Society management

YUSU result fails to ban Debating Society member after Nazi outburst

No Use obtained video footage of a student referencing the Nazis and the Holocaust during the Debating Society’s UK parliamentary-style debate on November 11, 2021.

The society was having a social gathering and debating the motion “this house would sink Derwent College into the campus lake”. The student then made the following point of information: “Why sink it when we can take a page from Hitler’s book and gas them?”, “them” referring to the Derwent students. The student was immediately reprimanded by now former Debating Society President Fae Hicks and asked to leave the social.

On the evening of the social, an email was immediately sent to a YUSU staff member informing them of the offensive incident and a “report on the University’s reporting and support system” was “filed “. After an investigation, YUSU decided not to ban the member.

In an email dated February 7, 2022, a YUSU staff member clarified, “While the student has indicated that he has no intention of returning to the Club, I understand your request that he be banished from the Society. Please note that this is not a result of the Panel in this case”.

The social was dubbed a “drunken debate” and had 28 participants. However, the former president confirmed to Nouse “[the student] was not drunk at “drunk debate”. They had mentioned a few times that they were sober”. When No Use Asked why the company was debating this motion, the former president added: “Drunk debates stray away from the serious topics of regular training. Instead, we focus on jovial motions touching on the themes of college rivalry, the invasion of the North Pole or whether Boris Johnson should be given a hairbrush.”

The Debating Society informed the student in question on November 12, 2021, a day after the incident, that he had “filed a report [against them] at the University and YUSU”. Later that day, on November 12, 2021, the student apologized to the debate society for his “immature and insensitive” as well as “inappropriate and hurtful” comments.

In an email, the student said: “I’m so sorry to all of you and everyone in society for my recklessness and for bringing such a horrific event to light.” They added: “I said those words in a very misguided attempt to maintain the mood and tone, but I now realize that referring to real-world tragedies was not acceptable and was very wrong. taste”. No Use offered the student the opportunity to comment and they declined to do so.

On November 15, the email sent on November 11 was followed by a report of the incident to another YUSU staff member. YUSU was informed that the company “would like to file a complaint against the student”. The email pointed out that the student had made a “highly inappropriate comment” and the company therefore deemed the incident to be a “prejudicial (level 2) moderate (level 2) violation of the code of conduct”.

Fae made it clear in the email that the society’s committee had agreed that the student should receive an “expulsion” and that the society “would prefer that this member not resume his activities.”

Fae emailed the same YUSU staff member again on November 18, sending the “complaint submission” and a “video of the comment.” It’s the same video No Use managed to get. The complaint details how “the committee unanimously agrees that we would prefer that the student not return to any of our activities.” Fae points out to YUSU in the complaint that the Debating Society “believes that we need to make it clear that the society does not condone the feelings expressed by the student and we believe the only way to do that is to remove the student from the society. all together .”

The YUSU staff member was quick to respond to the complaint submission on November 19, thanking Fae and “confirming receipt of the documents.” Fae was informed that “once I have reviewed everything, I will get back to you to discuss next steps, probably early next week.” The YUSU staff member made sure to be in regular contact with Fae and responded via email as promised “early next week” on November 24th.

Fae was only told that “the investigation is now complete” and an outcome was decided on February 7, 2022. In an email written by a YUSU staff member, Fae was informed that they would not were unable to share the details of the outcome with her, however, rest assured that appropriate action has been taken.

Crucially, however, YUSU was able to tell Fae that the outcome would not follow the Debating Society’s recommendation to bar the student from attending future society events. The idea of ​​“appropriate action” of the committee of the Debating Society was therefore different from that of YUSU.

Patrick O’Donnell, President of York University Students’ Union, said: “While we cannot comment on individual cases, we have a strong policy in place to ensure standards of conduct reflect the inclusive and educational nature of our community. This policy provides a framework for the Union to adopt a consistent approach to handling complaints.

“Students cannot predetermine outcomes when submitting complaints. If necessary, independent committees review them to ensure that the results are reasonable and proportionate on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, only the reported student will receive the full result of an investigation.

“All companies have a responsibility to consider how their events and activities are organized to ensure that violations of this policy do not occur. This includes framing discussions regarding college members.

