Hatfield JCR passes motion of no confidence in Compliance and Governance Officer

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Hatfield College’s Junior Common Room (JCR) has passed a motion of no confidence in its elected Compliance and Governance Officer. Out of a total turnout of 74 voters, 82% voted in favour of the removal of Ms. Lersvidhaya from her position on the Executive Committee of the JCR with immediate effect.

In a comment to Palatinate, Senior Man of Hatfield JCR, Humam Quader, said: “Following some concerns from JCR exec members and others about the performance [of] our elected Compliance and Governance Officer, we followed procedures mandated by our JCR standing orders and gave JCR members the chance to register a vote of no confidence in the officer’s performance.

“Following the outcome of that vote, the compliance officer was asked to stand down.”

­­­The motion of no confidence was proposed by members of the Executive Committee on 29th September, and specified concerns around Ms. Lersvidhaya’s alleged negligence of CGO responsibilities, inability to collaborate, and pursuit of an ‘insular agenda’, as the reasons behind their proposal.

In this proposal, the responsibilities of the CGO in relation to the JCR were outlined as: “Creating policies, ensuring we’re GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] compliant, and ensuring we’re compliant with the regulations set out by the Charity Commission”.

They further noted that: “the CGO acts as the secretary to the Board of Trustees. It is a responsibility to support the board in ensuring the JCR is compliant with the rules and regulations set out by the Charity Commission, HMRC and Durham University.

“As one of the student trustees, the CGO has an additional responsibility to look after the interests of the charity and its aims.

“At present, the strategic aim of the charity is to increase engagement within the JCR; every action the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee take, both as a body and their individual members, should be conscious of its impact on how all Hatfield College undergraduate students interact with said decision.”

Hatfield JCR suggested that Ms. Lersvidhaya showed disregard for standing orders and neglected her responsibilities towards the creation of governing policy for the JCR, ensuring the approval of the sabbatical officer’s wages, and researching potential sponsorship and investment for the charity reserves.

They claimed that: “This negligence has resulted in numerous instances where her contributions to executive activities did not meet the required standards, potentially exposing the JCR to legal and financial ramifications.”

Out of a total turnout of 74 voters, 82% voted in favour of the removal of Ms. Lersvidhaya from her position on the Executive Committee of the JCR, with immediate effect.

Ms. Lersvidhaya’s defence speech, which was posted to an Instagram account dedicated to her case alongside collected evidence, saw her refute the allegations made against her, stating that: “There has been misleading information being presented about me”.

She continued: “I truly believe that some of the people involved are actually well-intentioned.” Adding: “However, there are also members who, perhaps unintentionally, agree with their friends even when their actions may be wrong.”

Speaking to Palatinate, in response to the JCR’s claim that she had been negligent in her duties as CGO, Ms. Lersvidhaya said: “These concerns had never been raised to me until after the threat of the motion of no confidence was made, which was only a week before the OGM on the 1st of October. This was despite me being in office since March.”

Responding to the allegation of negligence in policy creation, Ms. Lersvidhaya noted that she had been advised to reproduce the structure of St Cuthbert’s Society’s JCR governing policies and to adjust their relevance in line with Hatfield JCR. She further commented that: “I however went beyond what is expected of me.” Continuing, she said: “I read and carefully considered the different section of the policies, and significantly reorganised and regrouped different sections to make the policies easier to read and understand. I also myself further created methods for these policies to be practically implemented.”

Regarding the approval of the sabbatical officer’s wages, Ms. Lersvidhaya told Palatinate that: “I checked regularly for all payments being sent, and all of them had been approved. Therefore, I believe that I have fulfilled my responsibilities in this area.” Ms. Lersvidhaya also said that the need for research into sponsorship and investment opportunities for reserves was communicated to her as: “something to be looked into in the future, but was in no way urgent.”

The motion went on to question Ms. Lersvidhaya’s competence as CGO, stating that: “Despite attempting to reference standing orders in order to create issues and fractures within the committee’s function, Ms. Lersvidhaya makes no attempts to research and understand a range of aspects of her own.

“She has frequently shown a lack of understanding in key areas such as the DSO [Durham Student Organisation] framework, our independence, and the annual report; while ordinary members may be unfamiliar with these terms, any competent CGO should be well aware of these specifics.”

