To UCU members

Re: An Appeal from Survivors A&B

We have been following with deep concern and increasing distress some of the reactions to the aftermath of the Rule 13 case exposure. Yet again we felt thrust into a situation that we didn’t seek to be in, that of yet again having to speak up to defend our position in an atmosphere of distrust and blame-shifting. But today we feel empowered by the news of the successful trial of Harvey Weinstein and the statement made by the attorney representing his victims: 

“No matter how powerful a person is, no matter how much mud or dirt may be flung at those who have the courage to come forward, we are in a new time. The #MeToo era has thankfully started to unmask these systems of abuse of power, and now women can be heard and believed.” 

We are speaking out because we are deeply worried that some of the information circulated in public recently does not reflect our experience and may divert attention from deep-rooted problems at our Union. We do not pursue an emotional appeal here, and we do not rely on the support of political networks, we are not affiliated to any faction or ‘weaponised’ by anyone. When we started the Rule 13 case, we had only one supporter from our branch committee, and only one supporter from the regional office. Two people only were brave enough to stand with us against power, and we will be forever grateful for that.  We had no one else from the local structures because that is how power works: it rewards those who side with it, or it freezes action in others due to fear. But we had something more powerful than that, we had the truth and the truth will always stand in the way of those who seek to supress it. The truth is where we draw our strength to speak out again now.

We are asking members to back a full and independent investigation of the circumstances that allowed our abuser to be supported by a network of internal allies who hold powerful positions in the Union.Two years after the case was closed, there is still a resistance to recognise wrongdoing and offer an apology, and there are still attempts to misconstrue or block an honest and open discussion of the extent of involvement of powerful UCU Left figures and other UCU officers. This has been highly damaging for us and for the organisation. We experienced abuse in the Union, and through its particular networks of power, and this trauma is remaining, and we still fear covert retaliation by those we try to hold responsible. We do not want this to happen to anyone else again.

For those of us who know all the facts, and have seen the evidence submitted in the case, and who are still living through the consequences of standing up against power, the past week has revealed one key lesson. Expulsion of perpetrators, or ‘structural’ change in the form of rule modification or creating support mechanisms for individuals affected by sexual harassment from members of the Union, while positive actions, will not achieve justice, and it will not achieve meaningful change. This is not a case of one ‘charismatic man’ who was able to mislead his followers and take advantage of his status. It is a culture of abuse, and in this case a very long-term and much wider spread abuse of power, and many others also in power – and sadly that includes women enablers, too – are accountable. We are convinced that trust cannot exist without accessible mechanisms of seeking such accountability. We hope all members are too. 

This is also an appeal that is forward-looking, and restorative. There should be a clear signal that such behaviours will not be tolerated ever again. Placing truth at the heart of the process, and thus restoring a sense of dignity and equality for the victims is the only way to a personal recovery, reinstating trust and transforming experiences of institutional trauma. We still hope to see our Union delivering justice, and becoming truly open and transparent, truly democratic, and putting the value of individual life in the centre of our fight for social justice. And we hope that our Union will set this example for others to follow.

Thank you to all fellow members who were, and are brave in openly supporting us and sharing our statements.

Thank you to all branches who will support meaningful change in tackling sexual harassment at UCU.

Finally, we express support and solidarity with all members who are currently on strike. 

A&B

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