Chris Steven expelled from QMU Board over tweet complaints : Interview with Steven.

Published

Nathan Stilwell & Tom Kelly

On Monday the Glasgow Guardian learned,  through a post Chris Steven made on the Queen Margaret Union Social Committee Facebook group, that Steven had left his role as convenor.

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Chris had recently lost the presidential election at the QMU, earning only 75 votes. Just two days before there had been a revelation in the Glasgow Guardian that he had been running a twitter account that had published many offensive tweets.

The QMU acknowledged that Steven had left the board and that Kat Denholm had been appointed to the role as Ad-Hoc Convenor at the Board of Management meeting. When asked by the Glasgow Guardian if Steven had resigned the QMU President said he hadn’t and when asked if a vote of no confidence had been cast against him the President responded that the business was confidential (any successful vote of no confidence would not be). The Glasgow Guardian decided to reach out to Chris Steven himself for an answer. An interview was arranged on the matter for the following day which can be read below.

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Glasgow Guardian: You have recently left your position as Social Convenor at the QMU, we understand that you were not voted out through a vote of no confidence, nor did you resign, could you explain the circumstances of you remitting office?

Chris Steven: Basically, after the first article that was published about me, there were four complaints sent to the Hon. Assistant Secretary, who deals with discipline at the Union, pertaining to me and my involvement at the Union. There were calls that I be disciplined as a member of the board of management as I was serving as social convenor. Basically, what has happened here, and it’s actually very rare that this does happen, because the outside people have complained to the board of management, and I feel it’s not particularly related to conduct in the building or on board duty, they have had to assemble a committee of current board members and obviously the Hon. Asst. Sec., who’s not a member.  The people who have lodged the complaints are able to go to represent themselves and give written reports. At the conclusion of the meeting, I’ve been basically told that the punishment I shall receive is that I have until half past five on the day [Monday] to resign as social convenor because I have been found to have brought the union into disrepute. If I am not to offer my own resignation, as of half past five, I shall be removed from the board of management and I am also suspended from the building, all use of the building, for 6 months. I’m not allowed in there, I’m not allowed any involvement in the QMU and I didn’t want to come away saying I had quit [Steven did not resign]. It may be a very vain thing to do, [but] I know the Union has had past problems with social convenors quitting and I really enjoyed what I was doing there as social convenor. I thought I was making real progress and I thought I was doing some good work there and I didn’t want to come away saying I quit on the Union. I’m happy for people to think the Union quit on me, but I never quit on the union. I’m not giving them a resignation, just like there were calls for me to resign from running as president at Hustings, and I said i wouldn’t do it. If I was elected I would continue on as president same way here as I was voted in to be social convenor. I didn’t want to quit on the electorate that had put me there, so I was removed from the board of management at half past five yesterday.

Glasgow Guardian: Had you been censored before?

Stevens: No

Glasgow Guardian: That was your first offence?

Stevens: That was my first offence, yeah

Glasgow Guardian: Were they counted as four separate events because they were four separate complaints or is it considered one?

Stevens: I think it’s considered one, but it’s unusual that its more than one complaint. If you think about things that a board member could possibly do, to have charges brought against him, it’s usually a one on one case; board member not fulfilling quota, board member not fulfilling their obligations as convenor, I don’t know, violence, whatever. The nature of the charge was one that multiple people had, so it was dealt with differently. The Hon. Assistant Sec was saying that in his time, he hadn’t seen a case quite like this

Glasgow Guardian: So the charge was bringing the union into disrepute?

Steven: I had the chance if I wanted to, to say that I didn’t think that was the correct charge. I read through all the possible offenses and although I still maintain that I don’t think I brought the whole union into disrepute, I think I brought myself personally into disrepute. I think I have harmed my own reputation more than I have harmed the reputation of the Union. There wasn’t quite a charge that more appropriately fitted what I had believed I’d done… If this was court you’ve tried me for the right charge but I’m still pleading not guilty to it. Obviously I was found guilty in the end, I guess.

Glasgow Guardian: you mentioned that it was a group of board members that was assembled for this committee. Our understanding is that when this group is called together, it’s called together by the Hon. Asst Sec. So as well as chairing they select who’s on that committee. Do you think that selection process should be the way it is or do you think it should be random?

Steven: I think it should be selected by the Hon. Asst. Sec. You’ve put someone in that position whose job description is to deal with discipline, you are meant to use the best of your knowledge and the best of your understanding to evaluate what is fairest. I think if it’s random it can lead to an unfair situation, either being too lenient on the person or too against. Let’s say randomly it selected three friends of mine, I’m not saying it didn’t, obviously I’m obliged not to tell who was on the committee. I think the Hon. Asst Sec assesses what’s best for the situation and who is in the best situation to judge whether or not someone should be guilty or not guilty, I think it’s alright, I wouldn’t change it personally. Others might have a different view

Glasgow Guardian: So you have been banned from the Union for six months. After this 6 months do you plan on working your way back into the Union?

Steven: 6 months is a long time away from now. One of the reasons I ran for president this year is because I didn’t want to hold off until I graduated, because I didn’t know how I would feel about the Union, obviously 2 years is a long time. I feel like I’m still passionate about the Union now, there are changes I would like to see now. I don’t want to hold on two years because it’s not my go because I’ve not graduated. I don’t agree with pertaining to the status quo like that. I ran this year because I thought the time was right for me, six months from now is a long time. I have no idea how I feel at the moment, I feel like it’s an institution that has turned its back on me, so I’m in no rush to go back there. Six months from now, I might feel differently. One of the things the new president, Max Sefton, said the night of the election was: there’ll always be a place for me, and Max and I have always been friendly. Right now, it’s nothing against anyone or the board of management, but as a Union, do I really want to go back there? It’s not a case of me running down the road either, I’m not a turncoat like that. I don’t really know what the future holds to be honest but yeah you will probably see me back at the Union before I finish university. On what terms I don’t know. I don’t think I’m going to go back as CSR to prove my point. If I go back with the intention of running I’m intent on running for president.

