19 February 2006

Freedom of Speech Wins Again

My farewell letter to Spark in its original form will not be published as it constitutes "harrassment" of Dave Lewis.

I won't say anything more, as it could be bullying.

14 February 2006

I Love PDT

I don't know if he is taking the piss out of me, RUSU or both, but this post by Pete is awesome.

My Farewell

My farewell letter to Spark:

Dear Madam (saucy I know),

Firstly, "hustlings" - as featured in last week's paper twice - should not be used in the context it was, I think you were looking for the phrase "hustings". It feels good to point out typos like that and know that it's not my fault anymore, as until recently I occupied your position as Editor of Spark, but after various machinations by both myself and the RUSU Executive, I decided to stand down. I hope here to explain exactly why and offer you some advice for the future.

Three weeks ago I sat in Student Council - the "sovereign body" of RUSU - and watched in disbelief as Union officers Jenna Roebuck, Michael Hance and Andrew Lewis, all people I still have an enormous amount of respect for, spoke against freedom of speech for the students of this University. Now, under the new Constitution of RUSU, effectively anything in Spark can be removed at the whim of the RUSU Executive.The freedom to say what you want, when you want, seems to me the simpliest freedom afforded to us and one we should take every opportunity to exercise and so this new position left me upset.

I expressed this on my personal website and I found I could not escape the Union, as the RUSU President left a message denying that Student Council even discussed freedom of speech - despite my entire speech at Council being on that very topic. After months of bullying by this Executive, I'd had enough and wrote a particularly vitriolic reply to the President. He then took this as "bullying and harrassment" and I was suspended from the Union for two weeks. Thankfully the independent disciplinary committee saw through this blatantly political move and did not uphold my suspension.

I've had time to think over the past few weeks about why I believe so vehemently in freedom of speech (and my extension, freedom of the press) and I think it boils down to this: freedom of speech ensures that power does not go unchecked, that those of a tyrannical, despotic or even idiotic disposition do not damage those they are meant to be serving.

In theory, although admittedly not always in practice, Spark used to be the voice of students and now, with the new Constitution of RUSU, they won't have an effective voice on campus. I'm truly sorry that as Editor I couldn't save freedom of speech for Reading's students. I know this doesn't matter to most people, but to me it does, and I don't think I'll ever be able to live down the fact that on my watch, Spark as a proper newspaper disappeared.

One last piece of advice Manuela: Don't let Spark take over your life like it did mine for over 9 months. Your degree matters more and if it becomes too much, do what I should've done and walk away, don't try and change the system, because it's just going beat you and the bullies in the Union will always win.

And finally, thank you very much to Rebecca Cottrell, without her hard work the re-design would not be possible and I am so glad she was there to push it through.

Yours with fond memories,

Gavin Whenman

PS. I hope nobody finds this letter abusive, offensive, bullying or of a harrassing nature. If you do, Michael Hance, VP Equal Opportunities and Ethics, is there to listen.

10 February 2006

Most Peculiar

After this post (and the comments I subsequently left on it) I was hauled before an NUS disciplinary committee for "bullying and harrassment".
I received the decision of the committee last Friday and they found that whilst I shouldn't have said (or rather typed) what I did about Dave Lewis (Reading University Students' Union President), a written apology and written statement to promise to be good in the future would be sufficient.
This has been handed in and yet I'm still not allowed in the Union. The Union allege this is because of two reasons:
  1. I have since the disiplinary I have been abusive to a staff member - Well, this is untrue and (thankfully) I have a roomful of witnesses that were there when I allegedly said "kiss my arse"* to this staff member.
  2. They have to assess whether the apology is "satisfactory" - Strangely, the disciplinary committee have already seen the apology and have decided it is satisfactory... Yet RUSU are still reserving the right to decide.
Not saying that student politics is petty, but I'm glad that I've stood down as editor of Spark, some people are more interested in power and personal vengence than actual helping students and making their university a better place to be.
I'm just happy that I got the redesign of Spark through, something I can point to and say "I helped do that".

* A phrase I don't think I've uttered in my life