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Guild Councillors Resign over Trustee Board Decisions

The Guild of Students building, viewed from Edgbaston Park Road
The Guild of Students building, viewed from Edgbaston Park Road • Photograph: Redbrick

Eight Guild Councillors have handed in their letters of resignation to Poppy Wilkinson, Guild President, in protest of decisions made by the Trustee Board in April.

The Guild Councillors announced that the Trustee Board “undermined the current council in its entirety” by overturning Guild Council’s amendments made to the Democratic Structures Review and Officer Review in its meeting last month.

Amendments that were overturned include the retention of non-sabbatical officers, the addition of full-time liberation officers, the addition of an ability to make amendments to motions presented at open assembly sessions, and the addition of accountability sessions to the proposed model.

Three speeches were made by Guild Councillors to announce the resignations. James Bowker, who was Government and Society Guild Councillor, announced the resignation of multiple Guild Councillors during the Questions and Scrutiny section of Guild Council. In his speech, he said the Trustee Board had “chosen to betray our [Guild Council’s] trust” by acting outside of their remit.

Matt (Rio) Dougherty, who represented the Political Miniforum, argued that the Trustee Board acted “beyond the interests of Council” and their decisions “fly in the face of everything liberation movements have been trying to achieve in universities across the world”. They argued that the decisions represent the Trustee Board “telling us, the students who need liberation representation, that they know better than us”.

Finally, Frankie Greenwell, who was Fundraising and Campaigning Councillor and is the Vice President (Welfare) elect, said the decisions were a “blatant disregard for students” and represented “people’s attitudes towards Guild Council”. He ended his speech arguing that “the Guild can foster a democratic structure that both represents and supports students”.

The Guild Councillors called on other councillors to resign in light of these decisions and criticisms, before handing their letters of resignation to Wilkinson and leaving the Council Chamber.

The resignations, which are intended to show that “Guild council will not tolerate them [the Trustee Board] acting in this way”, come during the extended voting period for the two referenda on the Democratic Structures Review and the Officer Review.

The Guild Councillors who have resigned are: James Bowker, Government and Society; George Derbyshire, Venues (Student Staff); Dan Bellamy, Outdoor Activities and Recreational Pursuits; James Phillips, Political Miniforum; Matt (Rio) Dougherty, Political Minforum; Afroze Zaidi-Jivraj, Religious Miniforum; Connie Parkin; Frankie Greenwell, Fundraising and Campaigning miniforum and Vice President (Welfare) elect.

In response to the resignations, Wilkinson said: “I am really disappointed that a number of guild councillors took the decision to resign from their elected positions at Guild Council last night. Those individuals were elected by students, to represent students at the University of Birmingham and it is a shame that they feel they are no longer able to fulfil that role. Guild Council should be a place where debate and dissent can take place in a safe, constructive and respectful environment. It is very sad that those students feel that they have to abdicate their roles to express dissent rather than engaging in our democratic processes.”

Wilkinson also received two censures in the Guild Council session, both of which were related to the Trustee Board’s decisions or the organisation of the referenda. A censure was proposed for Poppy for the extension of referenda voting period, but this failed. The Vice President (Activities and Development), Molly Wright, also received a censure for her votes in the Trustee Board meeting.

Last month saw the  Trustee Board criticised in two open letters signed by University of Birmingham students and other student officers from across the UK. The Trustee Board is made up of four sabbatical officers, student trustees, and external non-student trustees. With the exception of the sabbatical officers, an Appointments Panel selects who sits on the Trustee Board.

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