Our statement on Sunday night’s email from your Union Affairs Officer

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Dear all,

Last night your Union Affairs officer sent every society on campus an email (the full text of which will be printed below this statement) trying to persuade you to vote in a particular fashion. We will be taking further action to address this issue.

However, for now allow me to clarify a number of issues raised in last night’s email:

The Editor cannot be a union trustee as this would violate its ability to provide an independent source of journalism. If the Editor was a union trustee, it would not be able to hold the Union or the University to account.

As a student newspaper, we are the most effective way of students having their voice heard on campus every week. We represent your voice, not the interests of Leeds University Union. A student newspaper is a unique platform on campus to provide freedom of speech for both its writers and readers without a hidden agenda. This newspaper is written into the constitution of the Union, this is to ensure that it can never be shut down. This newspaper is intended first and foremost to scrutinise both the Union and the University, often this brings us into conflict with these organisations but this is only to ensure that these institutions are working in the best interests of students.  Gryphon Editors are not elected by society members, but by every member of the student body. This is because The Gryphon Editor is a representative of students, they require a mandate to scrutinise the Union and University on their behalf. If The Gryphon Editor was not intended to be a representative of students on campus the Union would not deem it fundamental to their existence that they be elected. The paper is not a single society. It has a unique position within the Union. This needs to be addressed.

Last night’s email claimed we have been approached with alternative timetables for election that we have unreasonably declined. This is not the case. We have been approached with election date alternatives, but as discussions held by the Student-Led change manager will confirm, these dates were declared unviable as they were too late in the term. It was suggested that the Gryphon editor election could take place after the Leadership Race, however it was agreed that this was too late. Candidates for the job are usually final year students – as was the case this year – and it is unfair to expect them to put their futures on hold at such a late stage in the year. Postgraduate employment opportunities would have already run out if the results of a Gryphon election were announced after Easter. By having the editor election at the same time as the Leadership Race, the unsuccessful candidates have time to make alternative plans after the result is announced, whilst the successful candidate has time to solve any logistical issues (such as housing arrangements). This notion was put forward by Ste Topping and Ben Cook at the Better Union Forum in which our proposal was discussed, and has since been used by LUU’s Change-Led Manager as an explanation of why the election could not take place any later than March to other Leadership Race candidates during a debriefing last Friday. LUU’s election organiser therefore sees Bradley’s alternative as an unrealistic option.

During the Better Union Forum, in which our proposal was first discussed, questions were raised as to why the job needs to be elected and the focus often shifted away from the motion itself. In accordance with LUU bye-laws, the position must be elected by a campus-wide ballot. Although an alternative arrangement was proposed by The Gryphon, this was rejected by LUU in accordance with the bye-laws. If LUU insist that the job must be elected with a campus-wide ballot, then they must give students everything they need to make an informed decision in the election. By minimising our coverage,  LUU are failing to do this.

In the email sent by our Union Affairs Officer, he points to the increased turnout for NUS/Activity Exec elections, but fails to mention the significant decrease in turnout for the Gryphon Editor election brought about by the actions of LUU. As we have already clarified, LUU’s Change-Led Manager has informed a room of Leadership Race candidates, including Gryphon Editor candidates, that the election could not be held at another time. Worryingly, we have been given NO marketing support. We were informed this would occur, but why this had to extend to a lack of coverage over social media appears odd. Whether LUU have intended to or not, the effect of their policy, which was passed without the consent of the student body, has been to reduce student involvement in a previously well-supported election.

The click-through we were provided with took a lot of work on our part, and was something pushed by The Gryphon, rather than an option offered by LUU. We were told on numerous occasions that this would not work and would be difficult to achieve. We then saw during the Leadership Race voting week that the click-through link was nestled with another hyperlink in a paragraph of text, which immediately insinuated that the role was inferior to the other votes on offer, as well as providing voters with an unnecessary struggle to choose their next Editor.

The Editor’s candidate’s manifestos were only uploaded once The Gryphon took umbrage on a public platform, and they were refused access to candidate briefings.

The Gryphon welcomes being held to account, and realises that the best way for this to happen is through an equally covered election campaign. Once LUU deprived us of coverage, the collective voting total dropped from 8800 voters to 1600. This is a huge cause for concern.

