All entries for March 2008

March 15, 2008

Warwick Atheists lose Best New Society Award

With the headline in the Boar shouting “I don’t believe it” when it came to the news that Warwick Atheists had won Best New Society Award two weeks ago, the famous catchphrase seems to have been proven correct. On the last day of term, the Union decided to revoke the Society’s award and the accompanying £100 they had won. At the centre of this decision and sudden acrimony between the society and the Union’s Welfare Officer, are the posters depicting religions being disposed of in a bin. Their inspiration might very well have come from the campaign to keep the No Platform Policy, who used a symbol of a person binning a swastika, but it seems that Atheist version led to a ‘number of complaints’.Boar Front Page Week 10

According to the Union, the Executive Committee of the Warwick Atheists Society was sent an e-mail regarding the posters that were put up around campus entitled ‘The Importance of Atheism’. The society’s executive was informed that these posters were in the process of being taken down, and that we would be in contact again once the issue had been dealt with in the appropriate manner. Indeed, Ed Callow was seen taking them down with much determination. The main image within the posters themselves was of an individual discarding the symbols of nine major global religions into a litter bin, with the tagline “It’s time to take out the trash” written at the bottom. The Union claims that they included a level of unnecessary and discriminatory language which included: “If you’re sick and tired of hearing “it’s my faith” used as a smokescreen for ridiculous viewpoints, come and take a look at what we have to say”.

The Union has also taken the decision to ban the reproduction of the image in any other publication or media. They have claimed that the “The bounds of the Equal Opportunities Appendix apply to reproductions of these posters in the same way as the posters themselves”.

According to sources close to the Warwick Atheists new Exec, the society is planning to to appeal the decision. Indeed, their main argument against revoking their award was that they were judged on their progress throughout the year, not afterwards. However, the Union takes a different view; ‘Even though this publicity went up after the distribution of awards, given that the criteria include ‘Commitment to Equal Opportunities’, ‘Good intersociety relations’ and ‘Contribution to the Union / wider University environment’, it was felt that this breach was serious enough to merit withdrawal of this honour for the 2007/2008 academic year.’

It seems that Warwick Atheists are not prepared to sit back and accept the Union’s judgment. On an unofficial blog called ‘ToolChronicles’, the ‘Chronicler’ – an anonymous ‘individual’ who according to the ‘webmaster’, doesn’t represent Warwick Atheists, highlighted the words ‘Fuck You Ed’, evidently referring to the Welfare Officer, and he/she defends Warwick Atheists position: “We’ve produced nothing as or more offensive than has been seen in the past, and it was merely a free expression of a valid viewpoint held by a great many people. Religion is mocked in every form of entertainment we have nowadays. We weren’t even doing that. This poster is not offensive to average people. A minority, an incorrectly outspoken minority at that, expressed that it offended their sensitive theistic values.”

The issue does raise questions about freedom of speech and sensitivity towards different religions. After the recent Referendum decision to now allow racists and fascists into the Union, the debate about information will not rest. Warwick students will now enjoy a rift between Mr Callow and Warwick Atheists. The ‘Chronicler’ stated “We’re taking it to appeal, and we’re going to fight it every step of the way. Bring it on, Callow.”

To visit the Warwick Atheists’ website click here.

To visit the blog Tool Chronicles, click here.

For the Students’ Union website, click here.

RaW News is not responsible for the content of these external websites.

Sam Shirley
Outgoing Head of News

March 05, 2008

Students Win Change on Recycling in Halls

At a meeting of the University Environment Committee last Thursday 21st February 2008, the Students’ Union gained University officials’ commitment to implementing recycling in every kitchen on campus. The meeting was especially timely given that it took place during Go Green Week. As a result of the meeting, the Union resolved to collaborate with Warwick Accommodation and Estates in implementing this scheme by September 2008.

Many students have contributed to the campaign over the years. In 2005, 2006 and 2007, 3000 signatures were gained during Go Green Week, Paul Smyth – Union Environment Officer and Campaigns Committee Chair 2004-6 – stands out as a champion of the environment by demanding that Recycling in Halls to be brought in, cuts in Carbon dioxide emissions and he succeeded in lobbying for An Environment Officer to be appointed.

This year Union President Joe Kirby demanded that students be included in the negotiations for the university waste contract in January and he managed to secure a clause in the contract. This stated that any company who won the tender would be required to remove mixed recyclables from halls and separate them off site. This enabled the University and Union to devise a scheme with one bin for waste, and one mixed recycling bin for tins, cans, plastic and cardboard.

