Update: The Board responded to our document request on 25 October 2023, the day after this article was published.
The Guild is an organisation run for students, with student money. Under the Guild’s governing documents, every student has the right to access any Guild record, with very few exceptions (C8 Guild Constitution, R50 Guild Regulations).
Glass has requested multiple documents and Guild files this year, and the requests have more often than not been denied or ignored by the Student Executives.
Earlier this year, Secretary Deepika Sharma denied a request from Glass to view a Teams recording of a Clubs and Societies Subcommittee meeting where the second major funding round decisions were made. This was despite Glass Editors clarifying we only wanted to access the parts of the meeting that were not done in-camera (in secret) for our reporting.
This funding round ended up being re-done after complaints were received from several Guild affiliated clubs, and major changes to the clubs funding procedures are in the process of being made as a response to these complaints.
Treasurer Usama Shafiq has also refused to circulate in-camera minutes of a SSAF Subcommittee meeting within the organisation where the Glass budget was discussed, with no prior conversation and no details provided to the Editors about what was discussed.
More recently, Glass requested full access to the Guild subcommittee minutes and any documents considered by Guild subcommittees when making their decisions, as well as details of expenditure approved by the Guild SSAF Subcommittee, the Guild’s conflict of interest register, and the Guild’s register of current policies.
Glass made the request on 19 September 2023 to Secretary Deepika Sharma and cc’d in the rest of the Governance team (President Aamna Asif and Treasurer Usama Shafiq). We received one response from Sharma acknowledging the request, but subsequent follow up emails over the past five weeks have been ignored.
Under the Guild’s governing documents, a request for information under R50 (from any student, requesting any information) must essentially be dealt with within four weeks:
- The Secretary has 14 days from when a request is received to give the student a decision about whether they will have access to the document; and
- If access is granted, the Secretary must make the document available to the student within 14 days.
Importantly, the Secretary may only deny a students’ access to a document within very limited circumstances as set out in R50.7:
Access to these documents is crucial, not only for Glass Editors to be able to do our jobs in reporting on the activities of the Guild, but also so that students have easy access to information about how their money is being handled.
Glass has also requested access to Board meeting minutes directly from the Guild Board of Directors, which have not been updated on the website since June, as well as Board Audit and Risk, and Remuneration Committee minutes, but have received no response about this.
In addition, Glass Editors are frequently excluded from communication within the Executive, despite being members of the Executive for the very purpose of being able to understand and report on what happens inside the Guild. Most recently this happened when the entire Executive was contacted by the Secretary to be made aware of what election regulation changes had officially been passed, except for the Glass Editors.
Many of the current Executives and Councillors are vying for re-election under the Reform ticket in the current Guild election, which has promised “greater transparency” from the Guild. It remains to be seen whether they believe this applies to them in their current term too.
The Guild website currently states that it “has a strong commitment to transparency“. The conduct of its elected students suggests otherwise.
At the time of publication, neither Guild President Aamna Asif nor Guild Secretary Deepika Sharma have responded to our request for comment.