By Matt Edwards, Ashleigh Swaile and Bianca Silva
Former SRC president Bryony Green has resigned from her position after more than a year’s service. This has resulted in a rapid reshuffling of positions within the SRC body as well as a high level of speculation regarding the decision. In interviews with Activate this week, both Green and the SRC revealed the reasons behind the sudden change, which has led to the scheduling of SRC by-elections held this week.
In an announcement over the university’s online forums, Green announced that the commitment to her studies at Rhodes, and later this year at Oxford University, “would force her to spend most of her time apart” from her fiancé Dave Winn who is currently working in Johannesburg. Her plans to take a certain number of days off each month to visit him became the primary cause behind her resignation, which arose in late January.
According to the SRC Academic Councillor, Katherine Furman, “She didn’t know whether it would be in the best interests for her or the body to stay. None of the exec members were happy with the idea of Bryony being away for such a large period of time.” Green had likewise explained “that if they felt it was better, I would offer to resign.” However, her statement on the forums says that the SRC “asked [her] to reconsider or resign.”
Nevertheless, Green and the SRC maintained in their interviews that due to the impossibility of firing an SRC member, she had offered her resignation. Evan Ford, current SRC vice-president, said “We had discussed it before. She came to us with her terms and conditions and stated that if we weren’t entirely comfortable with them then she would offer her resignation and we accepted it. We definitely did not request it.”
Commenting on underlying reasons behind the SRC’s response, Ford said “If you’ve given somebody seven days and you’ve agreed that they can have those seven days off, where does the line come in between ‘It’s and emergency, get on a plane’ and ‘you guys can sort it out yourselves’?” In addition to this, Green said that the executive “felt that they would be picking up my slack, which is not something I’d ever want anyone to do.”
In response to queries regarding the amount of time Green had planned on spending away from her SRC commitments, she said “It was about four days a month, preferably on weekends, a Friday and a Saturday. I’d worked it into SRC trips that I’d had anyway.” However, she added “I think the way that Evan has rationalized it, he seemed to think that it would be 40 percent of my time away, that’s the kind of number he’s throwing around. I think that’s excessive.”
Ford however, disagrees. In his interview, he maintained that “the biggest thing for the SRC is that things happen out of the blue,” alluding possibly to past and present water crises at the university. “Three full weeks, 21 days, the entire swot week and all of the examination period in June,” is Ford’s estimate of Green’s planned absence over the next year. According to Furman, “the only full month that Bryony would be here during term time would be the month of elections. The rest of the time she would be missing for the entire week. She would leave on the Tuesday because our meeting is on a Monday night, and come back on Sunday night.”
Aside from these differences of opinion, Green’s feelings were: “I think they made the wrong decision. I loved my job and I was good at it. I think creative thinking could have been used to a greater extent but I wouldn’t want them to be unhappy.” On the other hand, Furman explained that it wasn’t a council decision, “it was more of a situation where she offered us as a council her resignation and asked us to accept it.”
Two other SRC members, Thato Ramagaga and Nompumelelo Ngubeni, have been placed on academic probation, causing them to lose their seats on the council. Ramagaga was on the SRC’s executive as its media representative, and Ngubeni was the Oriel Hall representative.
In response to the constitutional queries regarding the sudden reshuffle of the SRC which appears to lack input from of the student body, Furman explained that according to the student constitution, when an executive member is lost, the position must be opened up to the rest of the committee. This has resulted in Fatema Morbi (the previous vice-president) taking over the presidency, Ricardo Pillay (the previous Founders Hall representative) filling the position of media representative, Xolani Nyali (the previous Kimberley Hall representative) taking over position of Treasurer, and Evan Ford (the previous treasurer) for the new vice president. Hannah Wilson resigned as Nelson Mandela Hall representative to take up a position as a member of the SRC Media Task Team, according to an email from Pillay. This reshuffling was based on consideration for the nature of each member’s position, as well as group consensus.
Due to the change-around of positions, by-elections have taken place on Friday to fill the positions of representatives in Kimberley Hall, Mandela Hall, Oriel Hall and Founders Hall.
In opposition to suggestions of a negative relationship between Green and the SRC, Green commented: “I think they’re a really efficient team. I think they’re great people, I’m a little concerned about the lack of experience, but that’s going to happen in any student leadership position. I think they’ll do a great job.” Ford felt that “Bryony was invaluable because of her experience”, expressing that although the SRC will miss Green, they feel confident that they can do a “sterling job and have already proven a great deal through the orientation week.”
Commenting on her plans following her resignation, Green said “I’m a student; I plan to get involved. I would really like to finish the [SRC] constitution. That is something I was really passionate about. I have rewritten the constitution already so I’d really like to pass it, but obviously that would be completely up to [the SRC] whether they’ll let me carry on with that process.” Green continued that she had exactly the same relationship with the SRC as any other student.
Responding to student contact following her resignation, Green said “I’d like to say thank you very much to everyone who has got hold of me. I really enjoyed my job and obviously I’m sad not to be there anymore. I also want to say that although I’m not there in a professional capacity you’re more than welcome to come and chat with me on a personal one. I’ve been around for a while and know what’s potting at Rhodes so if you have ideas and want to bounce them off me that’s great. And last thing I’d like to say is give the SRC a chance.”