Glasgow Guardian: So obviously following the Glasgow Guardian article last week, you had a hustings meeting, at which there were a number of people who, as you mention earlier, insisted that you resign from running for president, what were your feelings on that evening?

Chris: It’s an odd one; you guys launched an article the day before saying how the QM was killing itself due to its clique nature. We were told in no uncertain terms to prepare for that question. I didn’t feel like I needed to prepare anything, I feel like I knew what I wanted to say, but in the end I didn’t have to say anything it was shown [in what happened] it was displayed. It wasn’t a hustings, as it’s been documented. The majority didn’t turn up to quiz the presidential candidates about membership or first years, whatever, I think 8 of the 12 questions to candidates were aimed at me, and they could be interpreted as personal attacks. I sat there as I listened to people I didn’t know personally, who didn’t know me personally, attack me, ask about white privilege, which I thought was a really irrelevant question when you are asking three white candidates who are at university, who are not in the best position to talk about white privilege. It’s not a question, you already know the answer, and you’re just trying to get a round of applause out of a crowd that is clearly hostile to one candidate. I didn’t feel it was a hustings, I didn’t feel like I got much of a chance to talk about my policies, I tried to address that. In my two-minute speech I tried to address that, I tried to address the article, I said what I would do with first years, what I would do with the club night and what I would do with food factory. The thing is nobody cared, nobody cared at all and that was the moment I knew that a lot of those people weren’t in the room because they were there for the election. A lot of people were there to voice their opinions about me as a person and to attack me as a person. I don’t really feel that is what you would call a hustings at all, and it disrespects the other candidates as well, they’re there to talk about their policies to talk about their campaigns, they are being completely ignored in order to have personal attacks at me, and I sat there and there was a time I sat there and thought about walking off, I really did, I thought ‘this isn’t what I came here to answer’, but I sat there and I took all the shots that people could give me and I didn’t waver and I didn’t quake and I tried to talk about my policies but people weren’t interested.

Glasgow Guardian: You and I [Tom Kelly is speaking] spoke following the Hustings about the possibility of you issuing an apology and you took some interest in issuing an apology, through the Guardian, for the tweets. Are you still interested in apologising to students?

Chris: The reason I didn’t want to rush an apology out is because I didn’t want people to think it was a cheap publicity stunt. Chris Steven saying the day before the elections ‘I’m sorry come vote for me now’. I am deeply apologetic, I never meant to cause any offense, I know I have offended people, I know I have deeply offended people, I offended people to such an extent that were questioning whether they were welcome in the Union, now I’m not welcome in the Union. I am deeply apologetic and I would like to apologize, it’s my deepest regret that I have upset people, it’s not really about me, it’s not about me losing the presidency. I feel like I have opened eyes the of people, I feel I have given your article about the QM’s cliqueness a lot of weight and substance. A lot of people came up to me after and said they had never seen the QMU like this. I’ve only heard stories about the QM’s clique nature. I’m not apologetic that I’ve opened people’s eyes to it, but I am apologetic that I have offended people. The fact that I’ve made people question whether or not they think that they are objects to be talked about, that was not my intention in any of this. I’ve never once directly attacked a person or tried to attack groups and that. They were saying in part of my ban that minority groups need protection from Chris Steven in this ban and I don’t think they do, that’s not who I am as a person; I’m not a dangerous person but I’m deeply apologetic that people have these conceptions. It’s not that I got caught, it’s that people who don’t know me believe this about me and I have upset people to the point that without knowing me they will make these judgements, they will make these preconceptions. I think it’s a bit ironic that this whole thing is based on prejudice and now I’m the victim of prejudice. It’s come full circle completely, where I am the one being judged. I’m the one not being welcomed and this has come as a consequence of the potential for it to be taken that way, from my tweets, and I am deeply apologetic and when the time comes i would like to issue a full apology. I don’t use it as a way of ‘I hope the Union will take me back’, I don’t want them to, I don’t want to go back I mean. I just want to apologise to everybody I have offended and I mean that sincerely, whether people or not take it that way, there’s not much you can do

Glasgow Guardian: You mentioned you were told to prepare for questions on Doug Jack’s article. Do you think the QM is inclusive?

How quickly would it turn against anyone else? it’s not inclusive, I pointed this out in my presidential debate, we do nothing, to take the drive to new people to say, to say ‘this is why you should be members’, we are expecting people to come to us and we have been happy for people to come to us for the longest time. That’s why our membership numbers are declining, that’s why our finances on a whole, why us as a Union are not performing adequately, we are not practicing what we preach, we are not doing enough to  engage new members. We talk and we talk and we talk about engagement. Candidates who said what they would actually do at hustings, nobody cared, because everyone was there with an agenda against me, yeah we are… well they are, I guess I’m not part of it anymore, the QMU is a massive clique yeah. How many people in that room were there mutually? They were friends of candidates, fresher’s helpers, tech team, [general] people aren’t interested in elections, they have lost their interest in the Union already, I acknowledge that ,I tried to change things, but nobody wanted me to be the person, the catalyst for change.

(On a number of occasions Chris Steven implies that a particular article on the QMU belonged to the Glasgow Guardian. While it was published in the Glasgow Guardian, the Glasgow Guardian would like to clarify that, as with all views pieces, the opinions expressed in that article and their ownership lie with the individual author).