Suspension of UEA Men’s Rugby Club: FAQ’s

The Union has decided to suspend UEA Men’s Rugby Club until the academic year 2013/14. Below are answers from the Union to some frequently asked questions about the decision. If you have any questions then please fill in the box below, we will then answer any other FAQ’s as they come.

What triggered the decision?
The Union received complaints, verbal and written, about the behaviour of UEA Men’s Rugby Club on a bus journey home from an away match on 14th March 2012. The most significant aspects of these complaints were that firstly there were members of UEA Men’s Rugby Club who had taken their clothes off during the bus journey, and that there were members of UEA Men’s Rugby Club who were singing songs about the second world war which had upset a German member of the UEA Women’s Hockey Club and they had continued to sing despite this.

Why have the Union taken this so seriously?
It is with regret that the Union has been forced to take such serious measures following actions of some of our members. The Union has a zero tolerance policy against sexual harassment that considers “somebody exposing their sexual organs to you without consent” as sexual harassment. This policy mandates the student officers to discipline those offenders for their actions. UEA Men’s Rugby Club also signed a committee booklet that clearly defined “Equality” as a core value of the Union, and that no discrimination based on nationality would be tolerated.

Why hold the whole club responsible and not just the individual offenders? 
Firstly, the Committee Information Booklet explains that members of the committee will be responsible for the actions of the club’s members. More importantly, the Union considers these incidents to be a part of the culture of the club, and that they cannot only be attributed to the individual offenders.

The Union have received serious complaints for years, but last year the club caused £1800 worth of damage to a hotel whilst representing the Union and University as UEA Men’s Rugby Club. The Club’s attitude at the time – and again at Monday’s Union Council meeting – was that this incident should be disregarded because they paid for the damage they caused. This is one of many examples that indicate an absence of a culture of internal discipline in the club, which needs to change in order to protect our members.

Why is the suspension lasting a year?
Zero tolerance should mean zero tolerance, and the decision demonstrates that we will uphold the Union’s core value of equality. This suspension means that we are protecting members from facing this kind of behaviour happening in the name of, and funded by, the Union. As it is a cultural problem, banning individuals would simply not fix UEA Men’s Rugby’s problems over the summer holidays ready for Welcome Week 2012. The Union will now have a year to work alongside UEA Men’s Rugby Club to allow the club to return more inclusive and with better procedures by which to manage themselves in September 2013.

Will there still be opportunities to play Rugby at UEA?
The Union has said from the outset that we will be providing the opportunity to play Rugby to our members. Whether this means an intramural tournament, working with local feeder clubs or anything else, our members will be able to play Rugby at UEA. The only difference is that they won’t be able to represent the Union whilst playing Rugby for a student-run club until the club is in a position to be able to uphold the values of the Union, and there will be support in place when UEA Men’s Rugby Club resumes in September 2013.

Has the Union handled this properly?
The Union has consistently provided detailed information beyond our constitutional duty and suggested avenues to find out information and advice should they need it. It is unfortunate that we have had little correspondence from the UEA Men’s Rugby Club Committee seeking more information or advice throughout the process.

The Union is confident that no laws have been broken, and the peers of UEA Men’s Rugby Club have considered the Union’s actions proper and constitutional through Student Officer Committee and Union Council. It is a shame that UEA Men’s Rugby Club’s choice to criticise the legitimacy of the Union’s decision, rather than address the cultural problems within the club.

However, if the Union’s handling of this incident has not been acceptable then we should be held to account by the Student Officer Committee, Union Council and/or the Trustee Board. So the process does matter, but it matters separately to the decision that the Union has made. This experience will be feeding into our constitutional review to ensure that appropriate procedures are in place as soon as possible.

What about the procedure?
The Union has no procedure for appeals in place, but the closest thing to it is our complaints procedure. We firmly believe that UEA Men’s Rugby Club should have the opportunity to be judged by their peers and that Student Officers should be held accountable, so we are satisfied that Union Council has heard their appeal. UEA Men’s Rugby Club do not consider their peers qualified to deal with their complaint; so now, as per the complaints procedure, they will have the opportunity to be judged by the University and potentially an independently appointed person.

UEA Men’s Rugby Club will have then had five occasions at which to argue their case. Appeals and complaints are different and should be treated as such in the future, but in the circumstances the Union considers the procedure to have been fair, thorough and appropriate.
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If you have any questions regarding the decision please do not hesitate to ask by filling in the box below.

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