Image Credit: Robert Sones

Student Council chair resigns; vote on no confidence motions to be held

Isaac Chase Rahman, the Chair of Student Council, resigned at the start of Student Council’s week 7 meeting in an unprecedented move. The Returning Officer, Joe Bell, also resigned separately.

In the remainder of the meeting, heated questions were asked of the SU sabbatical officers and Trustee Board, with two votes on holding no confidence motions against Danial Hussain and the rest of the sabbatical officers now being held online. Chase Rahman’s resignation was in part due to Trustee Board blocking two motions for votes of no confidence in Hussain, the current SU President, and in Alfie Davis, VP Welfare-elect.

In his resignation statement, Chase Rahman cited a “disregard for democratic principles”, saying that the “events preceding the meeting have been wholly undemocratic.”

The Oxford Student understands that the two motions of no confidence were blocked by the SU Trustee Board due to institutional concerns. 

A member of SU staff said in an email to the Steering Committee: “Unfortunately both VONC motions will have to be struck from the agenda for next week’s meeting. Trustee Board has informed us that both include content which is subject to ongoing investigations which will need to be resolved before the motions can be heard and we have highlighted some significant organisational risks with the Board.”

Chase Rahman said that the SU had “shut down student voices” with the explanations they provided for blocking the motions of no confidence described as “insufficient and unacceptable.” 

He said that “the SU cannot function with such disregard for democracy” and that “no chair can continue like this” meaning he had to “make the decision to resign.”

He concluded his statement by hoping that “the organisation will reflect on its current flaws.”

The Returning Officer would normally act as Chair if the Chair was not present. As the Returning Officer had also resigned, the role went to one of the sabbatical officers. VP Liberation and Equality Kennedy Aliu, as the only sabbatical officer present in the room, became Chair.

Hussain and Rosalie Chapman, VP Welfare, were present via the online Teams call, but Mia Clement (VP Activities and Community) and Jenni Lynam (VP Undergraduate Education and Access) were notably absent. Nick Harris (VP Postgraduate Education and Access) was on bereavement leave.

Aliu opened with “how we all doing today?” which was greeted with raucous laughter by the room. Aliu described the events as “unfortunate” and “interesting”.

As none of the other sabbatical officers were there in person and there were issues with the Teams call, Aliu proposed not doing the standard procedure of the sabbatical officers reporting on their activities, instead telling attendees to read sabbatical officers’ uploaded reports on the SU website. Hussain was the only sabbatical officer who had not uploaded a report as he only returned to work after his suspension a few days prior to Student Council.

A number of questions were put to Hussain by Luca di Bona. They asked about the absence of Hussain’s report to Student Council, and about decisions taken by the Trustee Board of the SU – in particular, their decision to block two submitted motions that would have brought votes of no confidence in Hussain and Alfie Davis, the VP Welfare-elect. 

The Trustee Board is made up of all of the sabbatical officers, as well as student and external trustees. It is legally responsible for the SU, and as such has final say on what motions can be heard at Student Council.

di Bona then brought a procedural motion to hold two emergency meetings in 8th week Hilary term in order to bring a vote of no-confidence in the SU President. They said they brought the motion in response to the concerns raised by the Chair at the start of the meeting, and due to Hussain failing to submit a report to Student Council, as well as the insufficient answers he gave to questions about this that evening.

A no confidence motion has to be brought to two consecutive meetings and passed before a referendum can be held.

The meeting then devolved into a shouting match after Shermar Pryce, previous SU Presidential candidate, challenged the grounds on which the motion had been brought. He said that Hussain had nothing to do with the blocked motions, and so it wasn’t fair to bring a motion for a vote of no confidence against him on those grounds.

After a member of SU staff restored order, multiple questions were asked to the members of the Trustee Board as to why they blocked the original motions for votes of no confidence.

Attendees of Student Council were told it was due to confidential matters relating to internal investigations that the motions had been blocked, with Chapman adding that there were also welfare concerns. Pryce dismissed these reasons as “buzz words.”

Attendees were repeatedly left waiting in silence for answers from any of the sabbatical officers, or from Nikki Smith, CEO of the SU, who was also on the Teams call.

Smith told attendees multiple times that if they wanted to ask questions they had to address them in writing to her via email, even after Pryce said that this was an “unacceptable” response. Smith said that a timeline regarding a response from the SU about why their motions had been blocked had already been given to those that had proposed the original no confidence motions.

Pryce said he was raising questions at Student Council because he wasn’t satisfied with the explanations he had received via email.

Univ JCR passed a motion of no confidence in Davis earlier this week. It has said it will disaffiliate from the SU unless a motion of no confidence in Davis is allowed at Student Council. Pryce is the ex-JCR President at Univ.

In response to a question about what investigation had specifically blocked the motion against Danial Hussain as the investigation for which he was suspended since October has now concluded, Smith stated that the SU does not comment on internal HR matters. This was met with laughter from attendees. 

After discussions relating to the fact that all of Trustee Board were responsible for the original motions being blocked rather than just Hussain, Pryce brought a procedural motion to hold two emergency meetings in 8th week, running “directly after” the meetings relating to Hussain, in order to bring a motion for a vote of no confidence in the entire sabbatical officer team.

Although both the procedural motions to bring votes of no confidence passed when voted on at Council, Eleanor Miller, VP Undergraduate Access and Education-elect, brought another procedural motion to vote again on the no confidence motions but online instead of in person due to concerns regarding the pressurised environment in the room making it difficult for delegates to vote openly.

This motion passed with a clear majority, meaning the Student Council delegates, including those who weren’t at the meeting, will have the chance to vote on the vote of no confidence procedural motions for a period of time yet to be set. Usually motions have a 48 hour voting window that opens later in the evening after Student Council.

If the motions pass, emergency meetings will be held in 8th week to vote on passing a motion to hold a vote of no confidence in Danial Hussain and a vote of no confidence in the entirety of the sabbatical officer team.

The SU have been approached for comment.