The Student Services Council (SSC) has voted to support its senior officer, Courtney Lewis, in response to allegations of inappropriate conduct.

Ms Lewis, who is also the SSC societies officer, allegedly used her position as SSC senior officer to prevent an Honorary Life Membership (HLM) being awarded to Radim Dragomaca during a private meeting of the Students’ Association Executive Committee (SAEC) in May 2013.

The case has raised concerns about conflicts of interest because Ms Lewis sat alongside Mr Dragomaca on the committee of the Foreign Affairs Society (FAS) and used information obtained through this role to instigate the reconsideration of his HLM.

SAEC removed the HLM without consulting either the FAS or Mr Dragomaca, in a breach of Association rules. Ms Lewis was later censured for her actions by the FAS, which said she had been: “in contravention of all principles of professional collegiality.” She resigned from the FAS committee following a proposed vote of no confidence in October.

The details of the incident were published in The Saint on 14 November and an editorial called on the Association to hold an open discussion about the problems and to show that everyone is responsible for their actions.

David Patterson, SSC deputy senior officer and performing arts officer, brought a motion to the SSC in response to The Saint‘s articles. He said: “I thought it was appropriate for SSC to respond in a quiet way. I think we should stand by our colleagues and I think it is important that we are there when someone doesn’t have the means to respond to something like this because of the nature of it being in camera [private], they can’t comment publicly and they can’t defend themselves, I think it is our responsibility as colleagues to stand behind Courtney.”

Because the SAEC meeting was in camera, minutes of the meeting were not circulated publicly and its members are sworn to secrecy. Mr Patterson sat on SAEC alongside Ms Lewis during the May meeting but no other current members of SSC were present for the discussion of Mr Dragomaca’s HLM. This will raise questions about how SSC could vote on a motion when almost none of its members can be aware of what took place during the SAEC meeting.

Mr Patterson continued to defend Ms Lewis: “Decisions taken in exec… are a collective decision. No one person should be singled out for any scrutiny more than any other person because that is the nature of how the process works.”

Director of representation Teddy Woodhouse said: “It’s important when you are looking at the performance of an officer, you are not just looking at something that people are picking up in the media but we look at the composite performance of that officer.”

He added an amendment to the motion stating that in her post as societies officer Ms Lewis has attended every meeting of the SSC, and in her post as SSC senior officer she has attended every meeting of SAEC and every term-time meeting of the Students’ Association Board.

“Attendance is a very strong indication that we can use to determine whether or not you are doing your job and I think these three points indicate good job performance,” he said.

Kelsey Gold, director of student development and activities, agreed with Mr Woodhouse’s statement: “I work with Courtney on a daily basis in societies. She has acted very well. She is one of the best societies officers that we have had in years and she has done leaps and bounds for our societies and I would urge you all to support this.”

But Mr Patterson did point out that the incident had raised important questions about the way in which the Students’ Association works: “The HLM process has to be changed anyway… The Saint has done us a favour in that it has flagged up an issue that’s important for SSC to look at and the Association as a whole. I in no way want to antagonise The Saint but I think what they have done is flagged up an issue that we have to address.”

The motion was passed unanimously by the council.

13 COMMENTS

  1. It should be noted that HLM decisions are held in camera for (at least) 2 reasons:
    1) There are numerous persons that do not receive HLMs that are nominated,
    2) Many people receiving HLMs receive them due to sensitive work (e.g. Nightline)

    Whilst minutes are not produced for in camera sessions, a statement is provided by the group that meetings outlining any decisions made. (e.g. a list of persons receiving hlms)

    • Also worth noting that beyond these reasons, discussion of specific, named individuals is usually held in camera by the Association bodies simply because it protects privacy – any dissent as to one’s worthiness to receive an HLM should happen not in public, but in private, because then it isn’t… say… splashed across the student press.

  2. Perhaps also worth noting that what the Saint did was not *reveal*, but *allege*; no revelations have been forthcoming because all we have, at this stage, is allegations, with no evidence to back them up…

  3. I think that when the arguments used to ‘justify’ the performance of an officer is attendance; is when one needs to seriously question the SSC. I am quite shocked and horrified that this has been the response and saddened that this has happened within the realm of this very prestigious university!

  4. This is really not good journalism. The Saint appears to be veering on the sensationalist lately, whether it’s the shocking misuse of statistics on the pay gap (which is a national problem) or the apparent desire for Ms Lewis’s head on a platter. It is the place of Student Media to keep bodies like the SSC accountable; it is not the place of the Saint to cast aspersions on decisions they make. If the Societies officer was found to have done nothing wrong, then that is the end of the discussion. This headline is completely out of order.

      • Her point was surely that you should, not that you don’t. You might also want to remember that the post to which an officer is elected by the student body should be mentioned first. The current SSC Societies Officer is also the SSC Senior Officer, and not the other way ’round.

        • Newspapers vary in their use of capitalisation and there is no universally correct style. We happen to use lowercase, like the Guardian or Reuters. Others, such as the Times, use uppercase. It really is a matter of personal preference.

          As to your second point, you are correct that the societies officer is also the senior officer and not vice versa. There is no rule that says Ms Lewis should always be referred to as the societies officer before anything else, however, and we feel the best ordering is the one that makes the most sense to the reader. This article is primarily about Ms Lewis’ position on SAEC and thus as SSC senior officer, and so we introduced her accordingly.

  5. It’s probably true that most, if not all, of the members of the SSC would not be aware of the discussions at SAEC – that, presumably, is one of the reasons why they chose not to query the decision. If the SSC had decided to do what you wanted, would you have been criticising them for discussing a matter about which they had little knowledge? I really cannot see what was wrong about what the SSC Senior Officer did. She learned of information that was potentially germane to the possible award of HLM, and she passed that information along. She would have been wrong to do anything else.

    • I do largely agree with you, Alasdair, but it seems to me that if the decision taken to grant the award at the first meeting was supposed to be final, it shouldn’t have been re-opened except under extraordinary circumstances. It seems to me that SAEC probably handled the matter poorly, but the Saint’s coverage has been overblown in several respects.

    • What a ridiculous comment this is. Do you expect every member of The Saint to have no affiliations with people in the university? St Andrews is such a massive town!! Whilst I would agree that The Saint’s coverage was out of proportion I would suggest that’s because there’s no very much interesting happening in St Andrews rather than a deliberate bias.

      Also you’re clearly a very creepy and weird stalker.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.