How Oxford Works, Continued
As feared, 21 people stood up in Congregation today to block a debate and vote on revising Oxford's position on pension reform. At least some of the 21 were university administrators, and included the pro-vice chancellor for diversity, as well as other members of Council (the university's executive body). The vice chancellor was not there. The Sheldonian Theatre was packed, even in its upper galleries. As the procedural resolution was being read out, the students' chants of 'let them vote' could be heard from outside. Once the announcement was made that the threshold of twenty had been met (it took several minutes to identify the people standing up in the crowd), there were cries of shame – disbelief that so few had managed to stop so many, and on a technicality. The original proposer of the resolution, Kate Tunstall, took the floor to propose that Congregation take the meeting outside in order to vote on the pensions resolution. The proposal was seconded, and most of us left the Sheldonian. Just outside, a vote on the substantive resolution was taken, and it passed 442 to 2. The mood was sombre.
It didn't need to come to this. The VC has it within her power to grant a request for the suspension of regulations. This request was signed by more than 200 members of Congregation. In an email explaining her unwillingness to grant it, Richardson wrote: 'Personally, I don’t think the authors have made a convincing case for having the debate on pensions now.' Oxford's democratic processes are not going away, at least not yet. The resolution on pensions will be debated and voted on by Congregation at its first meeting next term, on 24 April. That it will do so under a cloud of mistrust is a pity.