Police investigate South Bank union

March 15, 1996

Police were called to South Bank University student union this week to investigate allegations that executive officers misused union funds.

Officers from Southwark police station are investigating six executive officers who have been suspended. A police spokeswoman said there have been no arrests.

The six officials were suspended by the university following the preliminary findings of an internal audit. They had failed to get a High Court injunction to stop the audit.

The university submitted the preliminary findings to the Charity Commission which suspended the six as trustees of the union, which has charitable status. It also froze the union's accounts.

University authorities say that a seventh executive member has also been suspended after separate allegations of disrupting the student programme and intimidation.

Meanwhile, the suspended students, six of whom are black or Asian, are claiming they have been victims of racial discrimination and have contacted the Commission for Racial Equality which says it is looking into their complaint.

The suspended students, two of whom are in their final year, have also taken a High Court action out against the university, alleging that it failed to abide by regulations governing union funding.

Anozie Anyanwu, spokesman for the suspended students, said: "Victimisation in this university is incredible. But we are making a stand. The High Court is waiting for the university to present its evidence."

The university's Natfhe branches voted last week for the lifting of the suspensions on all seven students. Mary Davis, secretary of Natfhe's co-ordinating committee, said: "Suspension was inapropriate in these cases. We felt that it should be used only as a last resort when there is a risk to life and limb."

Vice chancellor Gerald Bernbaum denied accusations of victimisation and a university spokesman added that rules agreed with the students allowed for the suspension of a student when there was a serious threat to staff, students or property.

National Union of Students national secretary Ben Elger and former South Bank advice bureau manager Maggie Hamilton have been appointed by the Charity Commission to help run the union with the remaining five executives.

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