Union executive accused of racism

January 23, 2003

The National Union of Students executive has been accused of racism by its black students committee after an African student was barred from an executive meeting.

The black students committee has unanimously passed a motion that accuses NUS president Mandy Telford and national secretary Penny Hollings of denying Benson Osawe "his basic student rights and  promoting institutionalised racism within the national union". The nine-member committee wants Ms Telford and Ms Hollings to apologise publicly.

According to the motion, Mr Osawe was excluded from an NUS national executive committee meeting last July because of a number of allegations against him raised by Ms Telford and Ms Hollings. But six months later, "none of the issues or allegations that were made have been made formally or substantiated", the motion says.

Mr Osawe, a Manchester University student, is chairman of the Council for International Students. He attended the meeting as a council observer. The motion says that he agreed to leave the meeting on the basis that the complaints be dealt with formally before the next NEC meeting.

"Four months and three NEC meetings later, this issue has not been resolved, and Benson Osawe has not been invited to observe NEC meetings," the motion says. "Benson Osawe has been the victim of injustice... denied the due process of a fair trial and been presumed to be guilty until proven innocent."

An NUS spokeswoman said that neither Ms Telford nor Ms Hollings was available to comment as The THES went to press, and the black students' motion did not detail the allegations made against Mr Osawe. But Mr Osawe told The THES that he had been accused of being homophobic after he raised objections to a proposal from the lesbian, gay and bisexual student campaign to add two representatives to the black students' campaign.

"I have nothing against LGB students at all, but  challenged a motion on the grounds that the black students' campaign did not have the resources for two new posts," he said. "I suggested that one post would be enough."

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