More Scumbaggery at the LSE Student Union.

If further evidence that LSE’s Student Union is currently a hive of scumbaggery were needed, their latest wizard wheeze is a doozy…

In light of recent events there will be two anti-discrimination motions being discussed and debated at an EGM this week, these are: No to racism – no to Islamophobia! and Stop Anti-Semitism Now.

Along with this there will also be a third motion entitled Save Our UGM being discussed and debated.

Let’s be clear what’s going on here.

Having read the Student Union government documents, including their rules and byelaws, its perfectly clear to me that they cannot screw over the LSE Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society under their existing rules – and with twelve years experience in the field of organisational governance to back up that opinion, you can be confident that I’ve forgotten more about the art of rulemaking than LSESU has ever learned.

So, they’ve now decided to call an Emergency General Meeting in order to create a new set of rules on Islamaphobia, after the fact, which they expect will allow them to screw over LSE ASH – given the circumstances, the inclusion of a parallel set of rule covering antisemitism is transparently a cynical ploy to cover their actions by creating the false appearance that this is not just a spiteful attempt to fuck over the atheist soc for refusing to bow to SU’s demand that it censor its own Facebook pages because the use of a Jesus and Mo cartoon gave a few Muslims a bit of mild butthurt.

The payload in this resolution lies in the following sections:

4. Debate on religious matters should not be limited by what may be offensive to any particular religion, but the deliberate and persistent targeting of one religious group about any issue with the intent or effect of being Islamophobic (‘Islamophobia’ as defined below) will not be tolerated.

5. That Islamophobia is a form of anti-Islamic racism.

So, they’re creating their own definition of Islamaphobia and stating that anything that has the ‘effect’ of being Islamophobic will not be tolerated.

So who gets to decide what does, and doesn’t have the ‘effect’ of being Islamophobic?

What’s the test that the Student Union will apply in such cases?

The use of  word ‘effect’ rather seems to imply that they’re thinking in terms of purely subjective test based solely on whether something offends Muslim students, giving them a license to censor any and all criticism that might be directed toward Islam.

It’s bullshit.

Interestingly, they’ve also tacked a third motion onto the agenda which, in the circumstances, is again particular revealing of the attitudes of the Student Union to criticism and dissent, one dealing with voting rights and procedures at their own general meetings.

Under their current rules, all motions put to a general meeting are subject to online voting, so students who don’t attend these meeting – which is most of them – can still register a vote on any motion that have an interest in.

Under the proposed new rules, this will no longer be the case and voting will be restricted only to those members who physically turn up at a general meeting, unless they take a procedural vote and decide to have an online vote.

In other circumstances this might be taken as a benign measure, particularly as the motion bemoans the fact of low turnouts at general meeting. which it blames on the availability of online voting.

However, at a time when the Student Union is engaged in a course of action that could provoke a backlash from the wider student union membership, who would be entirely justified in getting pissed off at the bad press the SU is currently attracting due to its penchant for scumbaggery, a motion to limit voting rights at general meetings looks a hell of a lot like another cynical – and anti-democratic – ploy designed to head off any possibility of LSESU ASH rallying support for a counterattack by way of a censure or no confidence motion.

This notice was posted on Tuesday for an EGM on Thursday, except…

Although LSESU seems to very fond of having rules, they’re just not very at understanding or following them and for that reason, the EGM they’ve scheduled for Thursday cannot go ahead – not as an EGM or as any kind of meeting at which binding policy votes are tabled.

Why?

Because their own governing documents – a Memorandum and Articles of Association – specify that 14 clear days notice must be given for all general meetings unless a shorter notice period is agreed by 95% of the members eligible to attend and vote at that meeting.

LSE has a total student body of around 8,800, all of whom are automatically members of the Student Union, and so unless LSESU can produce a written motion approving an EGM on two days’ notice which is signed by something of the order of 8,400 student union members, then the meeting – if its takes place – and any decisions taken at it are self-evidently ultra vires.

Last time out, I noted that the London School of Economics, like all university’s in the UK, is under an express statutory duty to ensure that its Student Union operates in a fair and democratic manner and a duty to ensure that free speech within the law is secured for all members, and with an attempt to hold an ultra vires EGM to pass resolutions intended to curtail free speech to add the previous examples of bias and procedural unfairness, LSESU ASH have ample justification for a formal complaint to the university about the conduct of the Student Union.

And so, if anyone from LSESU ASH wants to get in touch with me either in comments (I’ll pick up your email address via the backend) or via twitter (@unity_mot) then I’m happy to offer a bit of advice and practical support on the governance issues and LSESU’s various shortcomings – all pro bono, of course – with your starter for ten being that you really should send an email informing the Student Union that they cannot call an EGM on two days notice, citing article 17 of their Articles of Association, unless they can provide written proof that 95% of the student union’s total membership have approved the shortened notice period.

Oh, and for the avoidance of all doubt, the rules set out in a Memorandum and Articles of Association take precedence over, and cannot be varied or overriddent, by any byelaws or other policies passed by an organisation – if there’s a conflict, the Mem & Arts wins.

  • con mojo

    Wtf is antiislamic racism?? – I see Venn diagrams…

    How can it be racist to stand against a belief?  & how insidious to relate a disgust at islam with antisemitism, childish at best.

  • Alex

    The general meeting rule applies to Annual General Meetings- not EGMS or UGMS 🙂 

    • Anonymous

      Not so. Article 17 (Length of notice) specifically states that the 14 days unless agreed by 95% of eligible voters applies to all general meetings.

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  • Melpomeme

    The term ‘all General Meetings’ is a specific reference to the AGM, the only meeting the Students’ Union is legally required to have. 

    Provision for UGMs and EGMs are referenced in the Bye Laws also available on the LSESU website. 

    • Anonymous

      Also wrong. From Byelaw 2

      4. Types of General Meeting
       a. Union General Meeting
       b. Annual General Meeting
       c. Extraordinary General Meeting

      5. A General Meeting shall be convened by the General Secretary and held weekly during term time in Michaelmas and Lent Terms, and at least once in summer Term.

      This is taken from the Byelaws currently on the website, dated Feb 2010.

      If these Byelaws have been superseded, LSESU should publish the current version.

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