Saturday, 17 January 2009

Further response to Wes from Bell

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.

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