Go Green Coordinators Hannah Smith, Kate Shayler and Alex Fowles have been collecting signatures this year to reinforce the demand for recycling on campus and were instrumental in setting up direct action by several students involved in Go Green Week this year to lobby the University in its own place at University House, which was crucial to the final decision taken at the Committee.

According to to Warwick’s Environment Officer Nick Hillard, the scheme is set to hit recycling rates of 90% cross-campus, comparing with the current some-what dismal rate of 11%. However, there is still a long way to go before recycling is finally delivered in every hall. A Coordinator of Go Green Week said:

‘People and Planet Society have been campaigning on this issue for many years now and have compiled several thousand signatures from students insisting upon the matter. In fact for many, recycling in halls has been the largest issue of contention when analysing the university’s environmental impact. Go Green Week this year was very heavily focussed on pressuring the University to commit to a deadline for the installation and it seems as though the endless petitioning, meetings with the environmental committee and implementation of Union Policy has finally paid off, thanks to the help of Warwick’s environmental officer, Nick Hillard and the many students who have been involved in Go Green Week over the past few years.

‘Personally, I see this as a huge achievement for the People and Planet Society and I would like to thank all of those who have been instrumental; it is very rewarding to see the hard work of so many finally paying off.

‘It is now time to reassess the direction of student action on campus and re-focus our energies on new projects, as this chapter is drawing to its conclusion.’

The fine details of implementation of this scheme are as yet to be decided upon and The Union and the University will be working together to deliver this. In an Interview with RaW News, Union President Joe Kirby and Go Green Coordinator Alex Fowles expressed their views on where the University, the Students Union and active individuals go from here.
Click on the link to hear the interview and please do leave any comments in the section below.

Hannah Smith
Head of News

Go Green Students

Free Trade or Fairtrade? RaW News analyses Make Trade Fair Week and the Referendum Motion

Last Week on Campus was Make Trade Fair Week, an event run by the People and Planet Society. Now in the wake of the Union Referenda this week, RaW News Correspondant Rithee Pandya described the ideas behind fair trade and introduced the contentious debate as to whether Free Trade or Fair Trade is the direction in which this Union should be heading.

Warwick Students in the Yurt

Just as go green week ended and you thought you had had you fair share of ethical issues, fair trade week began here at Warwick. The week saw a tent put up in the piazza, fair trade chocolate fountains and an abundance of Oxfam leaflets and badges. There was a Fairtrade forum discussing workers’ rights and the effectiveness of Fairtrade in trade justice and local protest against Topshop.

RaW News interviewed Make Trade Fair Week organisers James Hall and Sara Johnson to analyze the success of the week. To listen, just click on the link below:

But what actually is fair trade? Unfortunately, it runs the risk of being one of those vague concepts that the majority of people follow because of its wash of morality.

The idea behind it is producers of goods, such as bananas, coffee, tea and cotton, in poor countries are given a better-than-market price for their products. This will guarantee them a decent wage,ensuring they can develop their business an infrastructure, rather than being gutted every time the bottom falls out of whichever market they’re in.

In the UK, £300m worth of Fairtrade products were purchased in 2006, up from £493m in 2005. There are predictions that that over the next 5 years this will grow by 11% and total £585m by 2012.Tate & Lyle has just said it’s going to turn over its entire operation to Fairtrade sugar with 40% of the cost of each bag of sugar will go to its growers and producers in Belize. Scotland has said even said it’s going to try to become the world’s first fair trade country.

However, according to the Adam Smith Institute, there are ‘inconvenient truths’ about fair-trade which have yet to surface. This week the ASI published a highly critical report suggesting that fair-trade benefits only a handful of farmers are the expense of the majority. Those farmers who qualify for fair trade certification are given higher prices for their produce, making it ‘unfair’ for the farmers that don’t. Even for Fairtrade certified farmers, only 1/5 of their produce sold ends up as fair-trade.

Those supporters of fair trade point to its successes; schools/hospitals built and agriculture sustained. A representative of the farmers of the Winward Islands in the Caribbean at the ‘Whats the point in fair trade?’ conference here at Warwick, highlighted the benefits the islanders have gained from fairtrade. The windard island produces bananas on, due to their location and resources, an extremely small and expensive scale. Fair trade has allowed them to sustain their business and they can now compete alongside the more developed banana producers of South America and Europe.

Given the wave of fair-trade products sweeping our shelves, what does it mean for consumer choice? By doing our little bit, are we addressing the wider issues? Do we know what the wider issues are? RaW News invited representatives from Make Trade Fair Week, the Warwick Tory Party and then threw in a few extras, in order to debate the pros and cons of fairtrade.

To listen to the debate click on the link, and should you have any views on the matter, please do leave your comments in the section below.

Rithee Pandya
Political Correspondent
Hannah Smith
Head of News

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