Liverpool Medical Student Society hits out at university and guild for ‘de-ratifying’ it amid claims of sexism

'I refuse to be the president who served when the LMSS hit its iceberg,' says head of society after investigation into 'misogynistic' musical script and 'unlawful' dinners

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Monday 18 January 2016 17:40
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A student medical society has hit back at its university and students union for “de-ratifying” it - amid allegations of mocking rape and hosting men-only dinners - saying both are “irredeemably prejudiced by the completely disproportionate sanctions.”

The Liverpool Medical Student Society (LMSS) at the University of Liverpool said it received an email which read: “The university has...decided to withdraw recognition from LMSS with immediate effect. This means LMSS will not be able to book or use any university facilities or services, nor will any reference be made to it in university publications or communications. LMSS will not be allowed to promote itself through any university channels.”

The society said it felt the university’s move was “short-sighted” and designed to “starve a 1,000-plus-member active society” which, it added, has raised over £30,000 for charity since September, not including “the food and clothes raised for Liverpool’s homeless this winter.”

Both the university and students’ union - also known as the guild - began an investigation into the LMSS in November 2014 after reports of a script came to their attention for an annual LMSS event called Smoker.

The “misogynistic” draft script for a comedy-musical entitled ‘James Bondage in Hymens aren’t forever’ told the story of a secret agent who worked at the “MI-6(9) headquarters” with “Mmmmmm” and “Mrs Sluttypenny” to defeat “Dr No Means No.”

At the time, the guild said in a statement: “In light of the recent incident surrounding the Smoker performance, we have made the decision to suspend all Liverpool Medical Student Society organised social activities, and any assistance with them, pending a full investigation.

“It is our role as a union to support all our students and we will continue to work closely with the society and the University of Liverpool throughout both the investigation and the appropriate course of action which is taken as a result.”

Then, LMSS came under fire for allegedly organising dinners which were “unlawful,” to which LMSS has said: “Despite us protesting our innocence with objective referencing of Equality Act exemption legislation.” The society also claimed the Equality and Human Rights Commission assured LMSS the events “did not contravene the guidance relating to gender equality and were in no way illegal.”

In a lengthy joint statement with the society’s secretary, LMSS president Andrew Fitzsimons said he refused to be the president who served “when the LMSS hit its iceberg,” and urged members and supporters of the society to “keep the society afloat.”

Appealing to the university and guild to reverse their decision, Fitzsimons said: “The LMSS’ traditions and rich history - over 170 years’ worth (older than the university itself) - so committedly maintained by generations of students, is now facing its most turbulent obstacle in its existence.

“The priceless friendships and community forged in the fires of our traditions and events are irredeemably prejudiced by the completely disproportionate sanctions now placed on the LMSS.”

Fitzsimons has also claimed members of the society were threatened with “fitness to practice.” He said: “Over two months later, we still have not received an acknowledgement of, nor any response whatsoever to, our submission and are still waiting for correspondence relating to the retraction of the fitness to practice threats.”

A petition has since been launched by members and supporters of the LMSS calling for the resignation of the guild’s president Harry Anderson.

With over 1,250 signatures so far, it says Anderson has allowed “the de-ratification” of the LMSS, a decision which will “ultimately serve to isolate its 1,500 members.” It adds: “The LMSS serves a vital function in the social, academic and philanthropic areas of medical student life and, as such, its members are not going to let this happen.”

A number of top doctors who studied at the university have also proclaimed their support for the LMSS by announcing their resignations from the alumni society, including the senior orthopaedic surgeon Peter Hughes who tweeted: “Today, Liverpool University de-recognised #LMSSOnline after 130 years so I resigned from university alumni.”

Dr Rob Greig, an ED consultant, replied: “I did also.”

A spokeswoman for the university and guild described how, during the last academic year, both the university and the Guild of Students conducted a joint investigation into LMSS activities following “a number of negative reports about their activities,” reported the Liverpool Echo.

She added how conclusions revealed the society had “failed to keep pace with the views and expectations of the medical profession,” and that LMSS was invited to implement an action plan in consultation with the guild to “address some recommendations.”

However, she said: “They did not fully engage with the consultation and, therefore, regrettably, the guild trustees have decided to de-ratify LMSS as a guild society.”

This means LMSS will not be able to use guild or university facilities and services with effect from 1 February 2016. LMSS will not be allowed to promote itself through any university or guild channels.”

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