Friday, 30 April 2010

Dr DR de Lacey's Remarks

Deputy Vice-Chancellor,

The Report before us is a fine example of sweet reasonableness. The Council has considered the Stature A, VIII, 7 Grace submitted by 79 Regents. It regrets the controversy which has been raised by its commendable attempts to provide universal access to the Combination Room and other parts of the Old Schools. It consulted the Finance Committee as required, and finally it `has agreed [an interesting word!] to take the {\it exceptional} step of withholding the authorization of submission of
the initiated Grace' (emphasis mine). After all, the costs involved in implementing the Grace would be prohibitively large. It almost comes as a surprise to discover that a significant number of elected members of the Council find this unreasonable.

Almost. Until you look at the issues. A building project bound to cause concern among all users of the Combination Room (and that is now pretty well anyone with any links to the University) was initiated without consultation. It was continued despite objection from Regents. I do not know precisely what advice the Finance Committee gave but it would surely be {\it ultra vires} to advise the Council to flout Statute A, VIII, 7; and the Council in any event is not bound slavishly to follow Finance Committee advice. The Report fails to note that a 50-member Grace is
itself utterly exceptional. And finally it ignores the fact that at least for now the University is governed by its Regents. If it was convinced that the Grace is inappropriate it should have produced a flysheet to that effect and left the issue to the wisdom of the Regent House. It now risks the worst of all possible worlds: that Regents reject the Council's recommendation in Paragraph 12 of this Report, and give approval to the 50-member Grace merely out of irritation. But if Regents accept the financial argument, no doubt that would be seen as supporting the initial decision not to consult. Either way the Council has created out of administrative incompetence a constitutional crisis of significant proportion. Members of the University can be grateful that there are fivemembers of the Council who understand the issues. It has been suggested that questions of confidence in the Vice-Chancellor influenced the Council's decision. This is dangerously close to becoming a vote of confidence (or lack of it) in the Council as a whole.

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