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New RIAS blow: ‘shocked and appalled’ Mac lecturer resigns from Council

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A member of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) Council has resigned, claiming the body’s decisions ‘put her in a compromising position’

Rosalie Menon, a senior lecturer at Mackintosh School of Architecture, was elected to the RIAS Council earlier this year but felt she had ‘no option but to resign’ only months into the role. 

’Decisions, which I have strongly opposed have been made by Council, which has put me in a compromising position not only with the members who recently elected me but also in my fiduciary duty as a charity trustee,’ she said in a statement. ‘I was nationally elected to RIAS Council in May this year, fully aware of the challenges which lay ahead, perhaps naively thinking that change could happen from within.’

Menon said she had been ‘truly shocked’ during her short time on the Council. She added: ’I have consistently asked questions of the president and other trustees to push for greater transparency and tried to make a strong representation of members’ views.

‘I was appalled by the way New Chapter’s initial letter was brushed off with a confident arrogance. In the last four months all of my emails to the president have been ignored – this complete lack of engagement with an elected member is not what I would expect from the leader of a 21st century professional organisation.

’Whilst I appreciate that these are unprecedented times for the RIAS, there has been no debate or critical thinking around what the future RIAS may look like and the excellent outcomes from the recent strategy workshops, which engaged with a wide cross-section of the membership, appear to have been overlooked.’

There has been no debate or critical thinking around what the future RIAS may look like

News of Menon’s resignation comes after the AJ revealed that Police Scotland is making enquiries into allegations of financial irregularities at the RIAS. 

In recent weeks the body has faced accusations about its governance, with a group of Scottish architects, under the banner A New Chapter, calling for a major shake-up, claiming the RIAS was poorly run, secretive and lacking proper financial accountability. 

Earlier this month, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator opened an inquiry into the running of the 101-year-old body. 

In an email sent to its members last week, the RIAS admitted that a ’system of decision-making [had] developed that [was] not supported by a robust policy framework’ and that the findings of a recent governance review had ’identified a lack of structured governance and accountability’. 

Menon said the statement to members admitting failings was a ‘welcome step’. However she added: ‘A governance review group comprising solely of past-presidents gave me great concern and, whilst the review may have discovered a lack of structured governance and accountability, the detail and extent of this has never been presented to Council trustees.’

Menon, who had hoped to raise the profile of women in architecture in Scotland, would be willing to-join the Council ‘once the core group of senior members who wield so much power step aside to allow for greater diversity of voices to be heard’. 

Neil Baxter quit as secretary and treasurer of the RIAS last month. Karen Stevenson, acting secretary, and director of policy and development at the RIAS, said Menon’s personal comments were not something on which the organisation would want to comment. However she added, ‘We feel sorry that she feels she has to resign.’

Stevenson said measures were being put forward to address some of the concerns raised by Menon and other members. 

Last month, in the RIAS’ response to an open letter from A New Charter, RIAS president Stewart Henderson said in a statement that the body was progressing a full review of the governance and future direction of the organisation. 

He added: ’The Incorporation is committed to seeking wider involvement from members in responding to and shaping corporate strategy.’

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