The End of That Story

I suppose I had better write something about the Students’ Union saga, which I now consider over. Basically, the President (John Goodwin) decided it would be a good idea to start a weekly blog journalling what he has done that week, so that his activities are more transparent. This is a great move in my opinion, and very interesting, so let’s hope this continues. He has also suggested that other members of the Union Exec follow suit, but I have yet to see any of their blogs.

That doesn’t resolve the issue of my posts being deleted, for which I still haven’t received an apology, only denial that is ever happened. Ah well, you can’t get everything you ask for I suppose…

A reply!

So, I received a reply from John Goodwin (President of our friendly Students’ Union) on the Huddersfield Student Voice forums:

It would be nice if students who have complaints about the Union would come and talk to the elected officers about them to see how they can be rectified. That is, after all, what we are here for.

Nothing sickens me more than seeing people such as Mr Boot, who have made no effort to get involved with how the Union is run (eg elections, or speaking up at OGMs) stirring up contempt for the Union, which is only trying to do a good job for its members.

Mr Boot emailed me a little while ago complaining that we had games on our website, amongst other things. He also said (and I quote) ‘don’t even get me started on how you run your commercial services’ to which I asked him to clarify what he meant. I got no response, so I presume Mr Boot has no real concerns at all and enjoys stirring wherever possible.

This is highlighted by the way he has gone about producing the ‘Scandal’ headline on the front page of yourstudentvoice. A number of months back, the SU officers met with Mr Boot and the rest of the yourstudentvoice team to discuss how the two sites could work alongside each other. It was accepted at this meeting that the official SU site would, for obvious reasons, have commercial content (how do people think we make money to put into services to members?) while yourstudentvoice would be the independent voice, so to speak. So I am somewhat hurt that Mr Boot has chosen to handle his opinions in such an inappropriate way instaed of airing them first with the Union, who he knew was happy to co-operate.

I do think Mr Boot made one or two valid points, but at the end of the day, if you don’t like the Terms and Conditions, the don’t sign up (I notice Mr Boot was happy enough to do so). I don’t think its draconian to ask people not to be racist, homophobic etc. I’ve seen the comments that were removed – they talk about nuking coloured people in Iraq – people should be able to log onto their Union website without having to read that. As for asking for mobile numbers, well perhaps it shouldn’t be compulsory, but we’re only doing it to keep you in touch with what’s going on at the Union………and what’s wrong with that?

Above all, I ask any student who has a concern about the Union to either come and see us, or get involved in the democratic processes and get it changed!

I’m still waiting to hear from Mr Boot why exactly he thinks we ‘bodge up’ most of our ‘useful services’

Any takers??

John Goodwin, UHSU President.

My reply to Mr Goodwin:

First of all, let me say I did in fact attempt to email you, but the email bounced. In fact rather a lot of emails into the Uni have been bouncing recently, which seems to look like a widespread misconfiguration of the email servers on campus. Aren’t the IT guys great?

I was involved with the paper for a long time in my first and second years, and found it extremely disheartening that real issues involving the Union or the University were edited out before publication. Some of the stories themselves were enough to make me feel ill (including comments about how Ordinary Members of the Finance Committee were pressured into voting certain ways on various issues). This does not make me feel that my concerns will be acted upon. Add to the mix that I hadn’t heard that the elections were running at all until I was accosted by candidates on the last day of voting while on my way to a meeting at Uni. And OGMs? I never hear about those unless my various Societies pressure me to turning up to make up the quorum. Is this a way to run a democratic organisation?

When I wrote in commenting on the site, I didn’t write complaining about games: I just found that the games and horoscopes didn’t bring any extra value to the site. Games and horoscopes won’t make me any more likely to visit the site in the slightest, so why bother having them? I can very easily find higher quality games and horoscopes through a simple search engine. But that’s a very minor issue.

