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Herald Letter to the Editor – Response to Gavin Tulloch

Glasgow University Union’s board must take heed of outside opinion

Monday 18 March 2013

GAVIN Tulloch assures us that the Glasgow University Union (GUU) “does not tolerate prejudice, however manifested” (Letters, March 15).


The nature of this response raises three questions. Does Mr Tulloch dispute the eye-witness accounts of sexist heckling during the Ancients’ Final? Does he dispute that the lack of action against this behaviour, during the debate, amounts to tolerance of sexism? Or does he believe the comments made towards Ms Meredith and Ms Valles do not comprise prejudice? Perhaps the equality and diversity training he mentions is of even greater necessity than I had thought.

Mr Tulloch promises an independent review of the GUU’s culture. By whom, I wonder? Perhaps by our university’s Rector, Charles Kennedy, who – mysteriously silent on this debacle – is an ex-president of the GUU, and graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1982? Which side of the picket was he on when the union was forced to admit women in 1980?

I’m inclined to welcome the immediate suspension of all single-sex dinners, though this issue is more complex than an all-out ban could handle. What is needed is a more thought-out strategy on how to differentiate between what does and does not constitute prejudice; ideally accompanied by a generous helping of common sense. A coincidentally single-sex dinner is not, in essence, discriminatory. A dinner which explicitly bans a particular sex or gender is. An event which celebrates past discrimination is also inherently discriminatory. I wonder if an extreme parallel could illustrate the problem with the Last All Male Board dinner and other similar traditions. Would the Montgomery Bus Company hold an annual all-white dinner celebrating the last segregated bus? Would that escape criticism?

Mr Tulloch writes that “where change is required, we will change” – an echo of the final line of the GUU’s constitution, Article XVIII, Interpretation, which states that the constitution will apply “mutatis mutandis to ladies”. How archaic that in a document which speaks throughout with male or non-gendered pronouns, the female sex is only added as an afterthought; an empty gesture. And then of course, the semantic pedant in me wants to scream – are women not protected by this constitution? I am not a lady. I hold no title, nor land; I am a woman. Is there no place for me in your constitution, your union?

Mr Tulloch seems to miss the point that for many victims of discrimination, the GUU board is not a viable avenue of complaint. Does he insist that ridicule is nothing to be scared of? Or does he simply toe the line that the board will always investigate and bring to justice those responsible? Does he deny that in some historic reported incidents (let’s not fall into that heinous, defamatory trap of taking a victim’s word), it has been the actions of [ex-] board members which have merited complaint?

The truth is that the incident at the Ancients’ Final – and how the GUU board finds in the disciplinary hearing of those responsible – will be the litmus test of how committed they are to the values reported by Mr Tulloch; of how perceptions of “where change is needed” differ between those accused and those accusing. The verdict of the hearing on March 20 will betray their longer-term intentions.

A wise man once said to me that an institution can work in one of two ways: either it will heed the outside warnings and cast out the stains of ignorance, boorishness, and prejudice, to clean the institution’s reputation; or it will close ranks, whitewash, and protect the guilty parties.

On Wednesday we will discover which of these ways the GUU will choose. I can only hope for the better outcome. And remind Mr Tulloch that the eyes of the nation watch him; and of the proverbial nature of the fury of a woman, scorned.

Gillian Reoch,


Thorn Drive, Bearsden.


Statement from the President – 15/3/13

by Glasgow University Union (GUU) (Notes) on Friday, 15 March 2013 at 09:27

As the newly elected President of the Glasgow University Union and on behalf of the GUU Board of Management, I am deeply appalled at the recent allegations of discrimination at our Union. We want to be unequivocal – our Union does not and will not tolerate prejudice, however it is manifested.

The Board is committed to robustly and comprehensively investigating all complaints we receive and we will ensure that where action is required, it will be taken without fear or favour.

We have already decided to commission an independent review into the culture within the GUU to ensure that we provide a welcoming and safe environment for all our members and guests. This review will not prejudice the ongoing investigations but will engage and consult with all interested parties and will work with them to address any and all concerns. Where there are lessons to be learned, we will learn, and where change is required, we will change.