The student has not returned to any of the company’s events since but remains free to do so if they wish. Despite video evidence of inappropriate comments, YUSU was unwilling to ensure that the student was “banned from society”.

YUSU’s response to the complaint also suggested that the company was responsible for failing to establish “ground rules” for “such events to clarify what is acceptable behavior to support the event management framework around it.” ‘such an activity’. The YUSU staff member said it would “encourage members to take responsibility for their actions and foster respectful debates.” This suggestion was made in the email despite the Debating Society’s rule in its code of conduct stating, “Members should conduct themselves in an appropriate and respectful manner, particularly at events involving the consumption of alcohol.”

The Debating Society and Fae have filed several complaints with YUSU over the past year and this is just one of them. After other incidents that Fae complained about, she resigned as President on February 23, 2022 and posted on the Debating Society’s Instagram Story explaining her resignation, saying, “I can’t tolerate working any longer. within YUSU and with committee members who tacitly condone misconduct through their support for YUSU’s repeated failures to investigate and act”.

Current Debating Society President Fin Lewis said: ‘The society deplores racism in all its forms, and we regret that such upsetting incidents do not reflect this.

“Specifically, discussions of the Nazi regime and its atrocities should not be taken lightly. It is not representative of the society or the egalitarian environment that we always seek to achieve at events.

“However, I would like to strike a more positive note and thank the former committee as a whole – but the chair in particular – for their commendable efforts to work on these issues. As a united committee, we all seek to build on their work.

Since Fae quit, she said No Use: “After three months, YUSU submitted its report which made it clear that it would take no action to protect members of the debate society from this individual. If YUSU is happy to leave such a flagrant violation of the code of conduct without reprimand , I dread to think what else they missed.

The former president supported a motion at the company’s last annual general meeting that called for the company to leave YUSU. The plan for the company to leave YUSU was proposed by four members of the company’s former committee. Fae revoked her YUSU membership the day after the AGM. The company decided not to pass this motion successfully, but only one member of the committee opposed YUSU’s departure.

Patrick O’Donnell, President of York University Students’ Union, said: “An acknowledgment of the complaint was made for the first time in less than three working days, and the student reporter has been frequently updated throughout the process.

“While we are unable to comment on the findings, it is both completely inaccurate and unnecessary to assume that no action was taken as a result of YUSU’s investigation or the investigation of the University.

“It is disappointing that a minority of members initially sought to leave YUSU, but after the company’s AGM, we look forward to working with the new committee to ensure that an incident like this does not happen again. at their events.

In the complaint to YUSU, Fae said “the student’s comments made several people very uncomfortable” and she pointed to the problematic nature of allowing an individual to attend debates on “of many sensitive topics” when he had previously been unable to “identify the line between black humor and completely inappropriate.”

Politics student Bailey McIntosh, a student in attendance, said No Use: “I was there and I remember the reaction of everyone in the room. I’m shocked that they said it in the first place.

Importantly, in the complaint, Fae refers to the fact that this was not the first time the student had made offensive comments.

During week 4 of the fall 2021 term, the student said, “I know how to scare Americans,” then imitated “shooting actions.”

Cameron Bennett, secretary of the Debating Society, confirmed No Use that this comment was made. Cameron told No Use“I can confirm that this incident has taken place and this, in my opinion, represents the need to make changes within our relationship with YUSU.”

No Use discovered that a meeting with the University was held on November 15, 2021 to discuss the incident. The University investigated and held a meeting with the student who made the comment.

On December 8, 2021, the Conduct and Respect Advisor, speaking on behalf of the University, informed the former President that after their investigation, they were “hopeful” that such a situation would not happen again. .

The university’s conduct and respect counselor pointed out to Fae that suspending the member was not within his powers and that the member’s “presence at the debating society” would be a decision for YUSU to make.

The comment may be in violation of University policy such as Rule 7. In this, indecent language and abusive comments will not be tolerated under claim 7.5) Acts of Misconduct.

Former President Fae Hicks added her “hope” that the debate society leaves YUSU because she “truly believes[s] that this is the only way for the company to deal with any future misconduct”.