An emergency session of Union Council last night voted to uphold the ban imposed upon UEA Men’s Rugby. 28 of 41 voting members supported the decision to disband the club next year. There were two abstentions.
Following “legal and non-legal” advice given to the club, “new evidence” was brought to light by president Andy Driver regarding the Union’s decision.
After the initial appeal was rejected by the Student Officer Committee, issues the club had with the procedure followed by the Union in making the decision were highlighted.
Driver claimed that the Union’s procedure for banning the club violated not only the principles of natural justice, but was also in contravention of the Education Act of 1994 and the Union’s own constitution.
Rugby argued that the management committee had no power to ban the club under the Union’s constitution. It was also claimed by the club that there are no clear powers in the Constitution to discipline or penalise a group of students or a club or society.
The club also stated that the decision contravened the Education Act’s stipulation that prevents any union from prohibiting the activities of a group of students.
Both the Union officers present and some councillors responded that they believed the Union was, both in terms of its constitution and the 1994 Education Act, in a position to ban the club.
Communications officer Matthew Myles responded to Rugby’s complaints by emphasising the severity of the club’s offences, and appealing to Council to do the same. In response to Rugby’s criticisms of the process by which the decision was made, he stated: “I think what we’ve done in terms of the process of this decision was enough to allow us to make the decision. It may not have been perfect, and we agree that it should be improved.
“To me, how we got to the decision would only matter if we were missing information, but we aren’t missing anything and we weren’t missing anything. We know what happened, and that’s all that matters. All the club’s representatives have done is talk about the process and the actions of the officers; as if that matters”.
The officers reminded council that the Rugby club had breached the Union’s zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment as well as its “Equal Opportunity Statement and Inappropriate Behaviour” disclaimer, which is detailed in the Club and Society Information booklet.
Finance officer Rob Bloomer pointed out that, far from needing to be dealt with in “isolation”, as the club’s representatives desired, previous incidents concerning the club were relevant, and Rugby ought to have known they would be taken into account in this case.
The Union also emphasised that students will be able to play rugby next year, and that there are a number of local clubs that will be happy to accept UEA students.
For Men’s Rugby, the next board of appeal to be approached is the Dean of Students’ office of the University. Speaking to Concrete, Driver said: “I actually think we should have a better chance appealing to the Dean of Students. Once you start shifting your appeal away from students, certain perceptions people may have of the Rugby club might not come into play.”
Asked if the club will adjust its appeal for this next stage, Driver added: “We don’t know yet, we’re still waiting for the Union to tell us who to contact and where we go from here.”
Driver had some criticism for the Union’s handling of the Council, stating that the club representatives were only told that they could speak for five minutes at a time just before they entered Council.
“Everything the Union presented was subjective,” he said, adding: “Whereas we had to tell them everything we were planning to say beforehand, they brought up information we weren’t aware of.” The information in question was the revelation that there will be an intermural sevens’ tournament next year in the club’s absence.
When asked whether the club could have showed greater “remorse” for its actions, which was an issue raised by some Council members, Driver said: “I’m struggling to see how we weren’t remorseful. We stressed just how sorry we were for the incidents in question in statements to Concrete. The club doesn’t believe what has happened is “banter”, which is something the Union has accused us of.”
“Myles responded to Driver’s statement with the following: “The Rugby Club were given, in writing, a full description of the complaints process as laid out in the Union’s Constitution and were clearly informed that the next stage of this process, after council, would be to take their complaint to Annie Grant, the Dean of Students.
“The Union presented its evidence from SOC with the agenda to councillors; the Rugby Club has a councillor so members could have been aware of our evidence in advance. The Rugby Club were offered the opportunity to make anonymous their evidence they presented to SOC to go to councillors with the agenda, but after several reminders, we heard nothing from them.
“The Rugby Club submitted evidence to the SOC committee that included statements from members of the Rugby Club that said their songs and comments were “banter” and that the bus journey was a “normal” one. This is why we referred to this at council to highlight that this was, in our opinion, one of the many indicators of a cultural problem within the club,” he added.
This article has been slightly altered with comments from the Union of UEA Students’ former (2011-2012) communications officer, Matthew Myles.