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Union President facing disciplinary hearing over poll

Following the approval of significant rules changes in a poll of members earlier this week, a complaint has been made against Mayank Banerjee, President of the Oxford Union.

Ronald Collinson, a former Returning Officer, formally accused Banerjee of misconduct in an email to the Union’s Returning Officer, Thomas Reynolds, stating, “I do hereby allege that the President, Mayank Banerjee, St John’s College, did commit disciplinary misconduct under the following headings.”

Collinson followed the disciplinary procedures from the Union’s Rule 71 to make the complaint.

According to him the President is guilty of ‘Dereliction of duty: serious failure by an Officer or member of any Committee to carry out the duties required of him under the Rules, by virtue of holding his post’ as well as ‘Other action liable or calculated to bring the Society into disrepute.‘ [Rule 71 (a), (i), (5) and (12)]

The complaint stems from the President’s decision to hold a poll on the rules changes instead of delaying them by a week to the debate on Thursday of 6th Week.

Collinson alleged in his complaint that “Mr Banerjee failed to fulfil his duties as President and Chair of the Public Business Meeting by totally disregarding a requisition posted to the notice-board…. Mr Banerjee instigated, promoted and publicised an illegal poll, purportedly taking place on 13th November 2014.”

Speaking to Cherwell, Collinson commented “I have launched this complaint with a heavy heart, after a great deal of thought. I like and respect the President, who has undoubtedly had one of the most successful terms in recent history, and works very hard for the Society. However, I believe that, in this matter, he has clearly both overstepped his authority and compromised the Union’s most fundamental democratic procedures.

“The SDC is the only body in the Union now able to remedy this situation. I am hopeful that the result of this complaint will be great clarity: that the President’s misconduct will be appropriately recognised and addressed; that there will be certainty about the electoral rules currently obtaining; that the Members will be able to vote on all aspects of a rules-change motion which has been thoroughly debated and publicised.”

As the complaint is against a senior Union official it will automatically be referred to a Senior Disciplinary Committee (SDC). The SDC must be summoned by the Returning Officer within seven days of the complaint, which in turn will meet within twenty-eight days of the summons.

All members of the SDC shortlist must have been members of the Union for at least 18 terms, and in principle at least one member of the Committee should be a qualified lawyer.

If the President is found to be guilty of misconduct, the SDC is able to issue a fine not exceeding £500, suspend or expel him, or disqualify him from serving on Standing Committee.

Banerjee declined to comment on the complaint.

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