Response to general meeting motions

This is a response to the general meeting motions which have recently been submitted. You can view them here: http://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/egm/

Last summer a student member of EUSA staff raised some serious issues of sexual misconduct in EUSA venues. On three separate occasions Max Crema, Hazel Marzetti and I raised our concerns with former EUSA senior managers. Max felt further frustrated by the issue so he lashed out and published a blog about sexual harassment in workplaces in general, not mentioning EUSA once. It was an anonymous post which raised the issue of sexual harassment and raised concerns that it was not taken seriously by venues in Edinburgh. Many interpreted it as being about EUSA venues. I thought then, and think now, that posting this on his blog was not the best strategy so I asked him to take it down. By the time he had taken it down though it had already been seen by many members of EUSA staff who felt it was offensive and unrepresentative of their experiences working for EUSA.

EUSA, the Board of Trustees, the sabbatical officers and the current managers and staff do not, of course, condone sexual harassment.

A meeting was called where staff members were invited to share their concerns. Max asked to come to the meeting so that he could explain himself but was told he should not. It later turned out that dealing with this issue in this way went against our formal procedures, which stated that there should be an opportunity for Max to speak to the staff members and apologise if he chose to. I suspect that if he had been given this opportunity the situation would not have escalated as far as it did, so I am very frustrated that this did not happen.

The motion coming in to censure me criticises me for not removing Max as a sabbatical officer or trustee. I have three  issues with this:

1)                  Max made a mistake and he lashed out. But he did so because of frustration about things he was right to be frustrated at. Frankly, I think allegations of sexual harassment and dealing with them appropriately are more serious issues than the appropriate use of blog posts.

2)                  I am willing to accept that I haven’t managed this perfectly. It is true that I could have dealt with this better. But, frankly, every year, some controversy or another happens in EUSA. As president, I could focus my time on making sure there is never any internal scandal. But that would take up almost all of my time. Instead, I choose to spend my time focusing on winning things that will change students’ lives. Most recently this was our victory for fixed fees for international students which will make a huge difference to thousands of students struggling to budget for their time at Edinburgh. I want to continue making more positive changes for students’ lives, not responding to personal attacks about events which took place five months ago.

3)                  Likewise, whilst Max mas clearly made mistakes, it is important to remember the good things he has done for students: he saved the Bongo Club, the Hugh Robson Building will now be refurbished, and he has secured free rehearsal and performance space in the Reid Concert Hall for all music societies. This is just a small sample.

It is important that sabbatical officers are held to account but I am really upset by these personal attacks. Max should not have posted the blog post up, but he did so with the best of intentions – to raise the very serious issue of sexual harassment in the places where many students work – and he has already apologised. I think it’s important that we let this issue rest and move on with doing the work that we were elected to do.

EUSA does great work every day for students at Edinburgh and we have some great staff, great volunteers and great facilities. We strive for our spaces to be safe and open to all students. If any student or member of staff ever feels threatened in our buildings we urge them to come forward so that it can be dealt with promptly and in confidence. We are proud to be a Zero Tolerance accredited union.

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