The Students’ Union has been accused of breaching its own equality rules in a leaked document obtained by York Vision.
The newly-ratified UKIP Society claims that in last term’s blog post (which Vision reported on) YUSU President Sam Maguire breaches the “Equality of Opportunity” policy as well as YUSU being a “welcoming, diverse and inclusive environment”.
The decision by Maguire to ratify UKIP caused controversy on campus following a string of racist, sexist and homophobic views said by members of the nationwide party which have been in the national media.
In his post, Maguire said: “We are committed to ensuring that the diversity of our membership is recognised, and that every student has equal access to our services, to those of the University and to their course.
“I, personally, don’t believe that UKIP national leadership shares these values. It is a near-weekly occurrence to see one of their representatives caught in a political quagmire after a racist or homophobic remark; whether or not there is a media narrative fuelling the national reaction that these comments receive, it is still the case that UKIP representatives have said them.”
But the UKIP Society have accused him of “discriminatory stereotyping”.
“What you write [in the blog post] boils down to – ‘some people in UKIP have been offensive, so I’ll write a blog post ensuring our UKIP society won’t be filled with homophobic bigots’”, the complaint reads.
“This is clearly discriminatory stereotyping.”
In a statement, Sam Maguire told York Vision: ‘I stand by the blog post that I put out and the sentiment behind it, which falls well within my remit as President.
“I made it clear that this was not directed towards current or potential members of the UKIP society at York but at the bigoted viewpoints that have been expressed by many in the national party.
“I made that statement to ensure that our BME, international, LGBTQ and disabled students know that YUSU will always support them.
“The UKIP society have not been treated any differently to any other society nor have they had any less access to support, training or finance.
“This is essential to our Union’s supporting and promoting a plurality of political opinion, even opinions with which I disagree.
“I am accountable to the student body that have elected me and I have annoyed a section of them while supporting other groups. Those are the tough decisions a leader should make, and I have not committed any form of misconduct in doing so.”
The full UKIP complaint can be read below
Dear Sam Maguire,
The UKIP Association of the University of York read with interest your blog post dated 27th November, 2014. Firstly, we were keenly disappointed that you did not think it necessary to contact us before you published your blog post. It is common courtesy and common practice to do so. We have a number of questions and would be grateful for your clarification.
1 – You write, “I want to reassure those who are concerned that I and YUSU have a commitment to equality of opportunity at the University of York.” and that “I, personally, don’t believe that UKIP national leadership, shares these values. “. If these are your personal views, then is your official blog as YUSU President really the appropriate medium to convey them?
In addition, we fail to see how the national leadership of UKIP doesn’t adhere to diversity and equality of opportunity. Appointments within UKIP are made on the basis of merit alone regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation. Seven out of our twenty four serving MEPs are women. Our Yorkshire and Humberside MEP is a Pakistani Muslim. Our Scottish MEP is openly gay. They were all elected by UKIP members and approved by the National Executive Committee (NEC).
Indeed, we would hope that you would oppose other political parties (e.g. The Labour Party) which use measures that directly oppose the “equality of opportunity” of which you write. Why is it that regardless of merit, if I am a man I cannot stand for election in many constituencies where there are all female shortlists? Does this not directly oppose the value of equality of opportunity? If you support discriminatory election processes such as the one mentioned above, then please do not pretend that you genuinely support “equality of opportunity”.
2 – As I am sure you are aware, in becoming a ratified society within YUSU we are required to take YUSU’s Equality of Opportunity policy very seriously. You write that “It is a near-weekly occurrence to see one of their (UKIP’s) representatives caught in a political quagmire after a racist or homophobic remark; whether or not there is a media narrative fuelling the national reaction that these comments receive, it is still the case that UKIP representatives have said them.” It appears that this runs dangerously close to flouting the very Equality of Opportunity mandate which you indirectly accuse us of doing. Particularly: “1.2. In order to ensure that there is a positive atmosphere, YUSU seeks to create and sustain a welcoming environment for all of its members both in and outside of YUSU premises.” Without having said or done anything to warrant your above blog, you indirectly place us alongside the unsavoury former representatives of UKIP. Our society hardly feels at all welcomed into involvement with YUSU.
We would like to point you to section 9.1. of the YUSU constitution regarding Union Communications “9.1.2. All communications, particularly promotional material, should avoid discriminatory stereotyping.” What you write above boils down to – ‘some people in UKIP have been offensive, so I’ll write a blog post ensuring our UKIP society won’t be filled with homophobic bigots’. This is clearly discriminatory stereotyping. Have you ever spoken with any of us? Have you asked us what UKIP’s position on discrimination is? We believe you have directly contravened this clause.
Unlike other political parties, we have a constitutional obligation to expel any members who express unacceptable remarks following a disciplinary hearing by the NEC.
3- If ” 3.1.YUSU [as] a campaigning and representative organisation needs to represent its
diverse membership.” then YUSU must accept that not every single member of the student body supports an open-door mass immigration policy which discriminates against those outside of the EU in favour of those from within it. There is no doubt that members of UKIP are a small minority of the student-body, but we ought to be respected and have our voices acknowledged.
4 – We question whether you have given our society equal treatment relative to other societies. For example, would you write a blog expressing that YUSU in no way supports anti-Semitism or anti-Israeli sentiments , as Labour run Leicester council has through boycotts of Israeli goods and services? Would you write a blog post featuring the Liberal Democrats stating how sexual harassment is unacceptable due to the allegations against Lord Rennard, Mike Hancock etc? We would hope not, as it is plainly absurd to stereotype an entire political party based on the actions of a small minority of its members. All we ask is to be treated in the same manner as the other societies.
We believe your blog post directly contravenes the Equality of Opportunity policy of YUSU, as well as the spirit of YUSU being a welcoming, diverse and inclusive environment that ought to accept everyone, regardless of political background and without discriminatory stereotyping.
We hereby submit a formal complaint (according to Section 12.2 of the Equalities of Opportunity policy). We would also like to register our dissatisfaction at what we perceive to be a lack of professionalism as well as common courtesy which we expect from our elected student union.
We look forward to hearing your response.
The UKIP Association of York University