UEA Students Banned From Natwest Funding As Student Union Enforces Bank Boycott

Students' Anger As Union Enforces Natwest Boycott

A university union has banned its own students from applying to a national bank group for funding and watching six nations rugby at their union bar - because it disagrees with the bank's ethics.

The University of East Anglia's student union (UUEAS) imposed a boycott on the Royal Bank of Scotland in August 2011, as the group was "incompatible with UUEAS environmental policy" due to its fossil fuel extraction funding.

The student union has now been forced to crack down on students who have been breaching the union's policy and continuing to apply for funding and sponsorship for their sports teams through the RBS and ESSA scheme.

In a blog for the UUEAS, finance officer Joe Levell wrote: "It has been brought to [our] attention the boycott of Natwest/RBS is being breached. As a result, we have had to review union activity to ensure we are abiding by the policies as you, the membership, intended."

Levell added the Six Nations Rugby and the Natwest cricket series are now banned from being shown in the student union bar, as both are sponsored by RBS.

Students are now up in arms at the renewed focus on the boycott:

Alexander George, a UEA student, told The Huffington Post UK: "Firstly, as far as I can see, the boycott will ultimately do nothing to further the Union's cause, and will just disadvantage its members. For example, the Six Nations isn't allowed to be shown in the bar on campus because it's sponsored by RBS. Any students that wish to watch it are now driven off of campus, and the Union-owned bar is losing out on all the money they would've spent while there watching it, meaning the student body loses. Loss to RBS/Natwest? Nothing.

"Secondly, they're forcing a boycott upon an entire body of students without ever actually telling us that they are, or why they're doing it. I've heard nothing from the Union itself about the boycott, and I only knew it existed from my friend who is a member of Union Council (the body that approves the Union's latest silly idea).

"And if that wasn't bad enough, I - and everyone else that I've asked - don't fully understand the reason Natwest are being targeted. The Union have decided Natwest are bad, but not actually bothered to tell us why it's bad."

The president of UEA's Korfball team told student newspaper the Concrete the ban was "ridiculous".

"Korfball have since withdrawn from ESSA on the back of it. It is a great shame because the award pushed us to develop how we communicate with our members,

"Imposing a blanket boycott on anything even sponsored by RBS is a bit ridiculous. Unfortunately the Union has taken the boycott very literally and has even determined to stop showing such sport."

He added the blanket ban on showing any sport sponsored by RBS "is a shame".

Another student, Daniel Lees, described the boycott as "extreme" and "100% ridiculous".

"Not showing the six nations is a joke - every bar in the country shows it," he tweeted on Thursday.

Mature student Stephen Jones added:

A spokesman for the UUEAS told The Huffington Post UK: "The decision to continue boycotting RBS was decided at union council before Christmas, where nearly 100 student representatives voted to keep the policy.

"The boycott will continue until students decide to vote against it at referendum or a policy to end the boycott is introduced at Union Council."

An RBS spokesman said: "Our society is currently heavily reliant on fossil fuels to generate the energy we all use. We need to make the transition to low carbon energy sources and banks have a role to play in that by supporting the renewable energy sector to increase its capacity.

"That process will take time, but RBS is by far the biggest lender to renewables projects in the UK and we are playing our part in that transition."


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