After e-mails were sent by SU Executive Committee members to several groups of society members last term, heated arguments arose in the final SU General Meeting of winter term, and an internal SU investigation is now underway following complaints from the RHACA (Anti-Cuts Alliance).
A motion was proposed, entitled ‘Student Union Statement In Support of Occupation’ , the contentious part of which asked the SU to ‘organise legal, political and financial [underline added] aid for students involved in future occupations’.
E-mails asking hundreds of students to oppose this motion were sent by the SU’s Democracy Officer Dedar Singh Mahal, Societies Federation Officer Mari Burton, and the Ethics and Environmental Officer Ed Resek, to Dance Society,History Society and Boat Club members respectively, and possibly others. Ed Resek is President of the Boat Club, and Mari Burton a member of the History Society committee. They have been accused of partisanship unconstitutional for elected SU members.
However, this has caused debate, as the e-mails were not necessarily sent in the official capacities of Exec. officers, and so their culpability under the SU constitution is subject to question.The issue was debated in the GM on 2 December, and the SU website’s official minutes include this exchange [all text is copied directly from the document available on the website]:
‘Kieran Miles (member of RHACA) – 5.14 of the constitution proper. All behaviour likely to bring the Union into disrepute. Many messages sent out opposing cuts to societies. Has brought the union into disrepute.
Rachel Pearson (SU President) – Kieran, if you have any concern of any conducts to follow our complaints procedure. People can express any opinion that they have outside of their responsibilities.
KM – Persns exec role was mentioned in the email.
RP – Urge Kieran to submit emails so can be investigated
Carl Welch (SU Academic Affairs Officer) – if those claims are found true, will the apology be publicized.
RP – Outcome is unknown, can say if the ruling has gone on and if an ooutcome has been reached.’
The offending message from the Democracy Officer was pasted into an e-mail to all Dance Soc. members, calling the Anti-Cuts Alliance ‘a small bunch of highly left wing radicals’, and going on to say ‘[they] say things like we should kill police cos they r the enemy i wouldnt want my money going towards that these guys r seriousli taking the piss and the worst thing is that they arent even part of the su i.e. they arent a club or society – nothing.’
This e-mail appears to have been specifically raised in the GM, in an exchange which links the ACA to the isolated incident of the fire extinguisher thrown from the roof of Millbank during the first major student protest:
‘Jordan Shiller – Dedar, was that in response to the bbc report about fire extinguishers being thrown by the aca people
Dedar – yes.’
18-year-old Southampton sixth-former Edward Woollard has been successfully sentenced for the incident referenced.
Mari Burton’s message ends in caps lock: ‘IF THIS PASSES THE SU WILL HAVE TO FIND THE MONEY TO FUND THEM FROM SOMEWHERE… PROBABLY BY CUTTING THE FUNDING OF OTHER SOCIETIES!!!’
Ed Resek’s message to Boat Club members on 1 December ended with a request for their attendance and votes at the meeting, saying: ‘unofficially the guys at the top of the SU have acknowledged (through me) that the boat club will be making a big effort to help in this matter, and that in itelf [sic] will count for a great deal if ever the club runs into problems down the line….’
Ed Resek also admitted during the GM (see website’s minutes) to writing an e-mail to other society members, saying amongst other things that ‘the ACA are the radical bunch of immature students who occupied a Founders corridor for 48 hours last week. Oh, AND they were at Millbank kicking in windows a few weeks ago…’ going on to posit the scenario that, if forced to pay for a violent occupation, ‘the SU goes bankrupt…[and] this COULD mean the SU would have to shut.’ The RHACA caused no damage in their occupation of Founder’s Building’s Victorian corridor last term.
Although there is as yet no official line on whether the e-mails were or were not unconstitutional, the SU says it has taken preliminary action; SU Vice President for Education and Welfare Beth Rowley has responded to the Alliance’s complaints, saying that ‘investigations are underway with all the individuals involved,’ but that ‘personal disciplinary procedure is confidential, and therefore will not be disclosed.’
The response to the complaint goes on: ‘An email has been sent to the Executive Committee reminding them of the Union’s position with regards the Anti-Cuts Alliance, and also re-iterating certain aspects of the Constitution.
The email is very clear that, in an official capacity, making disparaging remarks about anyone due to their political views is not acceptable, and encourages a greater level of tolerance in day-to-day life as well.’
Public GM minutes can be found here: http://www.su.rhul.ac.uk/aboutus/generalmeeting/
(The Founder will respect the wishes of the sources of the e-mails, who have asked to remain anonymous, and reiterates that it is in no way affiliated with either SURHUL or the RHACA.)