Cambridge University Graduate Union President ousted after emergency vote

10 May 2013

At an emergency meeting of the Graduate Union this evening, the decision was taken to uphold the proposed motion of no confidence in President Arsalan Ghani. The decision was made after 29 voting members of the GU council attended the meeting, with the motion being passed by 25 votes to 0, with 4 abstentions. Most of those voting at the meeting were College representatives, with just a couple of people attending on behalf of the various departments.

The Council resolved that they have “no confidence” in Ghani’s leadership, that he should “publicly apologise for the offence and damage that he has caused” and that he should” resign as President with immediate effect”. Although slightly amended during the council meeting, the Motion of No Confidence was originally proposed earlier this month by two graduate students, Charlie Bell and Matt Grosvenor, and urged students to sign an online petition calling for Ghani to “resign with immediate effect”.The Motion accused Ghani of “repeated absences from the GU during his stated working hours”, of accusing “fellow student representatives of racism”, and of “making unilateral statements” to both the international and student press.

Speaking to The Cambridge Student ahead of today’s vote, Ghani said that he was shocked by the petition which he felt had been circulated in an “unfair and undemocratic manner”.In response to the motion against him, Ghani personally contacted all the students who signed the petition to defend himself against the allegations raised, stating that: “The real attack on democracy is not my emailing to those who have signed the petition, but the way in which a document has been secretly circulated around the graduate community that contains lies and false allegations against me.”

Today’s meeting was the direct result of ten months of inner turmoil within the GU during which Ghani has been subject to various serious allegations, including the harassment of colleagues and involvement in the disappearance of money from the GU.

Although today’s emergency meeting arose as the result of deep dissatisfaction with Ghani’s time in office, he has also had plenty of support throughout his time as GU President. Adam Booth, a PhD student at Robinson, is one of the many people who have strongly defending Ghani: “The Arsalan I know is not a bully, a thief, or a dictator, but a kind man who is a good friend, a loving father, and a resolute political campaigner.” (See “No to mud-slinging” – 15/5/13)

Speaking at the meeting, proposer Charlie Bell described the situation at the GU in the meeting as the consequence of “a breakdown of trust” which has “prevented Union functioning”. Bell also addressed the matter of press coverage relating to the GU, saying: “Mr Ghani has misrepresented the University at every turn, particularly in the press” and that the only solution is to “remove him” to solve the problems at the union.

Ghani countered all of the allegations against him, telling the Council that he has always acted “for the sake and benefit of the graduate union.” He proceeded to inform those in attendance that he has been “upset” by the press coverage of events at the Union as his comments have been taken out of context as part of the “campaign” against him.

Although not welcomed by all students, the decision to pass the motion means that the situation at the GU is still yet to be resolved. However, with elections for the new GU committee scheduled to take place on Wednesday 15 May, it is to be hoped that the Graduate Union will be able to set aside and move on from these issues which have dominated Ghani’s presidency.

Today’s decision was passed in accordance with a hybrid constitution as the 2012 version is still to come into effect. To pass the motion, 21 members had to vote in its favour.

Jenny Buckley, Gwen Jing, Hazel Shearing and Timur Cetin