By Rachael Baylis, University of Brighton
I’m about to tell you about the actual levels of corruption, blackmail, deceit and morally reprehensible behaviours that are taking place within Brighton Students Union by our officers IN OUR NAME. So grab a cup of tea or something because this is a long story which actually you couldn’t make up! Attached are screenshots of my email interactions and also comments left by student union members. Other incidents I mention are direct testimony from students and I will not reveal their identities as they have legitimate fear over what the SU do. I will happily tell you what I’ve discovered as just a student in only one week of actually involving myself in the SU’s politics (Imagine what else they’ve been doing and getting away with).
It all started when I was directed to the SU’s statement (exactly a week ago, the 19th of November) regarding the UCU strikes after asking if I could broadcast how to support lecturers thinking it fell into my remit as School of Humanities Organiser. I read the statement and was appalled at it and demanded it be changed; so I was then directed to Calvin, the Student Union President and in all fairness they have slightly altered the crap statement which is the only slightly redeeming thing about this whole affair.
I met with Calvin the following day (20/11/19) and asked how the decision to not support the strikes was made and he informed me that it was through “Focus Groups” which is 1) definitely not representative of the student body 2) they were not advertised by the Brighton SU via email or social media anywhere I could find 3) just blatantly anti democratic practice
So meeting ends, I continue just doing some organising over the next few days not satisfied at all with the SU’s response.
I then witnessed a comment by Suzie the VP of Activities on a societies post regarding that societies decision to support the strikes (voted on by the society) and her ordering them to remove it as it went again the SU’s rules on societies being political. (Screenshots).
***Side note*** you can’t actually find the SU’s rules anywhere on the website and myself and other students have asked repeatedly over the last week to see where it states this and nobody even knows/cares to respond.
After messaging a few members of societies that had the same response to their position on supporting lecturers I quickly discovered that:
1) SU Officers have been using societies funding to threaten elected committee members to get them to remove posts in support of the strikes. I witnessed an activities officer make thinly veiled comments about certain funding and I was with another student as they rang them to strong arm them into capitulating to the SU’s demands of removing the post.
2) Some societies have been having money withheld from them and have been having to chase it up for months.
3) Students have been forced out of societies for making posts about the strike on their PERSONAL facebook. Not the Society Page which is actually exactly what Suzie tells you to do! Express your view on your personal but don’t use society/SU pages to do so.
After discovering all this I followed Calvin up with an email asking to get statistics on the focus groups such as numbers of people involved and when they were held (Screenshot).
It gets to Monday, first day of the picket and I go to see Suzie about all this with another student. I asked her about how the decision was taken and she told me “it was JUST THE 4 ELECTED OFFICERS” and that they had a mandate from the students; which also you cannot find any previous election results on the SU website, no info on how to stand or even vote is on their so I ask again, what mandate?
No mention of focus groups. She then said something about they decided that 11,000 students (1/2 student body) would have had to participate or some bollocks and was adamant that no students were asked.
I check my emails when I get home and Calvin has responded changing the story from “focus groups” to student voice officers canvassing students randomly to gage the consensus and also tried to say there wasn’t time for a ballot of the students regarding the strikes despite them being announced a month ago on the 31st October. Convenient!!!
Clearly someone is lying here so I responded to Calvin telling him I was a bit confused as I’d heard differently off Suzie and I cc’d her in the Email just in case she wasnt aware Calvin was a liar or conducted secret canvassing!!!! (You decide on that one)
So that leads us to now as I write this post (27/11/19) where I have been made aware of racist remarks being made by one of the elected officers which the university are aware of through another person reporting it and HR’s defense was “they didn’t say it whilst at work” and there have been no consequences to the individual (Personal testimony off someone).
So basically, as a student I am outraged that:
1) When asking for democratic process from MY student union that claims to be students voice, I am lied to by the President of it and all students are denied the opportunity to actually have their voice represented
2) when students and societies do voice their position, they’re blackmailed, manipulated and strong armed by practically the entire SU Activities office which is a TOTAL abuse of power.
3) When a student took a serious matter regarding racism to the university, they dismissed it and swept it under the carpet.
Brighton Student Union is a fucking disgrace of a Union.
Unrepresentative, Undemocratic, totalitarian in approach and does take students views into account in the slightest.
There needs to be a full investigation or inquiry into all parties involved and a review of the role and structure of Brighton Student Union with Transparency, Accountability, Democracy and Diversity forming it’s core values.
Join us on the Moulscoomb Picket tomorrow at 12.00 to stand with your lecturers and protest against the SU’s appalling behaviour, practice and attitude and sign the petition we’ll have going and share this post.