London Student

Three resignations at Goldsmiths students’ union amid “bullying and harassment” claims

UPDATE 20/11 12:47 – The Leopard’s editor-in-chief and comment editor have returned to the roles after the students’ union issued a public apology, and wrote to both assuring the newspaper’s independence. 

In a public statement released yesterday the students’ union said they believed “the premise of the resignations to be a misunderstanding between the two parties.”

The statement read: “We did not intend to censor or suppress any information in an article that was written about the SU.

“The students concerned have been contacted and given written assurances on the outlet’s editorial independence when it comes to covering stories regarding the SU. We have issued an apology and, as such, both have decided to return to the publication, though the Editor-in-Chief will only return temporarily until the next edition is printed.”

Three high profile resignations at Goldsmiths students’ union have triggered an inquiry into allegations of bullying and harassment.

President Adrihani Rashid resigned just hours after Sabrina Sharif, editor-in-chief of the Leopard, and comment editor Zak Thomas, stepped down from their roles.

The students’ union has also announced it is launching an independent inquiry into “allegations of bullying and harassment” with a panel expected to report before Christmas.

Rashid said in a statement: “I am resigning as a sabbatical officer at Goldsmiths students’ union due to personal reasons.

“I thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve as a sabbatical officer, and hope that in my short time as a full-time officer, I have been able to at least fulfill some of the expectations you had for me, and made an impact on the student experience at Goldsmiths.”

Beneath the statement, a passage read: “The sabbatical officer team is aware of allegations of bullying and harassment. Goldsmiths students’ union takes these allegations very seriously, and having raised these issues with the Trustee Board, will be instigation an independent inquiry, to report back before Xmas. All four sabbatical officers are fully supportive of this process and we ask for students to respect this process.”

An email leaked to Smith Magazine, sent from Rashid in early November to “elected officers” reveals the president initially planned to step down in January 2016.

The email, dated 5 November, reads: “I am very sorry I am unable to do this in person but I am writing to inform you that I am formally putting in my resignation as a Sabbatical Officer at Goldsmiths students’ union.

“I will be terminating my contract at Goldsmiths students’ union in January pending: [redacted].”

The online magazine reports on “repeated testimonies accusing the GSU of serious misconduct and power abuse along with on-going investigations.”

Sabrina Sharif, editor-in-chief of the Leopard, wrote in an letter published yesterday:  “I vowed that the Leopard would be a paper that would be fair, always hold he SU accountable and relay to students what is happening there. However, I have found these goals impossible to meet due to the lack of support from the SU.

“I want to thank everyone who voted for me, the editors, the contributing writers, and everyone else who has supported me in my short run as Editor-in-Chief.”

Zak Thomas, the Leopard‘s comment editor and first to resign, revealed in an open letter published earlier the same day that he had been “working on a story about high profile allegations against people within the SU.”

He wrote: “Not only was I asked to redact certain information, but when I sent the final article to be legally checked by the SU, which is the agreed process, I discovered the article had been shared amongst the people that were accused.

“I believe this was a serious breach of trust, and whilst the SU did not say I couldn’t publish the article, they did not sign it off legally as is the norm. Thus putting the legal burden on myself.”

“If Goldsmiths SU wants a free and independent media, they need to give student journalists the legal support that is necessary to do their work.”

The four elected officers at Goldsmiths students’ union for 2015/16 are president Adrihani Rashid, campaigns & Activities Officer Alex Etches, education officer Daniel Nasr, and welfare & diversities officer Bahar Mustafa.

London Student approached Goldsmiths students’ union several times today but was told the union would only be commenting on the story in a statement which will be released at a later time on its website.

The Leopard’s editor-in-chief Sabrina Sharif was also contacted but did not respond at the time of writing.

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Luize Lazdane