We are an independent body that speaks for your interests. In order to ensure that we can continue to do so, please vote ‘YES’ for #afairerLUU.

As the Editor changes every year, we rebuke the idea that this is a separate issue to the events of last year.

We ask you to consider why such an email was sent on a Sunday evening, and why it is of such great importance to an LUU representative that our standing is compromised. The fact that such an email was sent at all is in contention with LUU bye-laws regarding referendum protocol.

Follow the link below to make sure your voice is heard in this week’s referendum:

http://www.leedsuniversityunion.org.uk/yourideas/referendum/

Jasmine Andersson

 

 


The full text of Bradley Escorcio, Union Affairs Officer follows:

Hi,

I’m aware that several emails have been sent to your society regarding the Gryphon petition and open letter. While I fully encourage you to have your say in the referendum this week, a few misleading points need to be clarified to allow you to make a fair decision.

Structure of the Leadership Race

  • The Leadership Race was branded five years ago to elect our Student Exec (trustees and company directors of the Union who enact policy and represent students).
  • At this time, the Editor along with other society representatives were all part of Union Council – a group who decided Union policy and  the priorities for the Exec to work on.
  • This system was replaced by our Better Forums, putting the power back into the hands of students, meaning the responsibilities of the Editor (and Reps) changed.
  • The Editor now only administrates and facilitates the development of a single society – The Gryphon. They do not represent students views in how the Union or University are run.
  • Along with the Editor election we also moved the NUS delegate and Activities Exec elections away from the Leadership Race (which now take place in December and May respectively) – they have both seen a significant increase in candidates and voter turnout which is also our vision for future Editor elections.
  • As a separate election away from those of the Exec we can give increased marketing support and make the election more relevant, with a clear message.

This is why I am supporting the ‘no’ campaign in the referendum. Not to ‘side-line’ or obscure the paper, but to give them increased and dedicated support they deserve, away from an already busy Leadership Race.

Discussions with the Gryphon

Regardless of how you intend to vote, there are some untruthful and damaging statements in the open letter that need to be addressed.

  • Contrary to what has been published; changes were discussed with The Gryphon and there are meeting notes, a Better Union discussion and emails to support this. Discussions began at the end of last term and a proposal was made to the Editor to hold the election on an alternative date to the Leadership Race, so that publicity and the profile of the role could be increased separately (as it is a completely different role.)
  • We were informed that this would be discussed with the rest of the committee but received no response from the Editor until a Better Union idea was submitted in January.
  • The Exec allowed the idea to go forward for discussion but made the Editor aware that even if it passed it would now be too late to implement the changes until next year. (The idea was contentious and the vote was split 50:50 on either side which kicked off the upcoming referendum).
  • Despite numerous prompts we heard nothing back from the Gryphon until just before the Leadership Race began. They agreed (via email) to pursue with a separate ballot at the same time as the Exec elections and approved a click through after Leadership Race voting. The Union provided the Gryphon a main election page, a link before voting for the Exec, and another after (already more than we would give to any other society election – which I’m aware many of you have on now).

Much like the ‘Save LS’ story that was sensationalised out of context last year, this ‘campaign’ could have been raised months ago. It seems instead that the paper have intentionally remained silent on the issue, until voting week, in order to exaggerate the claims into an inflammatory political issue.

No one is trying to hinder democracy, curb freedom of speech or silence the student voice. Our bye-laws state the paper will exist to hold the Union to account, and it shall, which is why we continue to grant the society £20,000 and pay the Editor’s £16,000 salary each year.

This is not at odds with having an independent election with dedicated publicity so that all students know exactly what the Editor does, what they stand for and how they can be held accountable by the students of Leeds. This is what we will deliver following a ‘no’ vote in the referendum.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and apologies for the confusion.

I hope it will allow you and your members to make a more enlightened decision this week.

All the best,

Bradley.

 

Bradley Escorcio

Union Affairs Officer

Leeds University Union, LS2 9JZ

www.leedsuniversityunion.org.uk

Tel: 0113 3801 241

Twitter: @BradleyEscorcio

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