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KCL UCU Votes to Reinstate Student Officers and Suspend KCL Chairman

Image courtesy Simarchy via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

KCL UCU has voted in favour of suspending King’s Council Chair Lord Geidt and reinstating three elected representatives of the Student Union at their first General Meeting of 2024.

On 24 January, the King’s College London branch of the University and College Union (KCL UCU) called for the immediate suspension of Lord Geidt, Chair of KCL Council, and repeated its demands to reinstate three Student Union (KCLSU) officers who were allegedly suspended for making a statement on social media in support of a ceasefire in Gaza.

KCL UCU unanimously passed a motion in “solidarity” with Student Officers Hassan Ali, Sadaf Abbas Cheema and Alizeh Abrar, who were allegedly suspended in November last year. In a statement released on X, KCL UCU said that “suspending individuals for expressing their opinions on their personal Instagram accounts contradicts the values King’s claims to uphold.”

In the statement published by the three Student Officers on Instagram on 28 November, they called upon the Student Union to publicly condemn the “human rights violations in Gaza, and the ongoing genocide”, and to “express solidarity with Palestinian students”.

In a subsequent post released the next day, they claimed that senior leaders within KCLSU were “extremely aggressive” and had threatened to suspend them if they did not retract their statement on Palestine.

KCL UCU has released several statements in the past two months in support of the student officers, and has included demands for their reinstatement as part of their protests in support of a ceasefire in Gaza.

Roar has not yet confirmed the status of the three student officers in question, and at the time of writing is still waiting for a response from KCLSU, who were approached for comment in early December.

At the same time, KCL UCU also in favour of a motion to suspend Lord Geidt as Chair of King’s Council, while a House of Lords investigation into his conduct remains open. Although details on the nature of the investigation have not been published, it concerns a potential breach of code of conduct, specifically rules that prohibit members of the House of Lords from “accepting or agreeing to accept payment or other incentive or reward in return for providing parliamentary advice or services.”

In addition to his immediate suspension, KCL UCU’s Executive Committee called for “KCL management to reconsider Lord Geidt’s longer term role as Chair of the Council, irrespective of the outcome of the Parliamentary investigation but in consideration of long standing KCL staff concerns over his suitability for this role.”

This statement was made in reference to Geidt’s previous role working as an advisor for the arms manufacturer BAE Systems, which led Union members to pass a motion of no confidence in his position as Chair back in May 2021, citing allegations that BAE was party to war crimes for weapons sold to Saudi Arabia that were used against civilians in Yemen.

The vote of no confidence in Lord Geidt was followed by motions passed by KCL UCU in March 2022 and March 2023, which campaigned for the divestment of the higher education sector and the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS pensions scheme) from the arms industry and companies profiting from war and environmental degradation. The motion for divestment now forms part of national UCU policy after it was passed by the UCU Congress in May 2023.

A full report on the outcome of the investigation is yet to be published by the House of Lords Commissioners for Standards.

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