Former YUSU Academic and Welfare Officer Grace Fletcher-Hackwood, who was forced to resign after hitting second-year student Dan Taylor, has claimed that she was driven out because she was a “personal hate figure” for the campus right wing. Fletcher-Hackwood lost a vote of no confidence proposed by Taylor, which generated an unprecedented turn-out of 1400 students, by just eight votes.
Speaking exclusively to Nouse in her first interview since losing the vote on February 7, Fletcher-Hackwood said: “I don’t think anybody’s fooled for a second into thinking that Dan Taylor believed I couldn’t do my job. He doesn’t care, because he doesn’t think YUSU should exist. But the things I’ve done during my time at York – my feminism, and standing as a Labour councillor – have made me a personal hate figure not just for him, but for a lot of the right wing on campus. The chance to get rid of me just wasn’t something they were going to pass up.”
Fletcher-Hackwood hit Taylor outside a Chav D event in January, during an argument over whether YUSU should use ethical merchandise. Taylor proposed a motion of no confidence the following week, which was discussed at a Union General Meeting on Januar 30, and voting was carried out subsequently online. Despite losing by only eight votes, Fletcher-Hackwood has decided not to appeal at an Emergency General Meeting, on the grounds that “It would be too messy”.
Though Fletcher-Hackwood has questioned Taylor’s motives for proposing the vote, she acknowledged that the result was ultimately decided by the student body. “I know there aren’t 656 people who hate me personally. It’s obvious that a lot of people voted because they genuinely thought that someone who hits a student isn’t a suitable welfare officer, and I can’t blame them for that. But I think a lot of that was due to manipulation by Dan. He was always going to use this for personal and political capital,” she said.
Taylor denies that his decision to propose the vote was motivated by personal dislike. He said: “I believe that the decision should be in the hands of students as to whether they wish to keep an Academic and Welfare officer in her position after assaulting a student. That is what the incident boiled down to when one was sensible and removed the personalities involved. I hoped that Grace would have the self-respect after the incident to resign. Clearly she saw her position as a right and not a privilege, and her lack of integrity shone through.”
Having resigned her position, Fletcher-Hackwood plans to move to Manchester, where she will take a law conversion course. She said: “Dan Taylor doesn’t appreciate what he’s done. He didn’t care what happened to YUSU, and he probably finds it very funny that he’s taken away something so important to me. But to me, and to YUSU, this is not a game. It’s something really quite serious, and it has been very upsetting.”
YUSU President Anne-Marie Canning, who will take over the Academic and Welfare brief until the end of the year, said she accepted Fletcher-Hackwood’s decision not to appeal. She said: “We support Grace in her decision which no doubt was a difficult one to make. The sabbaticals are saddened to have lost a member of the team but we wish Grace luck in all her future endeavors.’”
Canning admitted that the EGM would have been difficult politically. She said: “It would probably have undermined people’s faith in the UGM and could have possibly disenfranchised various students. In terms of moving forward for the Union this is the best result.”
Fletcher-Hackwood’s office has been emptied of her personal belongings and its resources made available to college welfare teams.