The SU’s Student Council has voted to introduce a No Platform policy to ward off offensive groups. The body decided at their monthly meeting on 22 April to introduce a version of the NUS’s policy of discouraging groups deemed to be offensive, particularly ones with racist or fascist views.
The vote passed with nine votes for, three opposed, and five abstaining – including Students’ Union president Daniel Hutchinson and Vice President for Societies and Activies Maria Yesufu.
The details will be worked out and a document presented at the next meeting, probably in October, where it will be debated and voted on again before possibly being adopted.
The vote was controversial due to some students asserting that it would impair freedom of speech. The Council’s chairwoman, Amanda Davidson, started the discussion by acknowledging the “concerns about the impact on civil liberties”.
She said that such freedoms “cannot be overridden by the union” but cautioned that “limits of freedom of speech are enshrined in law” too.
The lively debate was marred by confusion as neither side were sure on what the implications would be, before it was made clear that it would be used against certain groups chosen by the Council.
Emily Gough, who submitted the proposal, began with a speech where she said “You would not invite any racists into your living room, why allow them into university?
“This is not about free speech. We can’t take this away from you. The people you do not want to come to university is decided by Council.
“This is about students continuing their degree in peace. No student should be concerned about coming to university and being abused.”
Initially, some thought that it meant there would be a blanket ban on certain groups from holding events on campus, while Mr Hutchinson made clear that he saw it as “a boycott to say the Union has a particular view on an organisation”.
Mr Hutchinson said that he “wasn’t going to speak on behalf or against this motion but I feel I have to after Fraser McFarland’s speech,” referring to the chairman of Lincoln Conservative Future.
Mr McFarland had spoken against the policy, but mixed in contentious views. He said that he believed British soldiers were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for things like freedom of speech, and that No Platform would harm that right at Lincoln.
Mr Hutchinson replied by saying: “it does not mean we want to stop freedom of speech. It’s a boycott.”
Miss Yesufu warned that “it would make the [sabbatical officers’] job very difficult,” and said “I do not think we would be able to look after our students properly.”
“I’m here to represent all students, no matter what they believe in. If there is a boycott I could not go to their events.
“The BNP is a big problem. I’m not a big fan. [But] I’m pretty sure they would not be allowed on campus anyway.”
Mr Hutchinson reassured her by saying “No Platform policy [is directed] against a particularly organisation”.
Adam ‘Treakz’ Cooper, a second year Computing student, was the most eloquent opposition voice. He said that “If you ignore it they won’t just go away. You will just be ignorant of it.
“Debate betters us as people. If we know what these people believe we can understand it.”
The original No Platform proposal (Microsoft Word file)Tweet