On the subject of her competence as CGO, Ms. Lersvidhaya told Palatinate that she “not only researched and had a very good understanding of the annual report to be submitted to the Charity Commission” but had “also taken the initiative to, by considering reports from other charitable organisations, create a detailed template for the first Hatfield JCR annual report from scratch.”

Ms. Lersvidhaya also asserted that she was “fully aware that the JCR is registered as a charitable incorporated organisation, legally a separate entity from the university”, and proceeded to comment that her queries to other JCR Executive Committee members about the DSO framework were “significantly exaggerated to suggest that I have little understanding of what the DSO framework is.”

It has become increasingly clear that Ms. Lersvidhaya’s conduct and behaviour have strained working relationships within the Executive Committee.”

HATFIELD JCR

Hatfield JCR’s motion also suggested that Ms. Lersvidhaya showed an inability to collaborate and pursuit of an ‘insular agenda’, stating that: “It has become increasingly clear that Ms. Lersvidhaya’s conduct and behaviour have strained working relationships within the Executive Committee. Several executive officers have expressed their discomfort working alongside her due to her stubborn attitude and disregard for teamwork.”

Responding to this claim, Ms. Lersvidhaya told Palatinate that: “There was clear evidence from messages that, during a disagreement, I was willing to consider arguments made by the other side. I actually adapted a large amount of my work and plans according to the opinions expressed by other people.

“However, it was clear that the relevant members of the JCR were unwilling to take my arguments into account. Their accusation of me being stubborn probably resulted from the fact that I did not immediately agree with all of their opinions and respectfully raised my counter-arguments.”

Furthermore, Hatfield JCR expressed concern over Ms. Lersvidhaya’s intention to begin an academic support programme, which they considered would be in conflict with an existing “JCR endorsed” academic outreach programme, led by JCR Academic Outreach Officer, Henry Wood, saying this: “risks reducing engagement and interaction from [JCR] members.

“This clear conflict with the JCR strategic aims, something Ms. Lersvidhaya is required to uphold, was communicated with Ms. Lersvidhaya on countless occasions.”

Responding in her defence speech, Ms. Lersvidhaya said that: “although my idea regarding the study groups bears some small similarities to Mr. Wood’s projects, they are very far from identical and I am more than willing to work with him to ensure that they are not contradicting but complementary.”

I did not any point refer to myself as a Baron. I am merely a minor feudal vassal in the JCR kingdom.”

HENRY WOOD

Moreover, Ms. Lersvidhaya went on to describe Hatfield JCR as possessing a “culture…of hierarchy”, referencing a statement she claims was made by Mr. Wood:

“To paraphrase Mr. Wood: ‘If the JCR is a country, the Senior Man is the King. I, as an Academic Outreach Officer, would be a Baron. You should not have the right to interfere with my land.’ I unfortunately do not have evidence of this as this was through an in-person meeting. However, if Mr. Wood is to deny this, I request for him to directly lie to everyone here that this is not what he said.”

Commenting for Palatinate, Mr. Wood said: “There had been issues regarding my working relationship with the CGO. Although I had been appointed Academic Outreach, the CGO would not respect my remit.

“I can confirm that I did use a feudal metaphor to describe the governing structure of the JCR, but I did not at any point refer to myself as a Baron. I am merely a minor feudal vassal in the JCR kingdom.”

Voting on the continuity of Ms. Lersvidhaya’s position began following the first Ordinary General Meeting (OGM) of Hatfield College’s JCR this year on 1st October and closed on the evening of 3rd October. The results of the vote were released on 4th October, alongside a statement from Hatfield JCR, which said:

“Following the motion passing with an 82% majority, the Hatfield JCR Executive Committee would like to emphasise that, with immediate effect, Ms. Un Lersvidhaya is no longer the Hatfield JCR Compliance and Governance Officer, nor a member of the Hatfield JCR Executive Committee.

“Any statements or opinions made by Ms. Lersvidhaya do not reflect those of the Hatfield JCR Executive Committee.”

Alongside these results, Hatfield JCR’s Senior Man, Humam Quader, released a statement informing students of the resignation of the elected JCR Chair, Felix Powell.

Palatinate requested a comment from Mr. Powell, but did not receive a response.

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