All entries for Sunday 21 November 2004

November 21, 2004

Open letter to Simon Lucas

Writing about web page /rlewis/entry/the_big_bad/

Well, as people seem to be posting their correspondences here with regard to this subject, I thought I'd post mine.

"From: Arts Faculty Councillor 6 Sent: Fri 19/11/2004 17:26
To: Simon Lucas – President
Subject: "Israeli Apartheid" debate

Dear Simon,

I was concerned to hear today that the Union has stepped in to prevent the debate on "Israeli Apartheid" scheduled for next Wednesday from going ahead. There are several ascpects to this decision which I find troubling given the Union's status as a democratic institution.

1.) Why was this decision taken in such a way that no one knew about it until afterwards? This debate was scheduled before the last Council meeting as, if you look at the minutes, you will see a reference to it in questions to officers. Why, therefore, was it left until the week before the debate was due to take place at a meeting no one knew about? As a consequence of this, there is no opportunity for a democratic body to scruitinise the decision before next term unless a motion were to be accepted at the next Council meeting as emergency business. Such an action has the unmistakable feel of cowardice.

2.) I cannot see any reason for the suppression of this debate. Leaving aside the fact that this is a university and is therefore meant to be a place where such issues can be discussed without fear of a few people deciding to shut the meeting down, I cannot see any part of Union policy which gives Sabbatical Officers or the Executive the power to stop a non-banned organisation from having a meeting unless that activity is illegal. It is the prerogative of democratic bodies and not of Union officers to ban organisations which, it would appear, is the de facto upshot of your actions in this case.

3.) It makes a mockery of our "no-platform" policy if it is expanded to cover events and groups it was not originally designed to target. To the extent of my knowledge, the group in question is not designated by the Union as a 'racist or Fascist group,' and attempts to put them on the same level as the likes of the BNP, Combat 18, and the National Front, are not only a deep insult to those who are concerned about the treatment of the Palestinians, but also make our attempts to deal with genuine racists that much more difficult.

Could you please tell me the circumstances in which this decision was made, and from what policy, regulation, or Constitutional Appendix you derived the authority to make it? Could you also please tell me why this meeting was not publicised beforehand so that people who were concerned on either side could come and make representations? The lack of this last makes it difficult for any officer to profess the democratic character of the Union when small groups of individuals can make such contentious decisions with such ease and in such secrecy.

I hope to hear back from you soon.


To this, I received an automated response:

"From: Simon Lucas – President Sent: Fri 19/11/2004 20:24
To: Arts Faculty Councillor 6
Subject: RE: "Israeli Apartheid" debate

Dear member,

The Students’ Union have asked the Friends of Palestine Society to postpone their event until security and safety criteria have been met. We seek to ensure that all events run by any part of the Students’ Union are safe for our members to attend and participate in.

The Students’ Union regrets that it is unable to reply individually to all emails and phone calls on this matter. We will inform our membership of any further developments through our website:"

The Union seems to have shot itself in the foot here, as, by simply resorting to the same auto-response to every e-mail, they a.) do not respond to all the points raise, and b.) make it seem as though it it not for us to question the enlightened decisions of Union officers. My major worry here is the way in which this was done; this debate was scheduled weeks ago, yet it was only stopped less than a week before it was due to happen and after anything could actually be done to scrutinise the decision. If you want to ask questions in person, Union Council is meeting on Thursday at 7pm in S0.21 (Social Studies). Everyone is welcome to come along and to ask questions about this decision and any other concern you may have.

November 2004

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