SU in ‘joke’ bingo scandal

YUSU sabbatical officers have claimed that a game of “students’ bingo” devised by them was “only a joke” and was never intended to be carried out, amidst accusations of “inappropriate and compromising behaviour” by student and University representatives.

Rich Croker, SU President, has confirmed that several sabbatical officers were involved in drawing up a bingo card for the two then single sabbs, Amy Woods and Ben Griffiths, aimed at “pulling” students from various courses, colleges, societies and years, in a variety of locations such as at a campus event or in Ziggy’s, during Freshers’ Week.

Croker acknowledged that, while the “joke” was not specifically aimed at freshers, they were not excluded from the categories. Micky Armstrong, the former YUSU President, is also alleged to have been involved.

Sam Marsden, a University Welfare Advisor, spoke out on Friday against the actions of the sabbatical officers involved: “As a welfare advisor I can appreciate how comments like that would upset people: It’s not constructive in terms of building good relationships with students, or as a demonstration of how the SU thinks of its freshers. Sometimes you do things that you think are a joke without thinking about the consequences, but at the end of the day you have to take your role seriously.”
An anonymous JCRC Welfare Officer said: “I believe that the bingo card made was intended to be fun, but it’s a sad time when upper echelons of YUSU feel it appropriate to pray on the vunerability of students upon their arrival in a new place.”

When questioned, Griffiths claimed that no card was made, but added “it was being bantered around during Freshers’ Week that this is the perfect time to, you know, as it were… it was almost like a matchmaking thing, but nothing ever came out of it.”
Matt Burton, Goodricke JCRC Chair, claimed that the game was “a joke”. He said: “Obviously abusing your position for a game is wrong, but I think it was never carried out. It was meant as a joke, but I guess it’s fallen flat on its face.”

Woods said “it’s a standing joke that you can pull in Freshers’ Week, but I would never ever do anything like that… I have a fair background in welfare things, and no-one has done anything inappropriate in my book.”

The YUSU Academic and Welfare Officer, Amy Foxton, was unwilling to condemn the situation, claiming that it had been “blown out of proportion”. She said: “to say that there is a culture of inappropriateness is completely unjustified with our sabbatical team this year. If there was anything that I did feel was inappropriate or unnecessary I would have stepped in with my welfare hat on and said no guys, don’t do this, but nothing did happen.”

Dave Jones, Derwent JCR Chair said: “It was just a joke, just a stupid jokey gesture. It wasn’t as if the card was passed on to all the lads; Amy [Woods] was involved as well. It was tongue in cheek. They’re stupid enough to run for an SU position but they’re not that stupid.”

When asked what the implications of freshers hearing about the bingo game might be, Griffiths replied: “It was supposed to be between the six of us, because obviously we’re really good friends, so the welfare concerns it brings up put us in a very compromising position. If we’re having to work with students we don’t know then something like that would be fairly concerning, and detrimental to the hard work we do.”

Rich Croker, the SU President, said: “Any situation where anyone’s welfare is placed in jeopardy I would not consider funny. The fact that it was just a joke about two sabbs who were single, at the time was funny to us.” Croker claimed that the current sabbatical team are the “most clean-cut in years” in terms of sleeping with freshers, claiming: “I think we’re the only sabbs who haven’t.”

16 comments

  1. How sad can you get??? And to think we elected these people! Because we’re really going to go to them NOW when we’re having relationship issues, difficulties on our course… etc.
    Not so clean-cut after all…

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  2. It’s interesting that the only people I’ve talked to who don’t believe that this was out of order are people involved with the SU in some way. Obviously it was just a silly joke, but what’s most worrying is that some of the people involved still don’t see why it’s inappropiate when you’re a paid representative for students. I’m sure lots of other students make similar gags, but is it too much to expect for our elected officers to have a little bit more maturity?

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  3. 11 Dec ’06 at 10:45 pm

    Toby Anstis or Hugo Chavez or someone

    YUSU: run by a collective of unrepresentative, CV-enhancing pillocks in hoodies? Discuss [10 Marks].

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  4. To be fair the people who seem to think this story is really bad are those who want to cause trouble. As a first year I find it funny the amount everyone criticises the JCRCs and SU – at the end of the day all they are trying to do is make life easier for us.

