Hannah Prydderch, LUSU’s Vice President (Union Development), resigned from her role effective immediately on the evening of Friday 7th. In a statement provided to SCAN, she thanked everyone involved in LUSU besides her former sabbatical officer colleagues, and said that ‘there have been circumstances that have made the SU an inhospitable and unwelcoming environment and with serious detrimental impacts on my mental health.’
Ms Prydderch revealed that she 'had previously gone to resign back in October, however the love and duty towards students made me stay despite trying circumstances.' She also announced her intention to release 'a full statement in the upcoming days.' Her announcement came on the same night as the LUSU election results, in which her former colleagues George Nuttall and Bee Morgan were re-elected as President and Vice President (Education) respectively.
There has been no formal response to her resignation apart from LUSU's statement that 'We will not be making any comment.' The remaining sabbatical officers responded to Ms Prydderch's resignation on Friday night by cropping her out of their Facebook page's cover photo (featured image). Her mother commented on the post: 'This shows how much you care about the wellbeing and mental health of my daughter. Disgraceful.'
Ms Prydderch has dedicated much of her time at Lancaster to representing fellow students. Before being elected as a sabb last year, she was President of Cartmel College JCR, and had also been an NUS Delegate. As the Union Development sabb, Ms Prydderch was responsible for LUSU's commercial services, finances, and democracy. Spineless has been critical of how democracy has been undermined by the students' union establishment over the last year, but her commitment to the smooth-running of the LUSU AGM in October (when it appeared few others in the organisation wanted it to go ahead) cannot be questioned. She should also be given credit for speaking out against the way President George Nuttall's controversial officer reform was pushed through last month, bypassing the Constitutional Convention students have voted for, but has yet to materialise. Last week, she represented Lancaster students in Westminster, in an APPG for Students meeting about student finance.
The resignation of Hannah Prydderch follows the resignation of Vice President (Activities) Ben Evans on 6th November 2019. His resignation followed significant backlash against his decision to vote to sell the Sugarhouse in an August 2019 meeting of the Trustee Board, culminating in a Vote of No Confidence petition against him. The Sugarhouse Scandal also triggered the resignation of two external trustees, and LUSU's Chief Executive.
In his resignation statement, Mr Evans said, ‘the actions of individuals… have been full of intimidation and bullying and has left me feeling as if there is not other choice but to resign.’ At the time, the sabbatical officers jointly responded. They said: ‘There are serious allegations in Ben’s statement, and it would be inappropriate for us to comment on them, or respond individually.’
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, LUSU, as an employer, has a responsibility to ensure 'the provision and maintenance of a working environment for [their] employees that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe, without risks to health, and adequate as regards facilities and arrangements for their welfare at work.' Faced with bullying and harassment, an employee may be able to resign and claim constructive dismissal. However, two years' employment are required in order to bring a claim.
Lancaster University branch of the University and College Union (UCU) recently opened a formal dispute against the University over workplace bullying and trade union victimisation. This preceded Spineless revealing that 29 staff at Lancaster over the last five years have been gagged as part of settlement agreements.
LUSU has decided not to put Ms Prydderch's role out to a by-election, as her contract would have come to an end in just under three months. There are a number of immediate governance implications, however. The Executive Committee, which meets fortnightly, was chaired by her and that burden will likely now fall to first-year student Fabiha Askari, who is a FASS Faculty Rep and Vice Chair of the committee. Ms Prydderch was also, ex officio, one of the four NUS Delegates from Lancaster. The delegation must be at least 50% female so a replacement must be chosen. Another by-election could be held, but it must only be for self-identifying women candidates. It may also be possible to nominate another female sabbatical officer in her place.