Isaac Newton Acquah, Warwick Students’ Union’s Communications Officer, is expected to be reinstated after appealing the decision taken by Union Council on March 15th to dismiss him on grounds of having made multiple breaches of the Constitution.
Acquah exercised his right to an appeal following the original vote of no confidence, which was passed by 21 votes in favour, and 17 against with no abstentions. The appeal panel passed its judgement on March 30th.
The vote of no confidence focused on three alleged breaches of the SU constitution, specifically relating to Referenda. However, the appeal panel –comprised of a representative from the University, a Sabbatical Officer and a Chief Executive both of an external Students’ Union and the SU’s independent arbiter- ruled that Acquah had breached only referenda resolution 10.20, which states “existing officers may not use the facilities provided by their office for campaigning in any referenda.”
According to a statement issued on the SU website, the panel further resolved that “the basis and rationale for the use of an Union Council Emergency Motion (and the limitations that such a procedure had on the appellant’s right to notice and time to prepare to answer the motion of No Confidence) were not substantiated in the evidence it considered leading to concerns about the fairness of the process.”
As a result, Isaac Newton Acquah will be reinstated in his previous post as Communications Officer, subject to a number of as of yet undisclosed conditions. The appeal panel did however resolve to impose a sanction of censure –the next step down in the measures available for holding Union officers to account.
Rajiv Shah, who represented Acquah in the appeal, spoke to the _Boar_ about the outcome of the process: “I am extremely pleased by the result of the appeal. Isaac only saw the final text of the motion at the meeting of Council itself, this meant he was unable to properly prepare his defence and led to unfair proceedings. I am glad the panel agreed with us on that point.”
Students’ Union President Andrew Bradley ventured similar sentiments saying, “I’m absolutely delighted with the result. Justice has been done.” Speaking on the subject of Union participation and democratic reform, he added, “I would be keen to find ways in the third term to harness interest in Union democracy.”
The response of a number of Union Councillors was also one of cautious welcome, although more qualified. Whilst neither of the motion’s proposers were available for comment due to legal reasons, James Roberts, a Councillor, said “although I believe it was right for Isaac to have been held to account by Council, given the absence of a two thirds majority I feel that this is a fair result, and am glad that an amicable solution has been found for Isaac and the Union as a whole.”
He went on to add, “many of the concerns upon which the no confidence was originally based still stand, and so I welcome the motion of censure against the Communications Officer, and await further action regarding the affected referenda. I look forward to seeing those who have expressed such strong opinions about the Union’s democratic process getting involved to make them fairer and better communicated in the future.”
A significant amount of the uproar surrounding the original Union Council decision stemmed from a general unawareness of how our Union’s democratic processes function. Many concerns were raised about Union Council having the power to dismiss sabbatical officers without consulting the wider student body, either through an Emergency General Meeting (EGM) or referenda –the second highest, and highest decision-making bodies respectively.
The controversy has sparked a renewed interest in Union democratic proceedings. The _Boar_ website received over 1,800 visits in the 24 hours following Acquah’s dismissal, and the Facebook group ‘Isaac is my Communications Officer’ has gained over 2,000 members in the last two weeks.
In the following months a general debate is expected on Union Democracy and its perceived shortcomings.