Criticism has been launched by certain students against a clause in the STYC contract.
The clause of contention states that students are not expected to “make negative comments about the college, courses or University.” STYCs who sign their contracts do so in the understanding that failure to adhere to its terms will result in the removal of their position as STYC.
Bob Hughes, the YUSU Welfare Officer, told Nouse: “The clause has been in the main contract, drawn up by YUSU but adaptable for colleges, for a couple of years now, and is there to foster a positive atmosphere of the college and University life at York.
“It is there so that STYCs and Head STYCs recognise the strong role they have as ambassadors of their colleges, but also so that the incoming students, and the parents and carers that bring them to university, aren’t unduly worried.”
The contract and clause was originally drawn up by YUSU last year and was used by JCRs across campus. Students have either interpreted the clause as an Orwellian act of censorship or a necessary insurance of the well-being of potentially vulnerable freshers.
Rob Aitken, Derwent Provost, said he did not see this clause as particularly contentious, “as I would have thought it was obvious (and should not need saying) that when you are in a position of responsibility representing an organisation you do not speak negatively about it.”
But one Derwent Head STYC, who wished to remain anonymous, revealed they believe: “It is unacceptable that YUSU make a clause saying we can’t speak our mind. Where is our freedom of speech?”
Morwenna Egan, an Alcuin STYC, said she felt, “you should be able to give your honest opinion. If there is something bad they should know it.”
While, one James STYC, believes the clause is, “not very helpful when we are trying to give guidance to freshers”.
The contracts tell STYCs that any negative comments, even offered as a joke, can have a serious impact on the concerns and impressions of freshers.
Katy Tinman, Derwent’s Welfare Rep, was present at the meetings about the contract with Bob and the rest of the welfare team and commented: “When freshers move in, I want them to be able to make up their own minds about the university.
“I wouldn’t want any STYCs (who are in a position of responsibility) to unintentionally influence freshers when they may be feeling nervous and vulnerable on their first day at York.”
Amir Walls, first year Vanbrugh student, believes that “whilst its good for the University – it isn’t entirely honest. Is there really anything that bad to say?”
One Langwith fresher agreed; she said, “it would be more helpful if STYCs were completely honest as it is their guidance who we rely upon. It would be useful to be aware of any potential modules to avoid for example.”
The contract also states STYCs are banned from forcing their freshers to partake in any activity that they are uncomfortable with. This includes any alcohol related activity. Intimate relations with freshers in the first two weeks are also forbidden.
With regard to the clause in contention, Laura Watson, James College Chair, said: “it’s not really enforced”, but did comment that “if they turn away a whole block from an event then we [the JCRC} will have words”.
STYCS and Head STYCs can have their paid wristbands removed for contravening their contract.