Staffordshire University's students' union could face legal action after directing its website users to a list of the names and postcodes of British National Party members. The union was forced to remove a link to another site within 24 hours after an outcry from students and claims it could have breached the Data Protection Act.
On Tuesday, union president Assed Baig posted an article containing a link to the names and postcodes of 30 BNP members living within two miles of the university's Stoke campus in College Road. It was removed from the website yesterday hours after The Sentinel contacted the union, which has stressed the statement expressed the views of an individual and not necessarily its other members.
In a statement issued yesterday, Mr Baig said: "Following concerns raised with the union by some of its members about the ethics of promoting a site that identifies membership of the BNP, the union has removed the direct link from its site. However, the purpose of drawing to students' attention the level of support on the doorstep of their university for the BNP remains. In a university that has built itself an enviable reputation on its diversity and ability to widen participation, having a political party that works against this principle active in the area is an issue for our members."
Sports Journalism student Shaun Staff told The Sentinel that he didn't understand why a link to a list of BNP members' details needed to be published on the union website. The 21-year-old, who lives in Shelton, added: "The list contains names and postcodes – again, focusing on the locality of the members – and directions to their houses via Google Maps, which seems extremely suggestive.
"One of the president's slogans when he was running for the role was 'Beat the BNP', which is fair enough, but I believe he has gone the wrong way about it by publishing these details. What if there are students at the university who support the BNP? The union is supposed to be politically neutral."
Some students posted comments on the union site before the article was removed. Simon Longden said: "To single people out for their political views, no matter what they are, is just as morally indefensible as the racism the union tries so hard to oppose."
Stoke-on-Trent City Council BNP group leader Councillor Alby Walker told The Sentinel that it was his belief that the students' union is breaking the Data Protection Act by publishing details of BNP members. He said: "It's wrong and I will certainly be contacting the BNP's legal department about this. The person responsible for this has either been very naive or politically motivated. If I was the president of the students' union I would be seriously considering my position within the university."
The union will hold a meeting in the Ashley Building in the Leek Road campus at 5pm on Monday to discuss the issues raised. The university declined to comment.