The Union of UEA Students (UUEAS) has enforced a boycott of the Natwest/RBS group banning the bank and anything bearing their sponsorship from campus.
Photograph: Chris Teale.
The boycott has officially been in place since August 2011 but was brought to the attention of the Student Officer Committee in December after it was noted that terms of the policy were being breached. The original motion, passed in Union Council 2010, cited that the Natwest/RBS group supported and funded fossil fuel extraction and was therefore “incompatible with UUEAS environmental policy”. The Union Communications officer at the time wrote to the group chairman and the Chancellor George Osborne informing both that unless the bank adopted more ethical practices, the UUEAS would switch to a more “optimal” bank in 2011.
Writing on the UUEAS blog, Finance officer Joe Levell stated that the Student Officer Committee was forced to review Union activity “to ensure that we are abiding by the policies as you, the membership, intended” and came to the interpretation that resulted in a “total boycott of all Natwest/RBS activity”.
As a result clubs and societies will therefore no longer be able to apply for additional funding through the RBS/ESSA scheme, despite many having done so for the current and previous year. Levell said: “the Student Officer Committee apologises for not discouraging clubs and societies to apply. Any club or society that continues in ESSA will be breaching Union policy and, as such, the club or society is in breach of their code of conduct.”
Speaking to Concrete, UEA Korfball President Rob Bloomer said that “the issue was discussed at Sports Council and Korfball have since withdrawn from ESSA on the back of it. It is a great shame because the award pushed us to develop how we communicate with our members and look at ourselves more critically last year, and we were hoping to do the same this year.”
The boycott will also mean that Six Nations Rugby and the Natwest cricket series will no longer be shown in the bar due to both being sponsored by the banking group. Bloomer added that this issue was raised at sports council to “show how imposing a blanket boycott on anything even sponsored by RBS is a bit ridiculous. Unfortunately the Union has taken the boycott very literally and has even determined to stop showing such sport.
“If we’re saying that nothing sponsored by RBS can be affiliated with the Union then we could look not just at Six Nations Rugby but also Andy Murray, whose sponsorship from RBS was extended in 2011 and the Manchester Pride March 2012 which was also sponsored by (the group). My point is that none of these things are evil or deserve boycotting, but the Union is looking at a blanket label of anything sponsored by RBS, which is a shame.” He added that Korfball were drafting a proposed amendment to the policy.
Finance officer Levell explained that the boycott was not definitive: “The Union is a charity that represents you and your views; if you wish to change this policy in any way, you should contact your Union Council Rep and lobby them to submit an amendment to the policy. The Union’s staff and officers will always act as mandated by you, the members and are dedicated to ensuring that students’ voices are heard on these matters.”
Concrete has learned that the campus branch of Natwest will be closing due to low usage. Natwest hold the lease of the building until October but are reportedly planning to move in February.
Edited 10/01/13 for factual accuracy.
Blog post on the boycott by the Union of UEA Students – Nat West/RBS Boycott – what this means for you’