• Thu. May 30th, 2024

Student Council motion to call for Principal Mathieson’s resignation

ByJoe Sullivan

Nov 22, 2023
Peter Mathieson smiles slightly against a gray background, which is on top of a picture of Bristo Square. Also on top of the picture of Bristo Square is the draft motion, entitled "University Management Accountability and Vote of No Confidence".If selected for debate and passed, motion would call for departure by July 2024

A motion submitted for next Thursday’s Student Council meeting calling for the resignation of Sir Peter Mathieson as the University of Edinburgh’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor.

If approved for debate and passed, it will call on the Students’ Association to demand his resignation from his roles, effective by July of next year.

Further, it will call for his university-provided accommodation, which he pays no rent or utility bills on, to be turned in to a student-facing space.

HCA Undergraduate Representative Sam Marks, the third year History student who submitted the motion, told The Student: “This motion is about transparency and accountability from the Edinburgh University management.

“We know there’s been a lack of student voice, and a lack of staff voice, in the direction of this university.

READ MORE: View the draft full text of the motion here

“I think it’s a tremendous shame that we’ve gotten to this point as a university where students, staff and management often get pitted against one another.

“This is all based around having a more democratic engagement in the student experience, and ensuring that there is better ways for students to be represented.”

He cited several grievances some students have with the Vice-Chancellor, including his rent-free house provided by the university and his industry-leading salary.

One significant point of contention raised by Marks was Mathieson’s perceived lack of action on industrial action, saying: “There’s been a long history of industrial action at the university going back to 2018.

“This has caused a hugely jeopardising situation for students, whose marks were delayed by the marking and assessment boycott, and for staff who face severe degrees of casualisation.

READ MORE: Mathieson grilled at student Q&A as satisfaction at an all time low

“All the while, principal Mathieson received a sizeable raise when he was already the highest-paid figure in Scottish higher education.”

The motion will call for two annual referendums open to students to be introduced.

One would allow students an opportunity to “amend the values and qualities promoted by the Students’ Association”.

The other would allow them to “democratically decide on the values and qualities the Senior Leadership Team should exhibit whilst in post”

Marks said an extraordinary motion to start work on facilitating the EUSA referendums would be introduced at January’s Student Council meeting.

READ MORE: Mathieson’s mansion: students react to £26,000 increase in expenses

Meanwhile, if the motion debated next Thursday is passed, it would call on EUSA to lobby the university to set up the Senior Leadership Team referendums.

Marks explained the second referendum proposal in more detail, saying he was looking to set up “avenues for change that the students can be involved in”

He continued: “This is about incentivising ways for students to be able to democratically decide on the values and qualities of the university management, and ensure that there is greater discussions and collaboration from the onset of whoever comes to be our next Principal.”

It is unclear whether either or both referendums can be implemented if next Thursday’s motion is passed.

Further, even in a scenario where the motion is selected for debate, voted for and implemented, this is no guarantee that Mathieson will resign.

READ MORE: Edinburgh Council set to declare a housing emergency

Marks implored students to support the motion next Thursday, saying: “Even if you’re not comfortable with a clear call to remove the Principal — and I completely understand some reservations for this — what has been going on at this university has been completely unacceptable for the student population.

“In past EUSA council meetings, meetings with the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, discussions we had ranged from the university’s consistently low and lacklustre rankings in regards to mental health, the student experience and assessment and feedback.

“This is not just a change on the person who is occupying the office, this is a change to the relationship the student body has with the university management.

“It’s designed to make it more accountable, transparent and accessible.”

“This is a structural change that everybody at the university should be a part of, and I highly encourage everyone to engage in this process and ensure that this university is made in the way they want it to be.”

READ MORE: ‘Stupid’, ‘corrupt’, ‘it’s tone deaf’ – students react to Mathieson’s knighthood

The meeting, on Thursday 30 November from 6:00pm until 8:00pm, will be hosted on Microsoft Teams.

If accepted, the motion will be discussed then, however there is a chance that the Student Council’s Facilitator may not approve the motion for debate if they deem it meets one or more criteria for exclusion.

These criteria include introducing legal risk for EUSA, not aligning with its values or charitable objectives, or harming its reputation, among other points.

All students are eligible to attend, and can join the Teams meeting by clicking on the link reading “Thursday 30 November 2023, 18:00-20:00 GMT” at https://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/yourvoice/makeachange/studentcouncil

The University of Edinburgh declined to comment on this story, while EUSA could not comment before deadline.

Image “Peter Mathieson 2019” by Consulate General of Japan in Edinburgh is licensed under CC BY 4.0. Background image via Rayna Carruthers (Student staff). Composite by Student staff.

By Joe Sullivan

Hey there, I'm Joe! I'm The Student's Editor-in-Chief. I love reporting on local happenings here in Edinburgh, and am always looking for tips on what the paper should be looking in to or covering. If you'd like to tip me - or if you'd like to chat otherwise - I can be found at... Text, Phone, WhatsApp, Signal - 07876 154619 Twitter - @_josephsullivan Instagram - @joe92743 Secure email is available on request.