Amid accusations of plagiarism and dishonesty, all five elected student leaders for the University of Lincoln Students’ Union (ULSU) defended the organisation’s attempts to apologise for its failings.

The elected student leaders said they wanted to learn from mistakes and move forward. Image: Ben Abel via Flickr.

The initial apology issued by ULSU Chief Executive James Brooks on 16 June had an almost 60% similarity rating to a statement issued by the University of Essex students’ union a few days earlier.

In response to strong backlash, it was deleted and Mr Brooks wrote a second apology.

Both announcements included a pledge of five things ULSU would do to ensure that the voices of black and minority students do not continue to go unheard.

The CEO’s apology was extremely similar to a statement from another students’ union. Source:

In an interview with The Linc, all five student leaders were present, but Georgia Petts, vice president of education, spoke for the group, which was careful not to criticise Mr Brooks’ statements and emphasised that the pledges remain the most important aspect.

Ms Petts said: “The intensions of that initial statement are what we stand by, and it’s the sentiments that are within that statement […] that we want to continue to push.”

She added that she welcomed the criticism: “We want to learn from any past mistakes […] But we really want to make sure that, obviously, we take that into consideration, we accept and we apologise for our mistakes – but that we move forward.”

“Words in themselves […] are not enough. You have to make those actions and those changes to actually be able to do something, which is why we are pledging these changes and pledging to […] make sure that it’s pushed on agendas and that we’re making sure we are getting answers for students.”

CJ Sampson, president of the African Caribbean Society (ACS), expressed disappointment.

“I feel there has been a real lack of effort from the SU representative and another example of a lack of understanding to the experience of black students in Lincoln,” she said, “No student would have been upset if James Brooks had asked for some guidance. Instead, he has shown ignorance to the issue.”

CJ Sampson, president of the African Caribbean Society, criticised a lack of effort and understanding.

She also said: “To be a black student in Lincoln can feel very isolating, especially when you have come from a more diverse city or area. But if you are able to find the black community, they are very welcoming and interconnected.”

Education officer of ACS, Hector Yapp took a more optimistic approach: “The positive that can be taken from this is as a learning experience to do better. This is a social movement bigger than the SU and its politics; it is about morality.

“James Brooks can’t score points from this movement. He should make change and consider what it means for black students.”

The SU has also faced criticism over its current referendum.

If successful, it would give ULSU greater powers to pressure the university to stand with the Black Lives Matter movement, but many students argue that equality is not something that should be voted on. 

Kya Hector, a member of ACS, vented frustration at having to “explain why we should be equal and heard”, and ACS Education Officer Hector Yapp added that “the referendum is not a debate: it’s a rights issue”.

Despite the fallout, Ms Petts, speaking for the student leaders, was quick to defend it, saying: “This referendum is student-led, so it was put forward by a student and a lot of members helped to put together the recommendations and motions in it. Obviously, this isn’t the first time we’ve addressed it. There are committees that we sit on to make sure that these voices are heard. However, we want to do more.”

She also stressed that, if successful, the referendum would become ULSU policy for the next three years, adding that this was essential in making sure that it didn’t “slip through the cracks.”

In a statement about the referendum, the SU said: “This is exactly what we should be doing as a Students’ Union; giving our students the platform and resources they need to make genuine, positive change for Lincoln students. This referendum needs 10% of the student body to vote on it, in order to go through, so it’s vital that students support their peers and use their vote.”

Students can still vote in the referendum until midnight, 21st June.

James Brooks was contacted for comment.