On Friday 16th November, a new Code of Conduct panel appointed by the Students’ Union met to conclude and agree upon a formal sanction against Lancaster University Snow Sports Society. The sanction aimed to address the behaviour of Snow Sports members during a ‘white t-shirt’ social where students decorated their t-shirts with crude symbols and messages.

The panel agreed that the behaviour of students on the social was “absolutely unacceptable and against the values of the Students’ Union” and decided to impose the following sanctions on the society:

  • “A formal, public apology statement should be made by the club to the university community concerning the offence their behaviour has caused;
  • The group be placed on probation for a period of two years. Any further breaches of the Students’ Union Code of Conduct or disciplinary matters involving the university during this time, would lead to an automatic one-year suspension;
  • For a period of two years, the Lancaster University Students’ Union Snow Sports Executive Committee will be required to undertake the following training in addition to what is already required:
  • Bystander Intervention Training;
  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Training; and
  • Hate Speech Awareness Training;
  • For a period of two years, the club will be required to submit notification of socials in advance to the Students’ Union for formal approval and these socials must be risk assessed and/where appropriate limits set on numbers able to attend. Members of the executive are also required to have attended all the appropriate and relevant training prior to these socials going ahead;
  • The Snow Sports Club will have a time-limited suspension placed on them for the running of ‘social’ events/activities. The definition of this being any activity [official or unofficial] that doesn’t include competing in events and/or training sessions. This shall be for a period lasting until the end of week one in Lent Term;
  • The Students’ Union will be exploring restorative justice options with the local Community Cohesion team.”

Following the public statement release, Students’ Union President Rhiannon Llystyn Jones said:

“As a proud LGBTQ+ woman with disabilities, my heart goes out to all the liberation groups that have been affected this week. In particular, I want to send my love, thoughts and deepest sympathies to the Jewish students who have been impacted by the incident.

This has been an extremely difficult week to be a Lancaster student/alumnus, and feel pride in our institution. However, we should not let the actions of a very small minority ruin our sense of pride of being a part of an inclusive, diverse, and caring community which the majority of us make up.”

She continued, adding: “I apologise for not being able to speak earlier on this topic and dispelling the misinformation. However, I was unwilling to break confidentiality, compromise students’ welfare and create potential safeguarding issues, simply to clear the name of myself, the Full-Time Officers or the Union. Students deserve the right to closure around this situation, which is exactly why myself and Union staff worked flat out to conclude the investigation after it was compromised which extended the process unnecessarily. The welfare of our students is a top priority, and it will always remain to be.”

Rhiannon then directed anyone who has been impacted by this issue towards the Students’ Union Advice support, available at advice@lancaster.co.uk, as well as towards the counselling team available at counselling@lancaster.ac.uk.

Similarly, the Full-Time Officers of the Union (FTOs), released a statement saying: “We hope that you will understand that fairness is important to us and it takes time to investigate issues like this thoroughly.”

“We’re disappointed that someone we trusted to be a member of the disciplinary panel chose to post the evidence on the internet before conclusions could be reached – compromising the investigation and slowing down the process.” Towards the beginning of the week, information regarding the Snow Sports Social was leaked on social media by a Students’ Union Part-Time officer, who was immediately suspended from her post. The news quickly went viral on social media and received a lot of attention from the student body.

Continuing, the FTOs added: “The Students’ Union has come in for a lot of criticism this week and people have been posting a lot of misinformation about this whole situation on social media. We haven’t been able to give our side of the issue until now because we wanted to complete the investigation in a way that was fair to all concerned.”

Whilst addressing the misconceptions that the Students’ Union has faced over the week, the FTOs directed students’ attention towards being accused to force Part-time Officers to remove their social media posts on the issue. They believe that the truth of the matter is that “when the full situation was explained to them, many took the choice to delete the statements on their pages.”

In the public statement released, the Students’ Union stated that this investigation was of its own initiative in accordance with its Code of Conduct and associated governance. Additionally, it was specified that “no complaints were received in relation to the social at the time.” However, the rumours concerning the event started spreading around the University immediately after the pictures of the event were posted on the Sugarhouse’s Facebook page.

The Students’ Union then added that, as the panel has reached a conclusion, it is now a matter for the University to consider whether they want to further take disciplinary actions. A petition started earlier this week on Change.org asked the University itself to address the situation. As of today, the petition has been signed by over 1300 people.