Freedom of Speech and ‘No Platform’

Many of you will be aware of this week’s controversy surrounding the intention of Debating Society to invite Katie Hopkins to speak at an event next week.

You may also know that we took the decision to cancel the event, as we felt it represented a real risk to students on campus, and the safety of our members – which will always be at the forefront of our work.

You can see a full statement on this on our website here.

Over the last 24 hours, there has been considerable discussion regarding this decision. It’s fantastic to see students debating the concept of free speech, and engaging with each other over what you think the limits should be. It’s clear that this is a complex issue – and it’s also clear there are passionate views on all sides.

As an Officer group, one of our roles is to make sure the Students’ Union acts on the views of students. And it’s obvious this issue isn’t going to disappear. Last year we undertook a Democracy Review, where we stated an intention to get students more involved in the decisions we make, consulting with you more, and listening to your voices on the key issues.

Referendum

On this basis, we’ve decided to call a referendum on whether the Students’ Union should have what many people call a ‘No Platform’ Policy – which guides what events can and can’t happen on campus when they are organised as part of the Students’ Union, or in Students’ Union premises. As we outline in the article above, free speech is not the same as giving everyone and anyone a platform, where Union resources are required to enable it.

This will be your opportunity to debate, discuss, and decide.

We’ll be publishing more details next week. But in the meantime, we’d also like to strongly encourage everyone currently engaged in the debate to do so constructively – and to remember that as students, we’re better than the national political environment. Discuss things politely, avoid inflammatory language, and most of all, be kind to each other. Just because you’re posting something online, doesn’t mean you should forget that it might have a real impact on someone.

Jack O'Neill // President

Kate Roberts // Vice President Education

Lucy Simpson // Vice President Welfare & Diversity

Sophia Bolton // Vice President Societies & Media

Dom Brown // Vice President Sport