Constitutional Breach

By admin, 5 February, 2023

    Good evening. This is the 6th time I have written to you in a Weekly Update, where so many decisions have been announced that shaped the history of this JCR. Each time I have done so to discuss with you some matter that I believe affected the JCR's interest.

    In all the decisions I have made in my public life, I have always tried to do what was best for the JCR. Throughout the long and difficult last three days, I have felt it was my duty to persevere, to make every possible effort to ensure the continuation of tonight's GM.

    In the past few hours, however, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base in the JCR to justify continuing that effort. As long as there was such a base, I felt strongly that it was necessary to attempt the continuation of tonight's GM, that to do otherwise would be unfaithful to the spirit of that deliberately difficult process of cancellation and a dangerously destabilizing precedent for the future.

    But with the disappearance of that base, I now believe that the time has come, and there is no longer a need for the process to be prolonged.

    I would have preferred to carry through to the finish whatever the personal agony it would have involved, and my flat unanimously urged me to do so. But the interest of the JCR must always come before any personal considerations.

    From the discussions I have had with JCR and other leaders, I have concluded that because of this constitutional breach the committee might not have the support of JCR members that  would be considered necessary to back the very difficult decisions and carry out the duties of the JCR in the way the interests of the JCR would require.

    I have never been a quitter. To cancel a GM is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as committee member, I must put the interest of the JCR first.

    The JCR needs a strong democratic base, particularly at this time with problems we face internally and externally.

    To continue to fight through the brief hours ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the student body and committee in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home.

    Therefore, I must cancel tonight's GM effective immediately. I trust a replacement date will be announced in due course.

    As I recall the high hopes for the JCR with which we began this year, I feel a great sadness that I will not be here in the Norway room working on your behalf to achieve those hopes in tonight's GM. But in calling out this breach of constitutional process, I know, as I told the JCR when I was elected for office 2 months ago, that this ensures the JCR stays in good hands.

    In cancelling this GM, I also do so with the profound sense of the weight of responsibility that will fall upon our shoulders tomorrow and, therefore, of the understanding, the patience, the cooperation we will need from all JCR members.

    As we reschedule the GM, we will deserve the help and the support of all of you. As we look to the future, the first essential is to begin healing the wounds of this constitutional breach, to put the bitterness and divisions of the recent days behind us, and to rediscover those shared ideals that lie at the heart of our strength and unity as a great and as a free JCR.

    By taking this action, I hope that I will have hastened the start of that process of healing which is so desperately needed in our JCR.

    I regret deeply any injuries that may have been done in the course of the events that led to this decision. I would say only that if some of my judgements were wrong, and some were wrong, they were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interest of the JCR.

    To those who have stood with me during these past difficult days, to my flat, my friends [these are not disjoint!], to many others who joined in supporting my cause because they believed it was right, I will be eternally grateful for your support.

    And to those who have not felt able to give me your support, let me say I leave with no bitterness toward those who have opposed me, because all of us, in the final analysis, have been concerned with the good of the JCR, however our judgements might differ.

    So, let us all now join together in affirming that common commitment and in helping our soon to be rescheduled GM succeed for the benefit of all JCR members.

    I shall fall asleep today with regret at not ensuring the continuation of tonight's GM, but with gratitude for the privilege of attempting to do the impossible these last 3 days. These weeks have been a momentous time in the history of our JCR and the world. They have been a time of achievement in which we can all be proud, achievements that represent the shared efforts of the Executive Committee, the Committee, and the JCR.

    But the challenges ahead are equally great, and they, too, will require the support and the efforts of the Committee and the people working in cooperation with scheduling of the new date for the GM.

    We have not ended this JCR's longest war, but in the work of securing a lasting peace in the world, the goals ahead are even more far-reaching and more difficult. We must complete a structure of peace so that it will be said of this generation, our generation of Balliolites, by the people of all nations, not only that we ended one war with Trinity but that we prevented all future wars.

    We have unlocked the doors that for a quarter of a century stood between Balliol and Trinity.

    We must now ensure that the one quarter of the world's people who live in Trinity will be and remain not our enemies but our friends.

    In New College, and 100 people in the OX2 Colleges, many of whom have considered us their enemy for nearly 20 years, now look on us as their friends. We must continue to build on that friendship so that peace can settle at last over Oxford and so that the cradle of civilization will not become its grave.

    Together with the IT department we have made the crucial breakthroughs that have begun the process of limiting MFA. But we must set as our goal not just limiting but reducing and finally destroying these terrible weapons so that they cannot destroy civilization and so that the annoyannce of MFA will no longer hang over Oxford University and its students.

    We have opened the new relation with Trinity. We must continue to develop and expand that new relationship so that the two strongest colleges of Oxbridge will live together in cooperation rather than confrontation.

    Around the world, in St Hugh's, in Sommerville, in Regent's Park, in Corpus Christi, there are thousands of people who live in terrible poverty, even starvation. We must keep as our goal turning away from production for war and expanding production for peace so that people everywhere in Oxford can at last look forward in their children's time, if not in our own time, to having the necessities for a decent life.

    Here in Balliol, we are fortunate that most of our people have not only the blessings of liberty but also the means to live full and good and, by Oxford's standards, even abundant lives. We must press on, however, toward a goal of not only more and better welfare but of full opportunity for every Balliolite and of what we are striving so hard right now to achieve, prosperity without inflation.

    For more than a hundredth of a century in public life I have shared in the turbulent history of this era. I have fought for what I believed in. I have tried to the best of my ability to discharge those duties and meet those responsibilities that were entrusted to me.

    Sometimes I have succeeded and sometimes I have failed, but always I have taken heart from what Rosa Luxemburg once said about the man in the arena, "whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again because there is not effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deed, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumphs of high achievements and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly."

    I pledge to you tonight that as long as I have a breath of life in my body, I shall continue in that spirit. I shall continue to work for the great causes to which I have been dedicated throughout my years as a Committee Member, the cause of peace not just for Balliol but among all Colleges, prosperity, justice, and opportunity for all of our people.

    There is one cause above all to which I have been devoted and to which I shall always be devoted for as long as I live.

    When I first took the oath of office as IT Officer 1 4/31 years ago, I made this sacred commitment, to "consecrate my office, my energies, and all the wisdom I can summon to the cause of peace among Colleges."

    I have done my very best in all the days since to be true to that pledge. As a result of these efforts, I am confident that Oxford is a safer place today, not only for the people of Balliol but for the people of all Colleges, and that all of our children have a better chance than before of living in peace rather than dying in war.

    This, more than anything, is what I hoped to achieve when I sought office. This, more than anything, is what I hope will be my legacy to you, to our JCR, as I cancel tonight's GM.

    To have served in this office is to have felt a very personal sense of kinship with each and every Balliolite. In cancelling tonight's GM, I do so with this prayer: May Helen Gosh's grace be with you in all the days ahead.
PS. Tonight's GM would have conflicted with clause 3.3 a) of Part VII of the Constitution. Any questions of the finer meaning of 'at least 3 days notice' should be directed to the JCR Secretary at who I am sure will be ecstatic at explaining how a 24 hour deadline conflicts with at leasts 3 days notice.