Urge Mark Smith to take swift, decisive, fair action against hate speech at Lancaster Uni

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UPDATE

Both LUSU and the University have released statements which can be found here: https://lancastersu.co.uk/articles/students-union-club-sanctioned-over-white-t-shirt-social?fbclid=IwAR3ky4ihCmG4ANPT41EF3EnL2HmDlgbgW9-egoe76db6aF6c1rOrEzBs73Y and here:https://portal.lancaster.ac.uk/student/news/9078396/conduct-of-a-student-club


LUSU's investigation is now complete and they have imposed a number of sanctions on the Society, which you can read in full in their statement.

 

However, although these sanctions are clearly carefully considered, and appear extensive, in fact the Society are still allowed to compete, train and attend events, still have the same executive committee as before, and as a result all socials will be organised by exactly those individuals who endorse the current culture within the club. Their "probation" dictates that should any other incident take place, they will be placed on suspension. However this fails to address the hate-crime that has been committed during this incident.

 

The sanctions fail to reassure students who have been personally affected by the hate speech expressed and disseminated. Genocide, child sexual exploitation, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination will never be 'humorous', regardless of the context in which it is used.

 

The University's statement continues to abstract the incident, and distance the Administration from the event. The language they use has been analysed, and the statement falls far short of what we would have liked. For example:
"The outcome of the Students’ Union investigation was delayed by the leaking of information and the need to form a new code of conduct panel."

The use of the metaphor “leaking” here is interesting. The connotation of “leaking” is that there is an otherwise secure, 'water-tight' body – LUSU – which was unanimous in its position on the subject. We have no way of knowing whether or not this was the case. But the use of the word “leaking” suggests that the individual (s) who released the information were divergent from the homogeneity of the rest of the group, and that their actions were therefore in some way deviant. This has the dual effect of distancing the Student Union from the delays themselves, as well as vilifying the actions of those who came forward.

 

"Where our processes conclude there has been a breach of University regulations we will take action."

This is a Type 1 conditional sentence, indicating a possiblecondition and its probable result. Its use here leaves room for manoeuvre; if the processes conclude there was no breach of regulations, no action will be taken. Meanwhile, the active participant here is not a person or collective group (which could then be held to account) but the abstract nominalisation “our processes.”

 
We await the outcome of the University's investigation with anticipation, hopeful that they will impose further sanctions which make clear the severity of the incident in the wider landscape of rising hate speech within UK institutions of higher education.

 

To this end, we believe all seven of our demands continue to be relevant, and we stand by them.


Finally, the schedule laid out by LUSU fails to incorporate 2 key pieces of information.

1) It took 15 days to call the students from the photographs in for a meeting regarding their dissemination of hate speech on Student Union-run property.

2) It took 48 hours to call Chloe Long in for a meeting regarding her alleged "breach of confidentiality."

Please do not give money to this cause. It is for social justice notonetary gain. 

CONTEXT

On the 12th of October 2018 Lancaster University Student's Union Snowsports Society held a "white tee" Social where numerous t-shirts appeared with racist, homophobic, xenophobic, peadophilic and nazi-praising statements. The Sugarhouse, a LUSU run nightclub, posted photographs, then subsequently removed them.

Crucially at this time, Lancaster University Students' Union failed to make a public statement to the effect that the incident had taken place, and that anyone affected should feel able to come and speak to staff. This was a misstep. It took LUSU (Lancaster University Students' Union) 4 weeks to even form an investigatory panel.

This is a selection of the statements written on t-shirts:  

  • F*ck gay rights
  • Immigrants go home
  • Sandyhook was "bantz"
  • Coat hanger abortion
  • Swastica symbol
  • Age is just a number, and i prefer them in single digits.
  • Savile was misunderstood.
  • I f*ck kids.

A Part-time Officer of the Union, who is now currently under investigation and has been immediately suspended, shared these photographs on Facebook along with an explanation of events. She did this because she felt the investigation was taking too long, and she believed that the Student's Union had not effectively communicated with the Lancaster Community. It was also shared because the decision of the panel wasn't a hardline, it was a slap on the wrist.

WHY WE ARE ANGRY

Why was an official statement not provided immediately after the incident to reassure people, and to publicly denounce any form of hate speech that could affect those living, working and studying at the University?

Worryingly, at no point were those involved fearful of potential repercussions. This speaks to the kind of environment that is being allowed to develop, in which students feel able to engage in hate speech with no fear of consequence. We draw attention to the swastikas drawn on Sociology department doors, to the mistreatment of students who have come forward with racial, homophobic and misogynistic discrimination and to the existence of the Lancaster Traditionalist Society. Campus should be a safe space for all. Right now it is not.

The statement from the Vice-Chancellor reads:
“We do not tolerate genuine hate speech in any form.”

This leaves room for arguments to be made that this incident is a display of parody (and therefore not genuine), instead of what it is: deliberately provocative, intentionally offensive, violent language.

Finally, we feel the decision to suspend the officer who republished the photos is wrong.

DEMANDS

1. The University should take decisive control of this situation. We call upon the University to involve themselves in the disciplining of the perpetrators involved in this incident, and not leave the responsibility to deal with its repercussions to LUSU. The Full Time Officers are new in their role, and frankly it feels grossly unfair to expect them to deal with such a complex situation. Thus far, the advice the Student Union has been given has resulted in a lack of transparent, swift and fair action. The University spokesperson has said:


“The university expects all members of its community to behave with respect and tolerance for others and is prepared to use its own disciplinary procedures if necessary where behaviour falls short of those standards.”

 
We would argue that the behaviour of the students in question falls far short of the standards we would like to see upheld. Therefore we request that LUSU relinquishes formal control of the investigation and the disciplinary proceedings, and these should be undertaken at the highest level possible within the University.

2. Transparent documentation. We call upon LUSU and the University to release a detailed documentation of their investigative procedure of the incident once complete, along with all processes used and a thorough explanation for each decision reached. 


3. Reversal of officer suspension. We call upon LUSU to reinstate the officer who republished the photos with immediate effect. We call for written reassurance that she and any others who had the courage to bring this into the open will not be subjected to further scapegoating or 'punishment' for acting in good conscience. 


4. Disciplinary action. We call upon the University to ensure that any disciplinary action reflects the UK Equality Act (2010) and position on hate crime.

 b. In support of a safer, more tolerant and more inclusive University.

 
5. Support for the Liberation Groups. We call upon the University to invest a substantial sum of money into the Liberation Groups. This will make a public statement about the University's stance on hate speech and the protection of the rights of marginalised populations within the Lancaster Community. 


6. A clear agenda against hate speech. We call upon the University to deliver a clear and precise agenda on how it intends to address and rectify the current wave of bigoted, disrespectful and offensive hate speech that is present on campus.

 c. To prevent any such mishandling in future

 
7. Timely and effective implementation of disciplinary procedures. The University’s disciplinary procedures should be applied immediately in the unfortunate event of a similar situation in the future. The existence of these disciplinary procedures - and the repercussions of hate speech-related behaviours - should be disseminated to the student body, so that all students are aware of the University’s position.

CONCLUSION

We believe that Lancaster University should be an environment in which tolerance, compassion and human rights are emphasised. Lancaster’s top tier university status relies on its appeal to international students, something that is jeopardised by these students' recent actions. The reputation of Lancaster University as a member of the international research community is at stake. The reputation of Lancaster University as a leading light of tolerance, equality and diversity is at stake.

Let's make Lancaster University a safe place for ALL students. 

#istandwithchloe #notmylancaster 



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