Accusations that one of the YUSU Part-Time Officers, Lawrence Binitie- one of the Racial Equality Officers no less- has been making racially offensive comments kick-starts this term with suitable sensationalism. This story, however, has snowballed, quite dramatically, and has escalated from a passionate political discussion to a public brawl.
YUSU Officers, part-time or sabbatical, are elected by the student body to fulfill a role, and with those positions, cliche but true, comes great responsibility. However, clear limits and parameters between the professional and personal must be drawn. Whether staggering out of Ziggys or volunteering to clean up the local graveyard, we will be judged by others. But just because you are a YUSU Officer, you cannot be a paragon of virtue, sobriety and clean-cut respectability all of the time.
“This story has escalated from a political discussion to a public brawl”
Unlike last term’s issue of rubgy racism, in which racist comments were posted to the team’s official Twitter account, Binitie was engaged in a private discussion in a personal capacity; as a student, not an officer. The furore that has emerged in the wake of the comments made, involving various sabbatical officers and provoking accusations of blackmail and threats of votes of no confidence, has failed to recognise the boundaries between the personal and the political.
This is an example of personal preference and bias running amok amongst politics, something that is evident in national as well as local and student political debate. Expecting Tim Ellis to solve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in his first academic term in office is insane; casting him a mediating role between a student and an interfering local politico is simply unproductive.
The issue in this case is that the comments made are related to the role Binitie was elected to fulfill, and may compromise his credibility. The issue of his credibility, his ability to represent students, and his continuation in office should be down to those people who voted for him. YUSU Sabbatical Officers should ensure that students know all their options with regards to their elected officials; we voted them in, so we should know damn sure how to get them out if we want. But we need to ensure it is done for the right reasons.
Binitie is entitled to his own opinion, although he needs to be aware of the impact airing his views may have on others. However, if Levene felt incapable of dealing with heated and controversial debate in a social forum then his decision to go running to YUSU seems justifiable; however, I would suggest a career change. A personal resolution was required, not a three-ring circus of student politics.