More-on Student Grants

Another piece on the Birmingham University Guild of Students’s war on freedom of association this morning, this time in the Birmingham Post.

Can’t say that I’m overfond of the Christian Union’s histrionic comment about Satanists taking over or the obligatory references to ‘it’s political correctness gone mad’ (twice) but the general thrust of their argument is sound.

It also provides another opportunity to marvel at the legal ignorance of Student Union president, Richard Angell:

Richard Angell, president of the guild, said: “They are disaffiliated. Under the Education Act we are only allowed to let affiliated societies use our facilities. Because they don’t comply we can’t let them use our facilities.”

Wrong. The Education Act, if by which he means the 1994 Act, says nothing of the sort. Having disaffiliated the Christian Union they may no be unable to use the SU’s facilities because they would no longer be covered by it’s insurance, but that has nothing to do with the Education Act at all.

Try again, Richard.

He said refusal to allow non-Christians to be members would have “denied other students their right to join the society and limit membership on quite a tight doctrinal basis.”

Mr Angell said the ECU’s rules for membership were not just about being Christian but required members to be evangelical too.

“They are welcome to go through our recognition process. If they wish to become a society they are welcome to accept our mandatory clauses which we can’t compromise on because it’s the law.”

Again, this is complete bullshit. Over the last few years, in my former job, I registered with the Charity Commission several Evangelical Churches with doctrinal restrictions on membership near identical to those applied by the Chirstian Union – not one of them was turned down for registration.

The ‘mandatory clauses’ that Angell refers to can be found in this document. These are not, however, merely mandatory clauses but a near complete model constitution. They are, in addition, not part of the law nor are the Guild required to use such clause by law – it is entirely their decision to make use of this model constitution in this specific form, not a legal obligation.

A spokeswoman from Birmingham University said: “The University of Birmingham is aware of the internal dispute between the Birmingham University Evangelical Christian Union and the University of Birmingham Guild of Students.

“The University’s charter, and general law, requires the university not to discriminate on the grounds of religion and the university is proud of the fact that its charter was one of the first in the country to include an anti-discriminatory clause.”

Yes. Thank you Birmingham University, that was completely unhelpful.

The last thing to pick up here is this statement from the minutes of the Guild meeting at which the Christian Union tried to appeal against disaffiliation.

“Stuart Mathers Vice President (Student Activities): all student groups have to follow Guild Council policy, this only allows two groups to limit members one is Nitleine [sic] and the other is Student Advice and that is due to the limits no [sic] the numbers that can be trained. All groups must follow Guild Policy.”

Mathers is, here, either sadly ignorant of the contents of the constituion of the Guild’s LGBT association, or he is lying.

Specifically:

3 MEMBERSHIP

4.1 Categories

Membership shall be divided into the following categories:

4.1.1 Full Members
4.1.2 Associate Members

4.2 Full Members

4.2.1 Eligibility

Only the following shall be eligible for Full Membership

4.2.1.1 All Guild Members who self-define as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or as questioning their sexuality.

4.2.2 Entitlement

Subject to this Constitution and subject to the Guild’s Disciplinary Procedure, Full Members shall be entitled only to:

4.2.2.1 vote in Association elections as provided for in the Constitution;
4.2.2.2 attend, speak and vote at General Meetings;
4.2.2.3 attend and speak at meetings of the Committee and any of its sub-committees as established;
4.2.2.4 submit motions to General Meetings;
4.2.2.5 be elected to any office in the Association;
4.2.2.6 be elected or appointed as a representative of the Association on Guild Council;
4.2.2.7 use any of the facilities provided by the Association
4.2.2.8 relinquish their membership upon notification in writing to the President.

4.3 Associate Members

4.3.1 Eligibility

Only the following shall be eligible for Associate Membership:

4.3.1.1 Any Guild Member who requests support and advice relating to sexuality or gender identity.
4.3.1.2 Any Guild Member, upon a vote of absolute majority by the Committee

4.3.2 Entitlement

Subject to this Constitution and subject to the Guild’s Disciplinary Procedure, Associate Members shall be entitled only to:

4.3.2.1 use of any facilities provided by the Association
4.3.2.2 relinquish their membership upon notification in writing to the President.

As anyone who understands constitutions will immediately realise, this clause restricts full membership of the LGBT Association, and therefore the right ot speak at meeting, vote ans stand for election to it committees, exclusively to Student who:

self-define as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or as questioning their sexuality.

I’m reaching for a word here… Mmm what was is? Ah yes…

BUSTED

I make no pretence about my loathing of discrimination in all its many putrid forms, and this quite blatantly a case of discrimination as well as rank hypocrisy.

In fact BUGS should consider itself fortunate that I’ve already picked up a Bloody Devil award for my rant about bureacrats this week otherwise there would certainly be another one of similar order on its way.

Credit where credits due, this was also spotted by Scott at the Daily Ablution.

As ever, the comments box is open and any member of the Guild Council is welcome to defend their position openly by using it. In particular I would be interested to see Richard Angell justify his constant whining that ‘it’s the law’ by pointing out specifically on which laws and where in those laws, his contention is based, because I have yet to find anything in statute which backs him and am, therefore, inclined to the view that he is talking out his arse at the same time as trying to cover it.

  • Without reading the details of BUGS I can’t specifically say, but in most students’ unions there is a clear distinction between a society and an association – the latter is usually an autonomous formal part of the union for a defined group of students, the former an open grouping of students who form the society and seek access to union resources on the basis of being open to all.