    Yes they may improve their CV’s but don’t all the journalists for Nouse and Vision every time they write a piece for the paper. Surely that is the same for all societies and sports clubs?!

    Also can someone explain the reason why the SU can censor what they want from the papers!? That seems dodgy to me!?

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  5. 3 Jan ’07 at 9:11 pm

    Amy Foxton - YUSU Academic and Welfare Officer

    SU officers do not and cannot censor what we want from the papers – surely if this was the case then articles (like the one above) which were critical of SU officers would not appear in print! I read the papers before they go to print to check for anything which might negatively affect the welfare of a student, one recent example of this is an article which explained how to break into student accomodation which would have put the safety of all students who lived in that block at risk. The papers are also checked for legal reasons to prevent the papers (and thus YUSU) being sued for libel etc. Our papers are more independent from the union than at most universities and perhaps this is the reason for their success. If you want to learn more about the Media Charter then you can find it in the Union Code: http://www.yusu.org/union/docs/minutes/UnionCode12-05-06.pdf

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  6. In answer to Dave’s point, the SU (or at least the Sabs) are paid representatives by the students for the students, and therefore should come under harder examination than those that volunteer. However even members of JCRCs and non-paid members of the SU are elected to help students, and should be open to criticism when they fail to do so.

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  7. I think it’s pathetic that the journalists can’t find a proper story to cover which really affects students, and have to rely on trying to dig dirt on the people that make sure that the paper can run, by financing it, making sure it isn’t liable and working over 80 hours to run a freshers week for all first year students.

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  8. I think that it is admirable that the paper has the independence to print stories such as this despite its links to the SU. Student welfare should be at the heart of both the SU and the student newspapers, and this story showed that this isn’t always the case for the SU. At least the newspaper showed its loyalty to the students by not suppressing the story.

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  9. I fully agree with what Toby has said, and I agree with Tom. ‘Disgusted’ is perhaps a suitable way of summing up how many will feel about this. This article is not plain old dirt-digging. It is in our interests to know if the welfare officers at our university are immature enough to encourage this kind of behaviour.

    Simply put, going out and pulling random people is not a mature way to act. It doesn’t convey a strong sense of maturity about relationships, nor of how to treat other people. Those elected as welfare representatives should know a lot better, and should have realised straight away that some people would not react positively to this lame idea of a joke.

    I think there will be quite a large number of students at York who will be disappointed, if not surprised, to find that the individuals who hold such important positions within our SU are involved in activities as imbecilic as this. Although for a great deal of people going out, getting drunk and pulling strangers seems to be the ‘student experience’, there are others who don’t think very highly of this idea, and would prefer our representatives, especially those of welfare, not to act in this way.

    It’s good to see one of the student papers produce this story when so much of the student journalism propagated about campus focuses on the drunken antics aspect of student life. I’m not out to cause trouble by wantonly critising the SU reps, but I think that perhaps they should act with a little more maturity and integrity. I’m confident that I am not the only individual who believes this.

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  10. alex, to add to tom and walter’s replies, you should have a look at vision’s story about the hockey club’s wife-beating social to see the hypocrisy over this issue from some of the SU. in the vision article a member of the SU (Amy Foxton i believe) condemned the hockey club’s behaviour, saying it was wrong to trivalise something like domestic violence as a ‘joke’.

    that’s fair enough, yet i don’t understand how they can condemn that yet refuse to condemn making jokes about taking advantage of students when they are in the responsible and priveliged position they are. at least with the hockey club’s people in charge they are volunteers and elected to be sports captains, not to care for students. yet the SU are paid for by the students, elected for by the students and are supposed to look after the students. yet they (especially Welfare) have refused to condemn their friends, instead going for a sports club. i’m not trying to judge whether domestic violence is a worse subject to make a joke out of, but the importance is mainly in who’s making the joke and what their responsibilites are.

    and alex, to suggest that Nouse shouldn’t run an anti-SU story because they finance the paper is just pretty wrong in every way if you believe in a free press, not least because the money that Nouse does get (which is nowhere near enough to keep it running for a year by the way) is again students money. Therefore the best thing Nouse can do for students is to scrutinise how their representatives are operating.

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  11. 19 Feb ’07 at 11:20 am

    Amy Foxton - YUSU Academic and Welfare Officer

    Toby, to respond to your comment, yes I did say that domestic violence should not be trivialized as a joke. It’s my job to raise student awareness about issues that affect student welfare and domestic violence is one of them.

