Failure of Governance

How not to Govern

There is always the possibility that academics are at one remove from the more operational and commercial aspects of college life. Nevertheless the Governing Body of St John’s College is clearly the executive and, as such, accountable for the decisions that are made in the name of the College.

An email was sent to all members of that Governing Body pointing out the inherent problems of the sale of the St John’s land, the damage to local communities and the impact on the environment of this part of Oxfordshire. 54 emails were sent to the email addresses freely available on the St Johns’ College website  (‘we’re accessible’)

Guess how many of these individuals replied? 0

Instead, the following email was received, from a third party:

I act as St John’s College’s land agent and they have asked me to contact you in relation to the correspondence you sent to the Governing Body.

Although your letter has been discussed within the College, we request that all future correspondence is sent to the democratically elected bodies (the Parish Council or the Planning Authority) who will be considering this matter. I note you have seen the President’s letter to Fyfield & Tubney Parish Council dated 15 February 2017.

Those of us involved as Trustees and Governors of organisations, including charities such as St John’s, who pride ourselves on our transparency of systems and lines of accountability might well marvel what it must be like to be a named member of a Governing Board whilst taking absolutely no responsibility for its decisions and instead shifting things to some third party.

St John’s is the owner of the land. It has made the decision to sell the land, yet it will not take responsibility for that decision.

And how arrogant is that assumption that we need to be advised how to use democratic channels (‘tell the yokels to speak to the council’) and how laughable that this is in the context of a distinctly undemocratic request to leave the Governors alone.

Thus these academics wend their merry way, content to destroy a parish that was part of the original 16th Century bequest of land of the founder of their College. Presumably also content to facilitate an increase in air and light pollution and to see 85 acres of farmland, with nesting raptors, bats, moths, butterflies, song birds and various small mammal all go under the concrete of what perhaps will be called the Thomas White Estate of 700 houses.

What an extraordinary failure of leadership and moral governance – rest assured our campaign will continue to make this #verymuchintheirnames




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