Chigbo appeals reprimand over NUS campaign

Andrew Georgiou - Deputy News Editor 1 March 2010

CUSU President Tom Chigbo appealed at CUSU Council on Monday against the rulings criticising his conduct during the NUS affiliation campaign.

Chigbo was reprimanded on several counts in a report written earlier this month by CUSU Coordinator Clare Tyson, whose job it is to investigate complaints about the conduct of elected officers.

After reviewing the complaints of former Churchill JCR President Grayden Webb, Tyson found that Chigbo acted wrongly by using his capacities as a CUSU Officer to campaign for affiliation to the NUS.

Chigbo was also reproached for the biased report that he produced for CUSU Council at the start of this term on the subject of affiliation.

Tyson upheld Ben Towse’s claim that the information provided in this report was intended to be neutral, although this was not made explicitly clear in the wording of the motion. Tyson ruled that, although Chigbo’s report fulfils “a literal interpretation” of the motion, “it has been written by Tom Chigbo to include bias of opinion on the merits of affiliation to the NUS” and so does not fulfil the intentions of the motion.

At CUSU Council on Monday, Chigbo put forward a motion appealing against Tyson’s adjudication and asking for it to be nullified.

Chigbo argued that he should not have been criticised for following the wording of the motion and that it was “dangerous” to allow people to define the intentions of motions outside what is actually written in the motion.

Speaking to The Cambridge Student (TCS), Towse responded: “Sabbatical Officers cannot wilfully and knowingly disregard the spirit in which was proposed just because they have found another interpretation of the letter of that better suits their purposes.”

Chigbo, however, told TCS that CUSU’s Standing Orders already require a “bland” reflection on NUS affiliation to be presented at the start of Lent and so Towse’s motion was unnecessary if this was the aim. Chigbo added that if Towse did not want something that went beyond what the Standing Orders required, then he should not have brought a motion.

Chigbo also questioned the timing of the complaints about his report of NUS affiliation. He claimed that the report had been distributed in the middle of January but that the complaints took weeks to appear. He questioned the motives of those who complained about the report as they “did not take the opportunity to ask questions or to challenge the report when it was presented and only thought to do so when campaigning for the ‘No’ vote”.

Grayden Webb criticised Chigbo’s appeal. He told TCS that the motion proposed by Chigbo only disputed one of the complaints that were upheld by the CUSU Coordinator: that Chigbo failed to write a report fulfilling the intentions of the motion proposed. He said that the motion Chigbo proposed “would have resolved to strike down the entire adjudication”.

Chigbo responded to this accusation by saying that he only had a very limited amount of time to speak at CUSU Council and so could not go through all the charges against him.

If Chigbo had had more time, he said that he would have addressed the accusation that he failed to campaign in a personal capacity.

He disputed the need of officers to act in a personal capacity. In addition, he argued that campaigning for NUS affiliation fulfilled policy that CUSU already has as the NUS is often part of the solution to problems.

He cited the NUS’s ‘Great Amnesty Feedback’ which helps CUSU fulfil its policy with regard to ensuring that more feedback is given to lecturers and supervisors.

Chris Lillycrop, former CUSU Chair, questioned Chigbo’s use of the appeal system. He told TCS: “The appeals process exists so that the CUSU Coordinator is not above the law and her adjudications can be challenged if they are clearly inappropriate. It was clear that this was not the case in this instance.” Lillycrop added: “I think it’s important for CUSU that Sabbatical Officers use CUSU Council for listening to students and not for squabbling with each other, which is why I used a procedural motion to prevent the appeal from being debated.”

Chigbo instead blamed those that brought the complaints against him for the reason behind his appeal.

He said he would rather spend time doing his job and fighting for student rights and not debating which email address he should be using to send different emails when he is supposed to be acting in different capacities.

Following the passing of Lillycrop’s procedural motion, the issue has now been referred back to the Democracy and Development and Resources Teams.

If the issue is not resolved, it will come back to the next CUSU Council of this term.

Andrew Georgiou – Deputy News Editor