Of the two students' union sabbatical officers who resigned this year, both cited, in their resignation statements, the toxic and bullying culture of their former workplace. Spineless cannot confirm the validity of the allegations.
A responsible employer would have investigated the validity of the claims; it is unclear whether LUSU has done so. LUSU has said: 'as a general rule, the students’ union and its officers cannot make any comment on any complaints made, investigations or disciplinary processes'.
The third VNC petition of this year was placed on Thursday 12th March by PhD student and County College Assistant Dean Molly King. The petition called for the scrutiny of LUSU President George Nuttall's alleged actions in a cross-campus Vote of No Confidence referendum. It quoted parts of Hannah Prydderch's and Ben Evans' resignation statements, and accused Mr Nuttall's leadership of having been 'grossly incompetent.' It accused Mr Nuttall of violating the FTO bye-law, the latest available version of which states that the President has a responsibility to ensure 'good working relationships between the [officer] team.' The FTO bye-law was controversially amended in January, but LUSU has still not published the amended text.
Spineless understands that the petition recieved over 80 signatures before its deletion. It would have required over 300 signatures to trigger a VNC referendum. In the recent LUSU elections, 552 students (28.5% of voters) opted to Re-Open Nominations rather than re-elect Mr Nuttall. But as the position was uncontested, he was elected to serve a second term. After just a few hours of going live on Thursday afternoon, the petition was deleted by LUSU. They published a statement claiming it was 'defamatory' and its presence on the website exposed the organisation to legal action.
LUSU does seem to have its lawyers on call nowadays. Almost every other week LUSU claims something cannot be done due to some amorphous 'legal advice.' And, indeed, they also seem to take a somewhat overzealous approach to defamation. The petition text could plausibly be defended in court as it contained a mixture of truth (absolutely privileged from defamation) and honest opinion (qualified privilege). The need to defend the statement would, of course, only arise in case that it was litigated. Would an elected officer take a student/their own students' union to court over opinion formed on the back of publicly-available statements made by other (resigned) elected officers? It seems we might never know.
Rather than affording the petitioner the option of amending the offending petition, the petition was instead removed. There is no provision in the Articles of Association for deleting a constitutional VNC petition. This is, perhaps, not a smart move for an organisation which is already being monitored by the Charity Commission for a previous breach of its Articles.
When the petitioner took to Facebook to air their concerns about the deletion of the VNC petition, they were met with a wall of anger, which seemed to exclusively come from close friends of the incumbent President, many of whom just last week were campaigning for his re-election. This post since appears to have been deleted.
It is the third VNC petition placed on the LUSU website this year, following the petition placed by Atree Ghosh (now VP Union Development-elect) calling for a VNC in Ben Evans (this was cited as a reason for his resignation), and the petition by Andrew Williams calling for a VNC in external trustee Graeme Osborn. Neither of these were deleted on the grounds they were defamatory, although in response to the latter, LUSU said that they 'reject the allegations made entirely.'
Allegations have been made that the act of LUSU deleting the VNC petition is a cover-up of Mr Nuttall's record. Questions that were asked about the resignation of Ms Prydderch at the second part of the AGM last week were shut down, as the meeting was not quorate. Spineless sees a number of similarities between this veil of secrecy and the one applied to the Sugarhouse sale. Once again, the embattled Students' Union seems to be covering-up for its own mistakes, rather than owning up to them.