Well, here’s the response I got today. I would just like to draw attention to the section in bold. Everything else is pretty standard, and frankly what I expected from a University that does not have much cause or inclination to confront its own colonial history. However, the section about not responding publicly strikes me as offensive, given the fact that many people did express private concern at the approval of the poster but did not know who to complain to.
Please accept my sincere apologies for not replying to you sooner.
It would appear that I thought I had responded to your email as I had responded to a similar email I had received from Alison Brown. However in checking it would appear that although I did respond to Alison’s email I had failed to respond to yours. The Elections period was very busy for me in terms of work and I was also out of the office from Friday 28th March until Monday 21st April during which time you submitted your correspondence to me. Given I was out of the office for a lengthy period I was again very busy upon my return leading to me believe I had responded to your email as I had to that received from Alison Brown when in fact I had not.
Thank-you for your communicate regarding the recent AUSA Elections and the unfortunate issue regarding one of our Candidates Election Materials and the cultural sensitivities/ connotations relating to these materials.
AUSA fully accepts that an error in judgement was made by members of the Elections Committee that we had in place during the Elections whose responsibility it was for approving all campaign materials used by all candidates during the elections. Whilst AUSA has a Safe Space and E&D Policy that these materials could be considered to be in breach of there was obviously a lack of consideration for cultural appropriateness/ connotations and the potential impact these could have/ may have first & foremost.
I would stress that this was an error in judgement form the Elections Committee members and not something we condone or accepted practice. In fact it is worth highlighting that in a similar matter another of our candidates wanted to use campaign materials (they were promoting body confidence as part of their campaign) that included pictures of semi-naked students (who had given consent for their production and use) promoting issues relating to the candidates campaign – in this case (although different) the Elections Committee sort advice and consultation on the appropriateness of these materials before approving them.
It is unfortunate that in this incidence the Elections Committee didn’t follow the same course of action – however it could be mitigated that given the intense level of activity and high volume of communicates the Committee were dealing with during the Elections (especially at the start when they were approving all the candidates campaign materials) the approval of the materials in question were not given the appropriate consideration. This in no way excuses the materials being approved for use and being used.
It is worth pointing out that at no point during the Elections did we receive an official complaint regarding the materials (although we accept they were in-appropriate and doesn’t diminish what happened). After having the matter informally raised by one of the AUSA staff members as well as a result of an article in the Aberdeen Tab the Elections Committee spoke with the candidate in question who took prompt action in not producing any new materials and ceased from any direct cultural connotations by refraining from wearing a headdress they had been using in person. To be fair the candidate in question was acting in good faith after having his materials approved but to their credit understood when the matter was re-visited with them and worked with the Elections Committee to minimise the impact of their materials.
Apart from being picked up locally by the student online newspaper = Aberdeen Tab we are not aware of any other media coverage regarding or relating to this matter nor have we had any contact from any media regarding this matter. I hope you can understand given this lack of media attention / public attention in general, we are inclined to not respond publicly in respect of this matter which could result in it potentially getting un-necessary and un-helpful media attention.
We accept that the approval and subsequent use of these materials was ill-advised and how offence may have been caused by the connotations the materials portrayed.
The Students’ Association prides itself on its Equality & Diversity work and is a real champion of this, however clearly this incidence has highlighted an area that we need to place increased focus on when it comes to the approval and production of any materials relating to the Students’ Association and understanding the cultural sensitivities and connotations that can arise from the production and promotion of certain materials.
Please note that with all the annual elections we run here at the Students’ Association we conduct an annual review/ wash-up and this matter will obviously be one of the areas we look at as part of this year’s elections.
I hope my response and what I have outlined re-assures you that we do take this matter seriously and will be looking to take on-board the lessons from this year’s elections that can be avoided for future years.
If you would like to discuss this matter further please do not hesitate to contact me further.
In closing I would again like to re-iterate my sincerest apologies for not replying to you sooner and I hope you can accept this was merely an oversight on my part given the factors I indicated at the start of my email.
Membership Engagement Manager
Aberdeen University Students’ Association