I’ve been reading the Charity Commission web site (yes, I know how to have a wild Friday night) and I’ve come across some things which I found interesting:

  • Apparently charitable students’ unions (such as UBU) should not comment publicly on issues which do not affect the welfare of students as students. The web site gives the following examples:

    • planning proposals for new roads or motorways which have no direct affect on the university campus or the students;
    • campaigns to outlaw the killing of whales; and
    • the treatment of political prisoners in a foreign country.

    To my mind that would make a fair amount of our policy illegal. We have current policy giving public comment on the war, the fire service strike, the situation in Palestine etc. Now I know that all these issues do, in fact, have a great personal affect on many of our students but simply in line with those examples, they look illegal.

    However, to my mind, issues like the Nestle and Bacardi boycotts would be legal, because while they may not directly affect students as students, the range of products sold in our bars and shops certainly does affect students as members of our association. Possibly, however, the policies should be phrased so as to be a reflection of students’ concerns, rather than a statement of the Union’s position.

  • Also, while a charitable students’ union may not support a political party or use its money for political ends, it may:

    encourage students to develop their political awareness and acquire knowledge of or debate political issues. To achieve this it may make grants to political clubs or societies on the campus.

    Now, again, to my mind that seems to say that we could donate money to societies and they could spend it to whatever political ends they like, provided they were constitutionally separate bodies from the Union to which we gave money; and not actually a part of the union itself. I also see no reason (so far) that that necessarily precludes us from having a Societies Federation for discussion of said grants and other general Union issues to which societies could (or could be required to) affiliate, without technically becoming a part of the Union.

Bare in mind though, that I am not a lawyer, and I have not been reading the law itself, just government guidance. I do intend to read the full 1993 Charities Act when I have time.

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