I can’t draw a line under democracy.
Edd Bauer has spent weeks suspended from his job as Vice President Education of the Birmingham Guild of Students, threatened with dismissal because he missed some meetings – whilst being imprisoned for hanging a banner from a bridge. Yesterday, his disciplinary panel found in his favour. Here, he writes for Bright Green.
Yesterday I was reinstated by Andrew Whitehead. He chaired my “undemocratic” disciplinary panel. I have been asked to “draw a line” under my “disciplinary” and get on with “my work” in the guild in the time left to me as a officer. However, I will not draw a line under democracy and I will fight for a democratic guild of students. I can draw a line under incorrect individual decisions. However, I cannot draw a line under the Guild’s recent systematic democratic failings as it one of my manifesto promises to implement democratic reform to the by-laws of the guild of students.
Yesterday Andrew Whitehead the chair of the disciplinary panel delivered me the “written warning”. He is a lawyer, guild trustee and senior executive of a firm that works for the university. He is also the senior executive of the firm responsible for the widely condemned* injunction “banning” protests. Yesterday he had requested in him a vote of no confidence by Guild councillors.
The disciplinary against me was a battle for student democracy and a representative guild of students. The panel who made the decision was made up of 3/5ths non-student, non-elected representatives; the other two “elected” members of the panel were elected on an undemocratic “gimmick mandate”. The reasons I received a “written warning” was one for my “arrest” for a peaceful banner drop for which I have not been found “guilty” of any crime, two for my imprisonment and thirdly for writing this article in The Guardian . If it was not for the immense public pressure for democracy, I do not believe this positive outcome could have been attained.
On all the points ruled against me I will be appealing the written warning as I consider these decisions to be political decisions made by a board with no political legitimacy. Additionally, the board which made these decisions has made done so based on a disciplinary policy that has never been agreed to by the student body but rather a narrow majority of the unelected trustee board.
The policy which the Guild of Students used to suspend me was never passed by Guild Council however, it was passed the majority unelected trustee board. I hope this case is warning to all students who hope to defend education, it is not enough to get elected officers on a mandate to defend education but, we must also address the democratic deficit.
*including by Amnesty International, Liberty, and Index on Censorship.