As for the running of commercial services provided by the Union: you asked for it, you’re going to get it. As we all know the Union runs a shop, a bar, and a catering service. We’ll start with the bar. As we all know, prices at the bar are being steadily pushed up and up. Before I started, most pints were £1.00. When I started, £1.20. This year: £1.25 and up. In my first year there was a rewards scheme (the Gold Card) and 99p Wednesdays, among other promotions (Spank yer Monkey! yeah!). This year: none! And you expect students, who are already skint, to keep paying more and more for the same cheap lager? No, they’ll go to other bars which are increasingly lowering their prices and giving special offers. And just a few months ago, it was headline news that students weren’t going to ‘The Venue’. And how about that pillar in front of the stage?

I know someone who used to work weekends in the café of old. What I found most interesting about the shop and café at Milton Hall was while they were both on the same level, and had about and equal distance from the door, they would sell the same food items at different prices. For instance, if you just wanted a bottle of Coke it was usually cheaper from the Café, but the shop had that meal deal on. The café never provided the best food, but it was always good enough and cheap. When the new building came along, for some reason it was decided the shop would gain the prime spot downstairs, and the café get the larger plot upstairs, which all sounds great until you think of the details. Since the shop sells sandwiches and other sorts of food, nobody is going to go up that massive flight of stairs to go and buy something upstairs, are they? I mean, if you wanted a paper you’d easily do the journey, since if you’ve got time to read a paper you have time to walk up some steps. Not so for a sandwich. If you only have 10 minutes between lectures, running upstairs to get a sarnie and a cup of tea is not an option. Also, a large part of the charm of Milton was being able to order a full english and have a pint with it. Now you have to carry the bugger downstairs, since you’re not allowed booze upstairs (which is fair enough as the Union has long needed to take into account Muslim and other students who want to eat outside a boozy/smokey environment). Apparently this has had so much of an impact that weekend catering at the Union has been discontinued, and that’s a story in itself. The cowards who run the place didn’t have the guts to sack this person face to face, preferring to send merely a P45 in the post without any explanation.

The Scandal headline was posted for obvious reasons: I had posted some comments about the Union that I wanted heard by the world: officers of the Union and other people. Instead of getting any response of any kind, the Union preferred to cover up my issues by deleting the comments I had made. Is that fair? I think not, therefore the headline. And yes we did meet, and we did have what seemed like very productive meetings. Then everything stalled. Nothing has happened between HSV and the Union since our last meeting. But this has nothing to do with Huddersfield Student Voice, this is a personal issue between the Union and myself and I simply chose to air it on Huddersfield Student Voice (as well as my own site). Simple as that. It should not matter that I am an HSV ‘staffer’.

Of course it’s not draconian to ask people not to be racist, and I’m not complaining about the removal of such comments in any way–I would expect this to happen. What I was complaining about is that you threaten to give people’s personal details away if they make a fuss! I am very pleased that you eventually deleted those racist comments, but while it took you less than half an hour to delete my ‘whingeing’, it took over 24 hours to delete the racism–and that was only done once I had drawn attention to it. And there’s nothing wrong with asking for my phone number, but at least let me refuse to give it to you…

If you want students to get involved in the democratic process, let them know what is happening in the first place!

An email about Free Speech – Updated

An email I have just sent to the SU President, VP Communications, Union Chair, newspaper editor, general newspaper email address, and the National Union of Students.

Dear Sirs,

I am writing to express my discontent and incredulity at the  
treatment that my free speech has received on my own Students' Union  
web site. I posted on the forums about my discontent of the Union,  
backed up with examples of similar violations of free speech against  
the student newspaper in previous years (links below). A mere half an  
hour after I posted this information on the SU forums, the post was  
deleted (along with another post the contents of which I did not  
save, summary below) without explanation. I find this despicable.

Fortunately, I had planned for such an event to occur and posted the  
full text of the post on my own web site (http://www.bootc.net/ 
archives/2006/03/03/my-union-does-not-represent-me/) and another site  
(http://hud.yourstudentvoice.co.uk/node/112) that I set up with a  
group of friends.

The second post asked some questions regarding the forums and the  
Union web site itself:

1. Why does the Union require my mobile phone number to sign up? This  
is private information and I do not wish to give it out to just anyone.

2. Why does the Union require my University email address to sign up?  
This automatically bars potential and ex-students from visiting  
certain interesting informational parts of the site. Not to mention  
ex-students who have paid for a lifetime membership of the Students'  
Union.

