Union Criticised for Lack of Transparency over Important Constitutional changes

Jack Ranson 4 May 2014

A Union Committee member has raised concerns that constitutional changes made this week constitute a 'backdoor deal', noting the seeming reluctance of the Union to release the changes publicly to members. The Union has denied the accusations stating the changes have been 'in the pipeline for years' and that the delay in announcing changes was due to an extremely busy week.

The Union Committee member, who will remain anonymous, expressed their frustration at the Union for introducing changes limiting presidential candidacy to 'autocrats' who have already held a position within the organisation, a change made without consulting members.

The insider also criticised the seeming reluctance to publish the amended constitution; the changes were approved by a majority of elected officers on Tuesday morning but Union members were only made aware of the changes yesterday, several hours after The Cambridge Student enquried as to why the changes had not yet been made public.

In the official press release from Cambridge Union Society, President Michael Dunn Goekjian outlined the exact nature of the changes, including maintaining the anonymity of members facing disciplinary hearings and the controversial change to the rules regarding qualification for presidency, meaning members must have held an appointed post before standing for president.

He pointed out that the changes "have been in the pipeline for some time now" and explained to members the reasoning behind the decision: “The President is a trustee responsible for the management of a multimillion-pound charitable organisation, and such individuals ought to have some experience with the internal workings of the Union. This is not just best practice: it is also a legal requirement”.

In relation to the four day delay in informing members of the change, the Union's Press Officer Oliver Mosley highlighted that the Union had experienced "an exceptionally busy week" with unforeseen events such as the cancellation of three speakers for Thursday's debate slowing down proceedings.

He told TCS the delay was due purely to the need to release the changes to members following correct procedure and pointed out that though the decision was taken without consulting all members, the changes had been discussed by Standing Committee, a body comprised of student members.