The atmosphere within university student party LVS has cooled considerably since a number of Council members from various councils submitted an amendment to merge with student parties ONS and DSP. This is evident from a letter written by ten (former) members obtained by Mare, conversations with an honorary member, the Board, the Advisory Board and the Presidium (a body elected by the members to maintain order during meetings and ensure procedures are conducted in accordance with the rules).
Those conversations reveal that not only does there seem to be a dispute over whether or not the party should merge with other parties, but also that parties have fundamentally different views on the procedures that need to be followed to put an issue on the agenda.
As a result, the letter writers and the Board are at odds with the Presidium and the Advisory Board. The letter writers claim they are being silenced, in part because they were denied access at the General Meeting of Members (ALV). The Presidium and the Advisory Board in turn feel that the letter writers have violated the association’s trust and should be expelled.
The Board, the only body with the authority to carry out expulsions, does not want to expel the members, but feels pressured by the Advisory Board to do so anyway.
Back to the letter, which was sent to Mare on Tuesday by the two founders of LVS out of concern over the events of the past week and a half. The founders also signed the letter, as did eight (former) Council members and (former) Board members.
In the letter, which was already sent to the Board and the Presidium last Thursday evening, the members express concern over the procedure followed for an amendment submitted by three LVS Council members. In it, the Council members propose a merger with two other student parties: ONS and DSP.
However, according to the letter writers, members are not allowed to initiate such a proposal. An honorary member and signatory of the letter explains over the phone: ‘We’ve established that proposals for possible collaboration with other parties must be made by the Board. This is because there have been more proposals to merge in the past and we’ve had bad experiences with this.’
Furthermore, such a proposal should not be made through an amendment, but through a motion. ‘An amendment is a modification to a policy plan, so this is not the appropriate format,’ says the honorary member.
The Presidium and the Advisory Board see things quite differently. ‘There are no rules that stipulate that certain topics can’t be submitted as amendments,’ responds Presidium member Gilberto Morishaw. ‘Nowhere does it say so in the Procedural Regulations or in the house rules.’
‘Members are free to put all kinds of items on the agenda for the ALV,’ says Ebrar Kaya of the Advisory Board. ‘Submitting an amendment is a legitimate way, I think even one of the better ways.’
Despite this, the letter caused bad blood with the Presidium and the Advisory Board on Thursday night, when it became clear to them that two of the signatories, the founders, knew about the amendment on the merger plans and had therefore been privy to information not intended for outsiders. According to association rules, it is prohibited to share internal information with people who are not (or no longer) members of the party.
‘This constitutes a breach of confidentiality,’ says Morishaw. ‘And the penalty for that is expulsion. We have informed the Advisory Board, the Board and the proposers of the amendment about this. This is in accordance with the rules. And expulsion is not a foregone conclusion: they will first be suspended and will still have the opportunity to appeal.’
The Advisory Board decided to engage in discussion with the Board. The Board was then supposed to expel the members. That conversation took place last Friday.
Board chair Lauren van IJll does not feel good about the situation. ‘The Advisory Board pointed out to us that there has been a breach of confidentiality and that we should expel the letter writers. But we can’t just proceed with expulsion just like that: we have to hear both sides of the argument first, and that’s also what I wanted. However, the Advisory Board felt that we should expel them with immediate effect, meaning they also wouldn’t be allowed to attend the ALV. They also said that anyone who disagreed might as well resign, because it showed you were incapable of working with your fellow Board members.’
Additionally, Van IJll argues that the Advisory Board does not have the right to tell the Board who to expel. ‘They have an advisory role and by doing this, they stepped outside the scope of this role.’
The Board has not expelled anyone so far. ‘We want to take time to investigate first.’
Kaya confirms that the Advisory Board can only offer advice. ‘But if the regulations stipulate expulsion, it is our job to point this out to the Board. By the way, we have explicitly expressed our wish for the Board to continue with their duties and not resign.’
AVOIDING A SCENE
But it did not stop there. On Saturday, during the ALV where the possible merger was to be discussed, the Presidium immediately took over control from the Board and the letter writers were ordered to leave. ‘To avoid making a scene, we left,’ says the honorary member. ‘We waited in the corridor because there would be a vote on our readmission to the ALV.’
But the remaining members voted against their readmission. ‘This was followed by cheers, laughter and music,’ says the honorary member. ‘It was extremely humiliating.’
The Board confirms this account of the event. ‘The ALV was hijacked by the Presidium. Everyone who was against the merger was sent away by the Presidium, everyone in favour was still in the room,’ Van IJll says. ‘After the vote on their possible readmission to the ALV, which was rejected, there was indeed cheering and shouting. I found that very strange and inhumane. There was a funny atmosphere, to put it mildly.’
Morishaw of the Presidium confirms that they banned the letter writers from the ALV. ‘We are here to maintain order, and when confidentiality has been breached and we see that the people responsible are present at the ALV, we have the power to take action. Afterwards, when we had the vote, a majority voted against their readmission to the ALV.’
Kaya: ‘If the Presidium removes members from the ALV for the purpose of ensuring order, they have the right.’
Morishaw denies that members started cheering and shouting after the vote. ‘That’s not true. We didn’t derive pleasure at the expense of other members. If there was laughter, it was about something else. We took this matter very seriously.’
An important question remains: why expel members concerned about a significant issue like a party merger simply because they contacted the founders about it?
BREACH OF TRUST
‘There have been discussions about confidentiality within the party for years,’ says Morishaw. ‘The members insist that we adhere strictly to the rules. We are trying to professionalise, and that means we want to deal with this in the proper manner. These letter writers deliberately chose to take internal information to the founders while knowing that this constitutes a breach of trust.’
Ebrar agrees. ‘According to the regulations, it’s not allowed to share the contents of confidential documents with non-members. Without the consent of the proposers and the Presidium, there is no exception to this. The consequences are quite severe because confidentiality is very important. The Presidium is there to enforce the rules and I think it is quite understandable if they uphold the consequences too.’
A PROPER SOLUTION
If the Board refuses to expel the members, the Advisory Board and the Presidium cannot do anything about it, according to Morishaw. ‘Only the ALV can then remove them from their positions.’
Board chair Van IJll is displeased with the course of events. ‘One of the members of the Advisory Board has been calling for a merger for years. There has been an attempted coup. We just want to remain an independent party, but even if we were to merge: you have to follow the regular procedure and you can’t just ban anyone who opposes this plan from the ALV. We’re going to do everything we can to find a proper solution.’
Despite the removal of concerned members, there was still a vote during the ALV on Saturday on the possible merger with ONS and DSP. The Board is not allowed to disclose the outcome.