Statement Regarding Debating Society

Over the weekend the Students’ Union was made aware of an event Debating Society had planned, involving the former Labour MP Chris Williamson, that contravened our Guest Speaker Policy – a policy introduced following the October 2019 referendum on No Platform for Hate Speech.

Over the weekend the Students’ Union was made aware of an event Debating Society had planned, involving the former Labour MP Chris Williamson, that contravened our Guest Speaker Policy – a policy introduced following the October 2019 referendum on No Platform for Hate Speech.

No advance notice of this event was given to the Students’ Union and the society has failed to follow the guidance and training that has been delivered to them over the summer. The event has subsequently been cancelled and robust discussions will now take place with the society to understand why they have circumvented the policy, brought the Students’ Union’s reputation into disrepute, and to understand if further action is required.

President Kate Roberts commented: “The No Platform for Hate Speech policy and associated processes were voted in last year by the student body to ensure the safety of all students and contribute to an inclusive campus community at Royal Holloway.

“We have a zero-tolerance approach to any form of hate speech at the Students’ Union and I am extremely disappointed in Debating Society for their actions and decisions that led to them circumventing the policy and advertising an unapproved guest speaker event.”

All student groups must give advance notice of guest speakers in order to allow the Students’ Union to conduct due diligence where a background check will be carried out to ensure a speaker does not have a sustained history of hate speech.

Our definition of this is: “An expression of hatred toward someone on account of that person's colour, race, disability, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origin, religious belief, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. The expression should be threatening or abusive, and is intended to harass, alarm, or distress another individual or community of individuals.”

The health, safety and wellbeing of our members is our first priority at all times and we will continue to ensure that the Guest Speaker Policy is adhered to in order to safeguard this.