Editor's Note: There have been some concerns from readers about the accuracy of claiming the Executive Committee meeting on the 11th became inquorate after two members left. For the avoidance of doubt, this is a quote from the Acting LUSU CEO Misbah Ashraf, who said in the meeting: 'I'm very conscious that we're not going to hit quoracy. There is a contentious issue that needs approval, and I am concerned that we will not be at quoracy if George and Atree have to leave.'
The issue over the appointment of student trustees has escalated this week as Trustee Board vice-chair Graeme Osborn issued a public ultimatum before LUSU announced it had reported itself to the Charity Commission.
The dilemma began in an Executive Committee meeting (for better or for worse, the only LUSU body which is majority-elected) on 14th January, where a discussion over appointing two students to fill the student trustee vacancies took place. It was resolved and agreed that no appointments would be made to the vacancies as the November LUSU referendum, which has yet to be implemented in any shape or form, called for a majority of elected trustees.
The vote on the 14th January arose, it seems, from a mixture of good faith and ignorance. For instance, the Articles of Association explicitly state: 'There should be at least one undergraduate and postgraduate student.' Depriving students of representation just because at an undetermined date they will have to step down does nothing to satisfy students who already see the Trustee Board as unrepresentative. Not only does the refusal to appoint apparently violate the Articles of Association, it also violates Charity Commission rules.
Hence, in a meeting on 11th February, approval of student trustees was yet again on the agenda. This could not be voted on as the meeting became inquorate after LUSU President George Nuttall and his accomplice Grizedale JCR President Atree Ghosh left the meeting halfway through. It was a peculiar decision for Nuttall, who is also Chair of the Trustee Board and should have been aware of his responsibilities.
The situation has appeared to have developed rapidly after LUSU received legal advice from its lawyers (last year LUSU's lawyers were local firm Oglethorpe, Sturton & Gillibrand). They have been instructed to seek consent from the Charity Commission to allow LUSU to keep paying the sabbatical officers, as they are currently breaking apparent Charity Commission rules that state unpaid trustees must outnumber paid trustees.
This is not the first time LUSU has come into conflict with the Charity Commission. In January, Spineless reported that LUSU rejected entirely the student petition for a VNC in Graeme Osborn, even though it quoted Charity Commission guidance in direct contradiction to LUSU's actions. In the same statement, LUSU said they would not comment on the petition but also called for students not to sign it.
Mr Osborn and the Trustee Board have also come under criticism for their admission that they had not been following any of LUSU's election rules properly, which may have constituted a breach of the Education Act 1994. Lancaster University did not respond to a request to comment on this matter.
If the Charity Commission starts digging, Spineless wonders whether they will stop at just the student trustees.