Richard Brooks, Vice President Union Development at the National Union of Students (NUS) has been cleared of any wrongdoing following an internal investigation.
This followed allegations that Brooks ‘colluded’ with the Israeli embassy to oust National President Malia Bouattia, in light of an investigative documentary by Al-Jazeera. Brooks subsequently referred himself for investigation to the NUS Code of Conduct after the accusations were made in early January.
In a Facebook status made last night, Richard posted the results of the investigation, which cleared him of any misconduct.
The report was carried out by Bevan Brittan LLP, an independent legal firm, and concluded that ‘there was no evidence that the investigators have been presented with or been able to find in the course of this investigation that you colluded with the government of Israel or the Israeli embassy’.
The investigation also stated that it could not find a clear breach of the NUS’s BDS policy (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) in the trip that Brooks took to Israel with the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), as it is not implicitly stated in the aims or action points of the BDS movement that travelling to Israel is wrong.
However, it did call on Richard to consider issuing a ‘swift public apology’ for not declaring this trip to the NUS National Executive Council (NEC). The NEC is the scrutiny and accountability body for NUS officers.
Brooks wrote: “I am grateful to announce that – as I hoped – I have been cleared of any allegations put to me. I have not broken any of NUS’ rules by doing what is part of my job description – campaigning and partaking in democracy – as literally every single other NUS Officer does.
“I have not broken the law by meeting a guy who said he was a student for coffee.”
He also hit out at far left student activists who made the allegations, accusing them of electioneering and anti-Semitism. He claimed it was ‘payback’ as he is a ‘problem’ for the far left, for being a ‘radical progressive voice with NUS’ who stands up for those ‘left behind in the movement’, rather than the ‘for those to whom it is their benefit to keep NUS in the status quo of Russell Group and large HE Students’ Unions with far left politics’.
However, at today’s NEC meeting, a motion was passed to censure Brooks for ‘violating democratic procedures of accountability’.
View the full motions
NEC member Hassun El Zafar proposed the motion and said that “officers should declare all benefits of all kinds”, arguing that if a BME person on the NEC had done the same “they would be put through absolute hell” and that Richard’s actions were a total disregard of democracy’.
Richard himself spoke against the motion, deeming it “hypocritical” and totally discounted in light of the investigation results. He argued that if the motion passed, it showed that political expediency, not facts, was more important.
“If you’re going to condemn someone for trying to understand more about the conflict and support Jewish students, then that is your choice”, he said.
Calls to remove parts of the motion and for a recorded vote were voted down, and the motion in its entirety was passed. Several NEC members and student activists took to Twitter to express their thoughts.
Hareem Ghani, NUS Womens’ Officer tweeted:
Ok, an investigation based on self defined allegations basically means an investigation based on parameters set by the accused #NUSNEC
— daal-ing (@hareemghani) February 28, 2017
Noorulann Shahid, NUS LGBT+ officer (Open Place) said:
This motion isn't about "condemning someone who supports Jewish students" and it is outrageous to imply so #NUSNEC
— نورالعين شاحد (@YxxngHippie) February 28, 2017
NUS Scotland President Vonnie Sandlan said:
Actual LOL at those shouting about democracy, voting against having a nuanced debate in this motion. #NUSNEC
— Vonnie Sandlan (@NUS_Vonnie) February 28, 2017
Richard himself said of the censure. “It is absolutely the right of NEC to use whatever powers they have to hold NUS Officers account. It is disappointing that certain members of NEC would use this to censure someone 24 hours after I was cleared of all wrongdoing. This is unfortunately where we are as a movement. A place where facts seem not to matter and political expediency trumps genuine reality”.
Another controversial motion passed that day was a condemnation of the ‘violation of BDS policy’, in response to NUS officers taking UJS funded trips to Israel, which sparked much debate online and at the meeting.