    It is not my job to condemn my fellow officers, or any other group of students. Jokes about taking advantage of students are also inappropriate especially if made by sabbatical officers, who are paid to help students. I was not involved in the bingo incident, nor would I have been had I been around at the time, but I knew it had been joked about. As I stated above, had I believed anyone was going to act inappropriately I would have spoken to them about this. The ‘joke’ that bingo involved was about the suggestion of who single officers could kiss, and involved no suggestion of taking advantage of students. Had the bingo game ever been carried out then I would condemn it, but to compare a social which is carried out by large numbers of students and trivializes something which will affect and offend a huge number of students to a small joke discussed after hours which was never intended to be acted upon seems ridiculous.

    I’m in favour of Nouse (and Vision) running anti-SU stories, as long as they are accurate. We should be held to account by students; you vote for us, you choose what we do (via UGMs) and we are paid by you.

    In response to Walter’s point, I am the only sabbatical who is a welfare officer per se, although all sabbaticals should of course act in the interests of students at all times and I never encouraged the bingo incident.

    There are some students at York who don’t believe in sex before marriage, there are others who will go out every night of the week and pull different people; it is not my job to judge either group, but to provide help and support for all students.

    If you want your sabbs to do anything, then get in touch with them, or write a UGM motion. Consider running for election this term or if not make sure you read nomination forms and publicity before voting for next years officers.

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  12. I believe that, in issues of welfare such as the bingo ‘joke’, it is up to you to condemn your fellow officers. Their behaviour was immoral, irresponsible, and imbecilic for individuals in their privileged position.

    Amy, you said that the bingo joke was ‘never intended to be acted upon.’ I’m really not sure about this. I have known similar lists to be drawn up by people I know, and they have acted on it. For all we know, the bingo list was acted upon. It would be the typical response of a student who thought it was a good idea to actually draw up that list to then attempt to carry it out in Ziggys. I’m glad you never encouraged the bingo incident, but I am disappointed you haven’t condemned it.

    I understand that it is your job to provide help and support for all students. I fall into neither of the groups which you will not pass judgement on above. However, I think those who ‘will go out every night of the week and pull different people’ endanger the welfare of too many students. For me, I find it difficult because our uni seems to have a drinking culture, in which doing idiotic deeds when drunk, and then blaming the alcohol the next day is not only normal, but expected and encouraged. This behaviour should be openly condemned. It’s weak. This behaviour is so prominent that it makes those who choose not to engage in this lifestyle feel inadequate, unpopular and unliked, even though they lead more disciplined and morally astute lives. It makes them feel like they don’t fit in. You are the representative which should be condemning this kind of behaviour. Here, in these responses to this article, you see a group of disgruntled students who do not wish our union to endorse that kind of activity. They would like it, if anything, to clamp down on it. I’m asking you here to openly condemn the actions of those officers, and those who take part in these stupid activities. I think there are others who would echo this call.

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  13. Whilst I agree with the fact that a lot of the SU officers dont always fulfill their roles properly I think that their attitude towards the media can often be explained by poor reporting.

    Having been a non-sabb officer previously I can clearly state that the accuracy of the papers is often appalling, and tells half the story. Surely those who work for students, despite their failings and faults, should be entitled to accurate reporting of actions. I know some reporters are fair but some are just plain vindictive.

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  14. Anon- I’m sure some campus papers make mistakes but what is inaccurate in this story? They owned up to it after all.

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  15. The behaviour of sabbatical officers never really reflects the policy of the union – you’d be hard-pressed to find a group of 6 sabbs whose behaviour parallels YUSU’s own equal opportunities policy. They may state in public that they are all for ‘equality and diversity’ but in private some of them will be homophobic, sexist, make jokes about disability, generally spend most of their working hours hungover, have a distinct ‘them and us’ opinion about non-uk students, bullies, and are usually not the most embracing group of people. However, there are exceptions to that rule – but they are usually too timid to stand up to the people they have to work with every day for a year.

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  16. Ha!

    I have just read this fascinating article and I seem to recall that in my day freshers were always easy prey for any JCRC, SU officer or even Nouse Editor lol. I was at York from 72 to 75 and I whilst we never played Bingo, there was always a full house.

    Nikki, Ents Chair 1974 !

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