On Monday evening I was approached by a student, who informed me that their friend had expressed to them their concerns over what happened at Womens’ Superteams Aftermath, a Union event, this weekend. The person in question was present at the event, and said she left in disgust, after taking photos as evidence of the event.
I proceeded to work with the individuals to prepare a fully factual statement outlining the allegations and providing the photos given to me. The article was presented to The Courier, the student paper, for publication on their website. The article had an embargo placed upon it to give Ben Meakin a chance to response to the allegations. The Courier rejected publishing the story as election regulations prevent articles naming candidates, and Ben did not respond for comment. At some point after 11pm, an individual I had not spoken to published the article to facebook. At this point, several people shared the article on facebook, including myself, and not much else happened until the morning.
On Tuesday morning, I was contacted by a member of AUGS Elections Committee, who told me to delete the link to the article, and that if anyone else published the article, it would be held as an election offence against me. I complied immediately with this request, despite protesting that the article was unrelated to the elections. At this time, I entered a complaint to Elections Committee regarding a statement from Ben Meakin posted to facebook, which indirectly attacked me and referenced the University’s development of a “mega dairy”. No action was taken by elections committee, and the statement in question is still visible.
As the day progressed, more people began to comment on the article, and the statements made by Ben. The majority of this discussion took place on Ben’s facebook wall, as I and all my friends had complied with the request to remove the article. I now regret accepting the ruling of Elections Committee as it meant that almost all discussion of the accusations were limited to Ben Meakin’s wall, allowing for a grossly distorted perception to arise. I believe had I acted differently at this point, and not complied with the requests to delete all reference to the allegations, I would not be facing the harassment and threats that I have been receiving since the news broke.
Naturally, as discussion grew, the NUS became involved, and several officers called for the NUS Wales Women’s Officer to denounce Ben Meakin’s support, and to issue a statement on the alleged behaviour. Stephanie Lloyd, the NUSW Women’s Officer, complied and did just that, whilst NUSW President Luke Young contacted Ben Meakin and asked him to resign from WNEC. Later that day, Ben published a statement of “regret” for actions, and announced his resignation from WNEC.
At this point, comments intensified, with several people accusing me of “ruining” Ben’s life and career, of trying to “drag his name through the mud”. I can categorically state that I published a relatively neutral article highlighting accusations made against the President of a Students Union, and my intention was nothing more than to make it clear that this allegations had been made. I was later criticised by other Officers for “singling out” Ben in the article. My response to this was that I was not informed other officers were present, I had no evidence to suggest other officers were present, and that had I been informed and had evidence to show other Officers being involved, I would have published this too.
Yesterday afternoon, I was in a meeting in the Union, discussing an upcoming referendum, when an individual entered the room, asked if I was the one who wrote the article, and began accusing me of lying and making other such remarks. After the conclusion of the meeting, I went to lectures, where I learned I had now been accused of “running” from Ben and failing to talk to those involved who were “willing”. As a result, I stated I would meet Ben on Tuesday evening, and I did so after lectures concluded. Entering Ben’s office, I began discussing with him everything that had happened, however with him were several other officers and individuals, many of which spoke against me. After several minutes of this, the Education Officer raised the point that it was entirely unfair to have this many people speaking against me whilst I was alone. One person left, and shortly thereafter the Education Officer asked to speak to Ben alone. Everyone walked outside the office, and several people began to speak in a manner suggesting they would defend Ben’s actions. Feeling surrounded, I felt compelled to leave, and I went to a safe place, where I waited for over an hour before a friend could escort me home.
For the past 30 hours, I have seen increasingly aggressive remarks towards me, many making reference to “tracking me down”, and one today saying “Think we shpuld definatly [sic] start looking to trip Andrew Tindall up with anything we find after what he has done to ben meakin”, later going on to suggest physically attacking me on a night out. Additionally, looking at stats for this website reveals an increased number of people searching for my personal details, including my address. Others have searched for terms such as “Andrew Tindall scum”.
The harassment, abuse, and threats I have received as a result of raising the issue of institutionalised sexism and allegations against a full time officer mean I have been left feeling unsafe in the student union, and across campus as a whole, to the point I have now missed lectures to avoid the risk of being harassed whilst walking around campus alone. As a result of a fear for my own safety, and feeling that my Union does not represent me, or the welfare of its students, and that institutionalised objectification of women is tolerated, I wrote to the Guild President to withdraw my membership of Aberystwyth Guild of Students, thereby removing myself from the election campaign, removing any notion that the Guild represents my views, and removing permission for me to enter the unsafe space that is that Union. I have also submitted a complaint regarding the allegations, as well as complaints dealing with those who have made threats and personal attacks against me.
I will make no further statement on this matter unless the situation changes.