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Saturday, 17 January 2009
National NUS President et al play more dirty tricks...
Here are the series of emails and other shocking behaviour from the NUS NEC with regards to the Black Students campaign.
The first is an email from Bell (NUS Black Students' Officer) that she was attempting to send to every sabbatical in the country. Liberation Officers do not have the authority to send emails to the whole of the NUS directory, but Bell has taken the time to copy and paste all the emails from the directory into a word document - a task that is perfectly legitimate. It is her right to communicate with students' union sabbaticals and especially when she is communicating the policy of the Black Students' Campaign.
- Please read email 1 (below) -
You will see that several highly respected political figures have joined the campaign to defeat the NUS Governance Review.
However, only a third of the way through sending her emails, Bell discovered that her email account had been BLOCKED. Bell's email window on her computer literally vanished before her eyes. Maintenance of the NUS email service had been planned, but not as early as the messages were being sent.
Shortly after this happened, email 2 from Wes was sent to every delegate from last term's Extraordinary Conference.
- Please read email 2 (below) -
The sending of this email raised Bell's suspicions that the NUS email was not down. Infront of her very eyes her blackberry displayed something along the lines of "verifying web settings... Password changed". She had been LOCKED OUT OF HER BLACKBERRY. She immediately called IT services who did not pick up, and so was fast realising that somehow she had been blocked from sending any emails at all. A direct violation of the Black Students' Campaign's autonomy, and their right to send emails that are IN LINE WITH THEIR POLICY.
Yesterday (Friday) morning Bell went into NUS HQ to sort out the problem with her services... She went to the IT dept and was told to "speak to Wes" regarding her lack of Blackberry services, and blocking of her email account. After a phone conversation it was revealed that Wes had authorised both of these actions to occur.
Emails 3 and 4 that are also shown below are emails from Bell to Wes, please read them.
This disgusting behaviour from the National President is indicative of the tactics of the Pro-Governance leadership in stifling the debate. To suggest that Bell has "misled" respected political figures including LABOUR MP DIANNE ABBOTT is frankly offensive to not only Bell, but also the signatories of Bell's original statement.
To over-ride the autonomy of the Black Students' Campaign and to act in these ways is so unbelievably underhanded and corrupt it defies belief.
This comes just a day after the announcement during an NEC meeting of the National President that he will be "writing to the LGBT Campaign to register his disgust" at LGBT's vote to be anti-Governance Review, because, in his words, the committee is "unrepresentative". Shocking and ridiculous words from a man who believes that two extraordinary conferences is representative of students' wants.
1) BELL'S ORIGINAL EMAIL
Doreen Lawrence, Benjamin Zephaniah and Diane Abbott are among those who have united to express concern about the National Union of Students (NUS) proposed new Constitution.
The NUS Black Students' Campaign has launched a statement calling on NUS to delay adopting the new Constitution until an Equality Impact Assessment – which would identify the new Constitution's impact on Black, disabled, lesbian gay, bisexual and trans students (LGBT), and women – has been conducted and reported.
Founding signatories of the statement include Doreen Lawrence OBE, Dr Benjamin Zephaniah, Diane Aboott MP, Cllr Salma Yaqoob, Keith Vaz MP, Operation Black Vote (OBV), Lester Holloway, Editor of The New Nation and Lee Jasper.
In November NUS made a commitment to conduct an Equality Impact Assessment, after being mandated to do so by delegates at NUS Conference. NUS has now announced that the new Constitution will be voted on at a Conference on January 20th, despite the fact that the Equality Impact Assessment has not yet even been commissioned.
The new Constitution would reduce the influence and authority of elected representatives of Black, disabled, LGBT and women students, by removing these Officers from the most powerful decision-making body in NUS. Diversity of participation in the events that determine NUS' policies and priorities would also be undermined by the new Constitution.
Doreen Lawrence OBE said: "I am disappointed to hear that as the 10th anniversary of the Lawrence Inquiry approaches, NUS is planning to roll back Black students' representation. I was proud to support the creation of a Black Students' Officer in NUS, the position is vital in ensuring NUS properly represents Black students and challenges institutional racism. Undermining the Black Students' Officer's powers and influence would be disastrous for Black students. I urge the leaders of NUS to reconsider their proposals."
Dr Benjamin Zephaniah said: "After years of struggling to get young Black people represented at all levels of higher education the NUS should be respecting and supporting Black students who are facing racism, harassment and prejudice in schools, colleges and universities. It saddens and disappoints me to see that instead of encouraging representation they are sidelining the Black Students Officer, which in real terms means that many of the needs and concerns of Black students will be ignored. This is a step backwards."
Diane Abbott MP said: "NUS should be actively encouraging more Black students to participate in its activities, but instead these proposals will shut out many Black students from key decisions in NUS. With Black people shockingly under-represented in Parliament, and in other powerful positions in society, NUS should be acting to strengthen, not weaken the position of Black students in its leadership."
Simon Wooley, Director, OBV said: "On the day that people around the world will be celebrating the inauguration on the first Black US President, Barack Obama, the NUS leadership are showing scant regard for Black representation."
Bellavia Ribeiro-Addy, NUS Black Students' Officer said: "We are extremely concerned at NUS' refusal to wait for the findings of an Equality Impact Assessment before adopting a new Constitution. In November NUS made a public commitment to conduct an impact assessment, but now it is backtracking by scheduling a vote on the new Constitution before an Equality Impact Assessment has even been commissioned. The concerns of Black students about a reduction in our representation and participation in NUS have been ignored as the leaders of NUS seek to rush through this fundamental decision without proper consideration."
