Jack off the OUSU Scrutiny Committee

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A member of OUSU’s Scrutiny Committee resigned last week, citing concerns over an “unhealthy culture” in the OUSU Council.

Jack Matthews, a postgraduate Earth Sciences student, was a member of the Scrutiny Committee, which delivered a critical report into the tenure of former president David J. Townsend last Trinity term. According to the report, there were “serious concerns” about Townsend’s presidency, with the former Sabbatical team stating that he had “often been aggressive and rude”.

When resigning, Matthews said that some had connected him with the severity of the report’s terms.

In a statement made following his resignation at the 3rd week OUSU Council Meeting, Matthews said: “I have recently noticed a change in the culture of Council. Debate is stifled, either by the urge of representatives not to be here, or, as I have now become aware, because people feel that they cannot speak their mind for fear of political or personal retribution.”

Explaining the reasoning behind his resignation from the committee, he added: “I am also aware that some have (incorrectly) connected the severity of last terms Scrutiny Report with my presence on the committee. I will not allow this unfounded lack of confidence in myself, to affect the important work of a body whose reports need to have the approval and faith of Council.”

The OUSU Scrutiny Committee is a four man student-led committee, which delivers a termly report on the performance of the OUSU president and VPs based on interviews conducted with the officers. Matthews has been involved with the OUSU council for six years.

The Chair of the Scrutiny Committee, Alex Cibulskis, commented: ”I am sorry that Jack Matthews feels his position on scrutiny committee is untenable. I am in no doubt that Jack, or anyone on scrutiny committee, was not pushing an agenda”.

Matthews elaborated upon his concerns that some people held him responsible for the severity of last term’s Scrutiny Report, responding that his “intention, like everyone on scrutiny committee, was to hold those who represent Oxford students to account, and this is what we did. We all agreed on what was said in the report, on the basis solely of the interviews we conducted.”

He added: “The Scrutiny committee exists to ensure that the OUSU executive is accountable to Oxford students, and on the wider points Jack raised, I think it is very important that OUSU is welcoming of dissenting voices, and encourage Oxford students – and not just the usual suspects – to come along and get involved in their student union, and to say what they think about what it is doing”.

James Blythe, another member of the Scrutiny Committee and an OUSU student trustee said: “I worked with Jack on Scrutiny Committee in Trinity 2013 and found him to be conscientious, impartial and immensely interested in the good running of our Student Union for the sake of all students. I deeply regret his resignation from the Committee but I understand his reasons for doing so.”

He continued: “The work of Scrutiny Committee, which tries to ensure that all OUSU’s officers are working to the best of their ability for students and working together effectively, is too important to reduce it to the personalities of the members of the Committee”.

Speaking at the Council Meeting after Matthews tendered his resignation, OUSU President Tom Rutland said: “[W]e want Council to be welcoming [and] representative […] we don’t want a body where people don’t feel they can speak.”

In response to Matthews’s concerns, he added that OUSU will be “looking at the Council this year” and that “any views are appreciated”.

An advertisement for a position on the OUSU Scrutiny Committee was sent to all students this week, to be elected at the 5th week council meeting.

 

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