This process of change has already begun. We will be working closely with the University of Glasgow on equality and diversity training and this week the Board has decided to suspend all single sex dinners with immediate effect. We have also embarked on consultations with a range of cross-campus societies in conjunction with the Students’ Representative Council. We will take on board, with a view to implementing, any positive suggestions that emerge from those consultations to ensure that any unacceptable behaviour is eliminated.

We will also review how our members and their guests are encouraged to draw unacceptable behaviour to the attention of the Board of Management, and we will make clear to our members, our users and our staff that they also have recourse to the University’s Senate Office in instances of unacceptable conduct. We will work closely with the University of Glasgow to foster an environment of inclusivity and mutual respect, where any actions incompatible with these values will not be tolerated.

Understandably, the University of Glasgow is extremely concerned at the allegations that have been made and is conducting its own investigation into these. We support the university’s investigation and will assist in every possible way. We are extending the period of our own investigation to allow the university to conclude its process. That will give us the most complete picture to allow us to progress in the fairest possible manner.

The allegations that have been reported in recent days have been deeply upsetting for all involved, as they do not reflect the views or experience of the vast majority of our members. As the incoming President I am committed, along with the Board of Management, to listening, learning and acting, and we will work hard to rebuild the trust that we have previously enjoyed with our members and our affiliates. Let us restate: Glasgow University Union does not and will not tolerate discrimination.

If any member, past or present, any visitor to our union or other student within the university, or from further afield wishes to raise any issues with the Board of Management, I encourage them to contact me directly. We will listen, and any comments and experiences will help us learn and better serve the needs of our members and guests in future.

Gavin Tulloch


Glasgow University Union


Tulloch “where change is required, we will change” – sound familiar?

In today’s Herald (15th March 13, p14) current President of the GUU Gavin Tulloch has written a very encouraging letter of the changes the GUU have proposed in order to combat the sexist culture that pervades the GUU.

In the article he said “where change is required, we will change” – an interesting choice of words from Mr Tulloch as this is an interpretation of ‘mutatis mutandis’ – the latin phrase used in Article XVIII attached to the end of the 2010 GUU constitution, to include “ladies” where necessary.

As some of you may know, the hearing of those accused of the misogynistic behaviours of the Ancients’ is on the 20th March – where it is time for the GUU Board to put their money where their mouth is – if they are genuine in their claims this is the litmus test for their commitment to gender equality.


GUU Constitution – ‘Only because we have to!’

We have had reassurance from the GUU that those responsible for the atrocious behaviours at the Ancients’ will be dealt with in accordance with the GUU constitution.

Article XVIII (1) raises an interesting question, however.
The Latin phrase “mutatis mutandis”  literally translates as “the things that should have been changed having been changed” and of course its inclusion in the constitution is clearly a representation that what applies to men in the GUU also applies to women.

However, in this day and age of Ctrl+F, etc, why has the constitution not been updated to include women in its main text? Why are women still only covered by this afterthought? On page 39 of 38, no less.

And why are men referred to as “men” and women as “ladies”?


“Veteran renews sexism battle”

“Veteran renews sexism battle”

Herald Scotland
Andrew Denholm
Tuesday 12 March 2013

“Ms Chalmers, 54, has written to Glasgow University principal Anton Muscatelli recounting her experiences from the past and urging him to act to prevent further damage to the institution’s reputation.”

“How bad does this make the whole university look to the rest of the world? What are you going to do about it?” she added.”

NOTE: If you were part of the campaign to let women into the Union, we are very keen for you to get in touch!



NUS calls for summit on ‘lad culture’

NUS calls for summit on ‘lad culture’

New research published by NUS reveals that that 50 per cent of study participants identified “prevailing sexism, ‘laddism’ and a culture of harassment” at their universities. 

For many participants, ‘lad culture’ had been significant in relation to their personal life. Many reported misogynist jokes and ‘banter’ circulating in their friendship groups which made them feel uncomfortable, and pressures to engage in profuse sexual relationships which made it difficult to establish and maintain commitments. Stories of sexual harassment and molestation were common, and there were also accounts of sexual violence.


Occupation of Beer Bar

Occupation of Beer Bar

In March 1979, women protesters occupied the beer bar at the GUU. Interesting…

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