The full text of the statement is copied below:
"We are deeply concerned at the National Union of Students (NUS) decision to proceed with adopting a new Constitution before an Equality Impact Assessment on the proposals has reported.
The NUS Black Students' Campaign has expressed strong concerns that Black students' representation and participation in NUS will be reduced if the new Constitution is introduced. The LGBT Campaign has also expressed concern at the proposals. Both have called for an Equality Impact Assessment to be conducted to identify the impact of the new Constitution on Black, Disabled, LGBT and Women students.
Equalities legislation, including the Race Relations (Amendment) Act, Gender Equality Duty and Disability Discrimination Act, recognises the need for regular Equality Impact Assessments to identify any discrimination in an organisation's policies and procedures.
NUS has announced that an Equality Impact Assessment on its proposed Constitution will be unable to report until March or April 2009, but it still plans to take a decision to implement the new Constitution in January 2009. This would make it impossible for the impact assessment to influence the proposed Constitution before it is adopted, and so would render the entire process almost meaningless.
We call on NUS to ensure no decisions are taken about the proposed Constitution until a full Equality Impact Assessment has been conducted and its findings reported."
2) WES' RESPONSE -
Please find below our official response to an email that we are aware that was sent to many of you earlier today.
NUS President Wes Streeting said:
"Claiming that NUS' reform proposals should not be debated until an equality assessment is completed is a cynical political ploy, which has nothing to do with equality and diversity and everything to do with blocking changes which the majority of NUS members have been requesting for years. It is disappointing that some respected political figures have been misled about the intentions of these proposals.
"If the changes to NUS' constitution are passed next Tuesday, they would not be implemented until the summer, which gives plenty of time for an equality assessment to be completed and acted upon.
"The fact remains that the reform proposals actually double the number of dedicated Black Students' representatives on the NUS National Executive, and improve support for our Liberation campaigns. They would also give the Black Students Officer the opportunity to be elected to sit on the management committee of NUS for the first time."
3) BELL'S RESPONSE TO WES -
I write to express in the strongest terms my objection to your claim that the Black Students' Campaign's call for an Equality Impact Assessment is, in your own words, "a cynical political ploy."
As you will know, Equality Impact Assessments are recognised by equalities legislation as crucial in identifying and challenging inequality. To suggest those who wish to challenge such inequality and discrimination are engaged in "a cynical political ploy" is offensive.
Your suggestion that those who have voiced their concerns - including Doreen Lawrence OBE, Dr Benjamin Zephaniah, Diane Abbott MP, Cllr Salma Yaqoob and many others - must have been misled is insulting and inaccurate. They, like hundreds of Black students, are expressing legitimate concerns about the rolling back of Black students' representation in our national union.
You will also be aware that published guidance on Equality Impact Assessments stresses that it is important for impact assessments to be conducted, and those affected consulted before a proposed policy is introduced. Your claim that an Equality Impact Assessment can be conducted after a decision on the new Constitution has been taken directly contradicts such advice. In addition, your suggestion that changes will not be implemented until the summer is quite simply false - the proposed schedules would lead to some changes (for example the abolition of regional conferences and nominations for the new National Executive Council) being implemented just days after the Extraordinary Conference meets.
Further, I requested an impact assessment was conducted when I took office in July. My committee made the same request. Clearly a request made in July, when no extraordinary conference had been called to discuss the proposals, cannot be dismissed as an attempt to 'block' changes being made on Tuesday.
Your decision to bar my access to my email account while I was sending this statement to my contacts was reprehensible. You then followed this by sending your statement to what I believe may have been a list of all sabbatical officers in the country and people who attended the last extraordinary conference. Your claim to want a proper debate on the proposed Constitution rings hollow when you act to block me from communicating with students, while using the powers of your office to send a statement rubbishing the concerns of the Black students' campaign. If you are truly interested in a full and fair debate, why not send the Black Students' Campaign statement to the contacts who have received your statement, and allow them to make up their own minds?
I have copied this email to my committee. We feel that your actions show complete contempt for our concerns about the new Constitution. It is your right to disagree with us, Wes, but to accuse us (and the LGBT committee, who also advocate an Impact Assessment) of 'a cynical political ploy' when all we are doing is asking for a procedure designed to challenge institutional discrimination, is disgraceful and brings NUS into disrepute. Expect many members of the Black Community to be furious at your comments.
4) BELL'S SECOND EMAIL ABOUT THE SCANDALOUS BLOCKING OF HER EMAIL ACCOUNT AND BLACKBERRY SERVICES
Further to our telephone conversation, I write to convey my strongest possible objection to the action you have taken to suspend my access to my NUS email account and my Blackberry service.
You have acknowledged this was in response to my sending out an email - which outlined Black students' concerns at the governance review - in accordance with Black students' campaign policy.
Such actions constitute a direct attack on the autonomy of the Black students' campaign. As Black Students' Officer I am accountable to Black students, and for you to disrupt my work in carrying out Black Students' Campaign policy is absolutely unacceptable and a violation of our autonomy as a liberation campaign.
It is also completely unacceptable for you to take such action without following any formal procedure. I was not even informed that this action had been taken until I telephoned!
I have copied my committee into this email and the rest of the NEC, and ask that you explain to myself and the committee why you believed it was appropriate to disconnect my email account. Please note that sending an email to contacts I have collected and those which are publicly available in the NUS Directory, does not constitute grounds for barring my access to my email account or for claiming that I have broken any protocols. Moreover any issues could have been dealt with by giving me a phone call. To say that you did not have the time to do this is an unacceptable response when you had the time to call IT services to suspend my accounts and to send a write and send a statement to a wide database of people.
I ask that you give your assurances that this will never happen again, and you issue a written apology for these reprehensible actions.