IMAGE: DANNY BIRCHALL
The ‘SWP (Socialist Workers’ Party) Off Campus’ motion passed at the Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) Student Council Meeting last Thursday (November 20), with only one vote against it.
The motion was due to be read, and voted on, at October’s Council Meeting, but EUSA withdrew it from discussion after the SWP claimed that the motion was defamatory.
The Student was also forced to withdraw an article about the motion, after the SWP threatened legal action against the paper, and had to distribute the print edition of the paper around campus without a front cover.
Since the motion was withdrawn in October, it has been re-written by its proposer Ellie Brayne-Whyatt, with legal advice. The new motion included citations to support its claims.
Speaking to The Student, EUSA Vice President Societies and Activities Eve Livingston explained what the results of the motion would be.
She said: “In EUSA venues, our staff will have the authority to remove people [from the SWP] in line with the policy, so students should report their presence.
“Insofar as university spaces are concerned, the policy mandates us to pressure the university on this issue so we will act accordingly should we be made aware of the SWP’s presence on campus.”
Amongst other things, the motion also disallows the SWP from seeking ratification from EUSA and mandates EUSA “to support other universities and societies that have made similar moves to remove the SWP.”
The ‘background’ section of the motion, stated: “In 2012 the Disputes Committee of the SWP investigated allegations of sexual assault on a female member of the SWP by one of the senior members of the party.”
It continued: “It is reported that the woman who made the allegation was questioned about her character, how often she drank alcohol, and her personal relationships.”
“It is reported that the Disputes Committee concluded that the rape allegation was unproven.”
Speaking to The Student, Charlie Kimber, the SWP’s National Secretary, said: “The motion passed is based on lies and distortions which circulate on the internet. The SWP robustly contests and denies that it has covered-up rape or engages in victim-blaming or rape apologism. We have a proud record of fighting for women’s liberation—from defending abortion rights to combating sexual harassment to fighting for equal pay.
“There is a real issue of sexism and disgusting attitudes to rape—but it is not the SWP who should be targeted. Recently a 19-year-old woman was raped on the Meadows. Last week we heard appalling allegations that a student group at Edinburgh calling themselves the Delta Kappa Epsilon were talking of going on a “raping trip” as well as discussing sexual harassment and transphobia against the university’s feminist society.
“Instead of attacking the SWP and seeking to prevent is [sic] organising at the university, there should be a massive campaign to root out Delta Kappa Epsilon and the attitudes it feeds on.
“A recent NUS survey entitled the “Lad Culture and Sexism Survey” found worryingly high levels of sexism at universities. It found that 37 percent of women had suffered unwelcome sexual advances such as groping and touching. The Rugby Club at the London School of Economics has recently been banned after handing out leaflets that were “misogynistic, sexist and homophobic”. At Sussex University this term there has been a reported rape.
“We need a major campaign around these issues. The decision to ban the SWP is the wrong action directed at the wrong people.”
Responding to Kimber’s claims, proposer of the motion, Ellie Brayne-Whyatt said: “The response from Charlie Kimber is another example of the SWP claiming they have no problem of sexism in their organisation, and completely ignoring the problem at hand. To say it is simply lies spread on the internet trivialises the complaints made against them and avoids taking any blame or responsibility to rectify their actions.
“The motion passed at council with an overwhelming majority. EUSA is taking the actions of Delta Kappa Epsilon and the sexual assault on the Meadows incredibly seriously, and to say we’re not is frankly offensive. If he cared so much about these issues he would know we are already taking action.
“I feel like Kimber is trying to distract from the real issue here, the issue of the past behaviour of the SWP. We need to tackle sexism on our campus in all forms, which includes speaking about against the SWP as well as dealing with more local issues in Edinburgh.”
The passage of the motion comes a week after students at Goldsmiths University, in London, voted to ban the SWP and its affiliate student society. Students followed this by burning SWP literature and newspapers outside the university library.