated too that he would oversee (but not conduct himself) a team that would clarify the changes that have been passed the DPC in the coming weeks.
Throughout the evening James was accused of misleading the student body and of engaging in actions that had not communicated well to voters, leading to a break down in trust between the students and the Students’ Union.
James admitted that his communication had been poor throughout the Democratic Review campaign and he had apologised for this, adding that his communication would be clearer in the future.
Feature image courtesy of Aidan Hall
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