Image Description: A picture of St Peter’s College from New Inn Hall Road.
The President of the St Peter’s College JCR has resigned after the College’s Governing Body heavily criticised her for holding an Emergency General Meeting without the requisite period of notice, “compromising” the Body’s trust in the JCR’s judgement. The EGM was held to challenge the invitation of Ken Loach to speak at a college event.
A letter sent by the Governing Body of the College to the JCR Committee on the 24th March strongly criticised the JCR for holding an Emergency General Meeting (EGM) without the requisite period of notice, as stipulated by the JCR Constitution. Judith Buchanan, Master of the College, later said she was “deeply sorry for the hurt caused to students as a result of the event… and as a result of other conversations around it”.
The letter highlighted the importance of the notice period for proper consideration of the relevant motion and criticised the characterization of the actions of the Governing Body and the College.
“The JCR Committee has acted in a way that was unmindful of just and proper processes, of evidence and of consequences. If the damaging consequences of their actions were not foreseen, the JCR Committee has acted naively; if these consequences were foreseen, they have acted recklessly. Either way, in light of their actions and the choices they have made, Governing Body’s trust in the judgement of the JCR Committee has been deeply compromised.”
Lucy Lupton, JCR President, formally announced her resignation in a letter sent to the JCR Committee. She detailed her reasons for leaving the post, including that she felt that the mutual trust between the JCR and college had been eroded by the unconstitutional EGM, and that she no longer felt able to negotiate on behalf of the JCR with the College. An email was sent to JCR members on Monday evening, and her term of office will end this Sunday 4th April.
The letter read:
“I am writing to you to offer my resignation as JCR President.”
“The JCR Committee has received extensive criticism for its actions in the lead up to the Ken Loach event, including but not withstanding a failure to uphold the Constitution. As JCR President, it is my responsibility to ensure that due process is followed at all times; in calling an Emergency General Meeting without sufficient notice I failed in this duty.”
“The consequences of such action have been far-reaching, incredibly stressful, and time-consuming for all involved. They have, moreover, fundamentally damaged the relationship of mutual trust between College and the JCR Committee. I no longer feel capable of negotiating with College on any future matter which may arise, or which may involve criticism of College’s approach. As such, it is my belief that the interests of both the student body and the Committee are best served by my resignation.”
Lupton also described how the committee had struggled with how to best deal with the College’s criticism of the JCR. The criticism over the EGM and the actions of the JCR Committee led to a number of resignations, including the Secretary and LGBTQ+ representative.
“How best to confront College’s criticism of JCR Committee actions has also proved an extremely divisive issue within the Committee itself. Under my leadership, three Committee members have felt it necessary to resign from their posts, two of whom expressed deep concern about the Committee’s approach to discussions with College and the culture of Committee meetings. As chair of JCR Committee meetings, it was my job to protect the right of all Committee members to express their opinions openly and honestly, without fear of hostility. I have struggled to cope with the demands of the role this term and I no longer feel confident in my ability to lead the Committee in future discussion.”
“This is not a decision I came to lightly and I am sorry things have ended on a bit of a sour note. I wanted to try and resolve things as best I could with College before stating my intention to resign but, with the recent response from Governing Body, I think I have done all I can.”
“Thank you for all your help and support – particularly this past term (which I know has been hard for everyone) – but also throughout my presidency more generally!”
In a comment to The Oxford Student, the President emphasised once more that she was grateful for the opportunity that she had been given.
“I am grateful for all the opportunities I have been given as President, and for the help and support of the committee throughout my presidency.”
The Secretary had previously announced that they would leave their post in a message to all JCR members on the JCR Facebook page. They explained in the post that the reason for their resignation was that they had known that the EGM would be unconstitutional. The message read:
“There’s no real way of sugar-coating this, so let’s just rip the bandage off and put it bluntly: last night, I informed the JCR Committee of my intention to resign from my post as JCR Secretary, effective from 23:59 on Tuesday 23rd February. This has not been an easy decision to take, and it has also certainly not been a spur-of-the-moment decision – rather, it has been contemplated, debated, and discussed (principally out-loud with myself) over the past days and weeks.”
“On Monday 8th February, the JCR Committee met and made the ultimate decision to call an Emergency General Meeting, so as to discuss and vote upon a motion strongly condemning the Master and the College as a whole in relation to their actions surrounding the event with Ken Loach on the same day. I, in my capacity as JCR Secretary, have as one of my principal roles the vocation of knowing, interpreting, and upholding the JCR Constitution; yet, on this occasion, I knowingly failed to do so by permitting the subversion of the Constitution in permitting an Emergency GM to be called without the requisite period of notice.”
The LGBTQ+ representative also resigned, citing developments within the JCR that had left them “uncomfortable”. In a comment to The Oxford Student the LGBTQ+ representative explained in more detail the reasons behind her resignation.
“The main issue is that the governing body needs to regain the trust of Jewish students. I’m not sure that using the JCR committee in this way and putting so much pressure on them is particularly productive in achieving that.”
An EGM had been called to condemn the invitation of Ken Loach to a ‘Ken Loach in Conversation’ event that had been held by the college on the 8th February. This came after students highlighted a number of allegedly antisemitic comments made by Loach.
A spokesperson for College said of the resignation of the JCR President:
“College learned yesterday that the JCR President has resigned. College respects the decision of the JCR President to step aside and wishes her well. The Governing Body looks forward to working with the JCR Committee to move forward on areas of common concern for the St Peter’s community.”
Image credit: Anon1652734 via Wikipedia Commons