A formal motion to issue a disciplinary censure to the Students with Faith or Belief Officer was rejected at Student Council at last week’s meeting on Thursday 16 March.
The motion comes after an investigation into the Part Time Officer Grace Algar following their actions taken in a R.O.N. campaign against the incoming Faith or Belief Officer Christopher Winter during this year’s elections.
It was understood at Council that a complaint had been made against the officer for two reasons: Firstly, for having comments published in the Courier which they then said were not true. Secondly, for recording their meeting with Christopher Winter without his consent and publishing audio extracts of this meeting online in the R.O.N. Campaign Facebook Group.
Jonny Hall, Education Officer at Newcastle University Students’ Union, stood to read the verdict of the investigation. He stated that an operations group had come to the conclusion that the Part Time Officer had been found to have breached a number of the general requirements as a member of NUSU including: respecting the privacy of others and not engaging in activity or behaviour likely to bring the University or SU into disrepute among others.
A disciplinary censure to Council is issued when it is found that the Officer has committed serious or sustained misconduct.
The investigation resolved that a motion of disciplinary censure should remain on file for the Officer for the duration of their studies at Newcastle University and 18 months thereafter. However, the motion needed to pass through Student Council for the disciplinary to be authorised and taken into effect.
The motion proposed to Council reads: “The behaviour carried out was done so without respect for the right of privacy of the candidate. It was agreed that the decision to overrule the candidate’s preferred privacy was unacceptable officer conduct."
“The operations group agreed that whilst due diligence should have been carried out before providing a quote to The Courier, the significant area of misconduct and grounds for disciplinary censure was in relation to the recording of the candidate without consent.”
A heated debate was undertaken in the Council chamber with statements from both parties involved and for and against arguments heard four times by those attending Council. Both parties spoke of the effect of the situation on their mental and emotional wellbeing, and many in the chamber were visibly upset and uncomfortable by the tense atmosphere.
The motion required a 2/3 majority to pass and after a vote was taken it was revealed there and then that the motion did not pass, failing to reach a 2/3 majority with 61 votes for the issue of disciplinary ensure and 39 votes against. This means that Algar will not receive a disciplinary censure to be held on file.
Speaking to the Courier about the outcome of the motion, Christopher Winter stated:
“‘I am deeply saddened by the events in council on Thursday. This will set a dangerous precedent for the Students Union in the next year.
Those who break the rules should be held accountable and, quite frankly, it is a disgrace that a small clique within the union was able to block a genuine attempt to correct a grievous and shameful act committed by the PTO for faith and belief. If we cannot condemn this, we can condemn nothing. The council has sown the wind, and soon they may reap the whirlwind.”
Grace Algar declined to comment.