Adieu to Max Crema in the sense that after this I won’t have to write about him any more. The president of EUSA, James McAsh, and his vice-president (services), Max Crema, have survived an Emergency General Meeting in which they respectively faced motions of censure and no-confidence. There were over 500 students at the meeting and Crema escaped by a whisker, with just 24 votes between either side on the no-confidence motion (although a two thirds majority was required to unseat him). McAsh heralded last night’s EGM as a “shining beacon for democracy.” With 1.8% of the electorate turning out to vote, it was more like a spluttering cigarette lighter.
Another crack at #Cremagate. Tychy has already issued three articles on this controversy and it has not been an illustrious campaign. I have garbed facts, botched the chronology, and at times failed to do justice to every nuance of this richly complicated (and entertaining) story. It was all so simple when I first began. I am a freedom-of-speech warrior and EUSA had censored a university newspaper. The heroes and villains appeared to come clearly labelled.
The lesson from #Cremagate, if only for Tychy, is that news must always precede commentary. The blogs Perfidious Edina and the Solo Ninja have been accused of anonymously attacking Crema, but they have been often supplying the most basic facts about his tenure in office. Who knows what the EGM would have comprised of had not the Solo Ninja, EUSA’s equivalent of Wikileaks, published a series of documents which would explain to students just what their elected representative did last summer. The work done by the Solo Ninja rather shows up the regular campus press, not least the Journal, which admitted to its readers only on Sunday that its EUSA-politics gun Callum Leslie is actually Crema’s flatmate. Leslie’s involvement in #Cremagate is either deceitful or grossly amateurish, and he should aspire to the higher standards of #Cremagate’s more honestly-anonymous bloggers.
We know now that Crema was temporarily suspended last July and rebuked after an unrelated grievance hearing in October. Although the grievance hearing was the subject of EUSA censorship and the leaks on the Solo Ninja, the July disciplinary should surely, for anybody who cares about democracy, be the bigger story. Before, during, and after the EGM, the full reason why an elected representative was dismissed – and the minor matter of who overrode the decision of the voters – has not been made public. Erstwhile sabbatical officers Adam Ramsay and Philippa Faulkner have lately testified to the culture of obstructiveness within EUSA, with Faulkner alleging that elected representatives were “sidelined” by staff. Yet disastrously this issue never found its way to the heart of the EGM.
The intense focus on the later grievance hearing led to an interrogation of Crema’s character and politics, deflecting attention away from the democratic deficit within EUSA itself. Before the EGM, the proposer of the no-confidence motion, Cameron Taylor, revealed that Crema and McAsh had been in violation of charity law, as if this amounted to some kind of political earthquake. There has been too much clutter at the forefront.
Crema has been found to have conducted a smear campaign against his own organisation. Last August he published serious allegations about the treatment of EUSA staff and he has since failed to fully withdraw or defend them. The regime at EUSA put their own actions in office under a press embargo. Yet elected representatives such as Crema are being made to take responsibility for EUSA when the extent of their power within the organisation has not been satisfactorily clarified. Crema has the gall to praise the “frank and open discussion” at the EGM, when he refuses to enlighten the voters about the powers which EUSA possesses to suspend their elected officers.
And so what is to be done with EUSA? The organisation’s dearth of democracy is now clearer than ever. Yet EUSA cannot realistically conduct itself like the Forest Café, with hayseed, have-a-go staff serving pints at Fringe venues which have turnovers of millions. What is a democracy to do when the electorate goes on holiday for the summer and its representatives are left unsupervised with a commercial behemoth?
One answer is that EUSA’s own staff need to acknowledge the uniqueness of the organisation which they work for. Like good civil servants, they have to implement the policy of whatever elected regime they end up with, however balmy or blinkered. We have learned that whistleblowers at EUSA are contractually gagged (potentially sensible); whilst their identities and the nature of their complaints will be protected from press scrutiny if they try to get an elected officer sacked (absolutely not). However fulsomely these terms and conditions may comply with employment law, they are calamitous for the credibility of a democratic organisation. And whilst this crisis continues, EUSA needs more bloggers who are brave or anonymous enough to name names.