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  • Writer's pictureThe Gaudie

'Vexatious'? So be it.

The University's latest attempt to supress the student voice is nakedly transparent

By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

I know The Gaudie has a bit of a 'troublemaking' reputation in certain circles, but it was still shocking to see two of my recent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests labelled 'vexatious and unreasonable.'

The University of Aberdeen's rationale for denying my requests (one on RAAC repairs, and another on modern language redundancies) was rather opaque. It noted the number of FOI requests I had made since Jan 2023 (34), including ten which asked for senior management communications. The response suggested that such requests had the 'effect of harassing the senior management team.'

Essentially, I've asked too many questions

Futhermore, the response noted that my requests were aimed at '[pursuing] a campaign, unrelated to the receipt of information with the purpose of harassing the University into taking a particular course of action.'

The University has failed to provide any evidence supporting this assertation. What is the course of action I'm meant to be advocating for? Free orange juice in the student union building?

Each request I have received over the last fifteen months has been used in investigative reporting, leading to stories on graduation costs, SMT communications on the MAB, employment and finance data, and more.

It is insulting to suggest that I submit FOIs to cause 'annoyance' or 'disruption', especially when the University has provided no evidence to support this point. 

There is no doubt that the information sought is of value. The fate of Modern Langauges and that of buildings affected by the RAAC concrete crisis have been a topic of public interest for months.

As such, preserving a record of important conversations between senior managers is incredibly relevant, especially given the reluctance of the University to engage with the public on these matters.

While it may be uncomfortable for University management to hand over their correspondence, especially given previous reporting in the Gaudie which uncovered problematic messages sent by Principal Boyne (which I believe is a key reason for the denial of correspondence now), it is their legal obligation. 

To claim harassment over being asked to turn over a series of emails on relevant topics is... comical.

Some may ask why I submit so many FOI requests. The answer is simple. What other choice do we have? Senior Managers have refused to engage with student media on every occasion. They have declined to be interviewed by The Gaudie and Aberdeen Student Radio multiple times.

Yet, less than a week ago, the University posted a photo celebrating our achievements at the recent Student Publication Association Conference. They appear to be very happy to share in the glory of our success, but much less keen on our actual work.

The Gaudie will never give up on pursuing the stories that matter to our audience. We will keep asking difficult questions and continue to hold those in authority accountable.

University bureaucrats will not stop us from doing our jobs.

If the pursuit of truth makes us 'vexatious', so be it.

We'll wear that badge with honour.


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