3. Why am I forced to agree to a draconian set of terms and  
conditions before I am even allowed to view the forums? A copy of  
these terms is included below.

> You agree, through your use of this forum, that you will not post  
> any material which is false, defamatory, inaccurate, abusive,  
> vulgar, hateful, harassing, obscene, profane, sexually oriented,  
> threatening, invasive of a person's privacy, or otherwise in  
> violation of ANY law. This is not only humorous, but legal actions  
> can be taken against you. You also agree not to post any  
> copyrighted material unless the copyright is owned by you or you  
> have consent from the owner of the copyrighted material. Spam,  
> flooding, advertisements, chain letters, pyramid schemes, and  
> solicitations are also inappropriate to this forum.
>
> Note that it is impossible for us to confirm the validity of posts  
> on this forum. Please remember that we do not actively monitor the  
> posted messages and are not responsible for their content. We do  
> not warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any  
> information presented. The messages express the views of the  
> author, not necessarily the views of this forum and it should be  
> remembered that these are views and not always fact. Anyone who  
> feels that a posted message is objectionable is encouraged to  
> notify an administrator of this forum immediately. We have the  
> rights to remove objectionable content, within a reasonable time  
> frame, if we determine that removal is necessary. This is a manual  
> process, however, so please realise that we may not be able to  
> remove or edit particular messages immediately. This policy goes  
> for member profile information as well.
>
> You remain solely responsible for the content of your messages, and  
> you agree to indemnify and hold harmless this forum, and any  
> related websites to this forum. We at this forum also reserve the  
> right to reveal your identity (or any information we have about  
> you) in the event of a complaint or legal action arising from any  
> information posted by you.
>
> Registration to these forums is only granted to members of the main  
> web site. Through the acceptance of this disclaimer, you will  
> automatically be registered to the forums. The same username and  
> password can be used to gain access to the main site and the  
> forums. With this user account you are about to register, you agree  
> to never give your password out to another member, for your  
> protection and for validity reasons. You also agree to NEVER use  
> another member's account to post messages or browse this forum.
>
> After you register and log into this forum, you can fill out a  
> detailed profile. It is your responsibility to present clean and  
> accurate information. Any information we deem inaccurate or vulgar  
> will be removed.
>
> Please note that with each post, your IP address is recorded, in  
> the event that you need to be banned from this forum or your ISP  
> contacted. This will only happen in the event of a major violation  
> of this agreement.

One line I take particular offence to is "We at this forum also  
reserve the right to reveal your identity (or any information we have  
about you) in the event of a complaint or legal action arising from  
any information posted by you." At the slightest sign of any  
complaint, my details could be forwarded to the complainant.

Let me add that that part of the discussion about the recent  
(yesterday) elections at the Students' Union has devolved into a  
discussion about the virtues of Adolf Hitler, which included racist  
comments. I notice that these have not been deleted.

Best regards,
Chris Boot

-- 
Chris Boot
bootc@bootc.net
http://www.bootc.net/

So far, I received an autoreply from the NUS, and delivery failure notifications from the President and Newspaper Editor. We shall see how events unroll.

Update: Since the worst of the “Vote” post has been deleted, and most of you can’t even read it, I’ve decided to mirror the post on my site. Aren’t I nice?

My Union does not represent me

As seen on Hudderfield Student. Deleted!

an organization of employees formed to bargain with the employer” (Princeton WordNet)

If we change the above statement to reflect students, we might get something like this: “an organisation of students formed to bargain with the university they study in

Now why does the UHSU not represent me? Because it does no bargaining with the University. In fact, it plays into the Uni’s hands in almost every respect.

During my first and second years, I worked on Huddersfield Student, the Union’s own newspaper. I did all the layout for the thing, which meant that I read all the articles that went into it, and most of those that didn’t. Now once or twice we tried to publish an article critical of the Uni, or the Union, and found it pulled rather rapidly by various people. Remember that the constitution of the Union dictates that the paper is meant to be independent, just so that it can report about such issues and not have to fear repercussions.

The only person who can prove any of this now works in a well-paid position in London (go Kat!), but can anyone disprove it? Can anyone pledge this won’t happen again?