SU officers attack Students’ Union after free speech controversy

The University of Lincoln Students’ Union has come under fire from some of its own officers after temporarily suspending the social media accounts of the university’s Conservative Society.

University of Lincoln Students' Union building

(Photo: Gregor Smith)

Lincoln SU made the decision after the society had shared a report on Twitter which said the University of Lincoln had a bad record on freedom of speech.

The decision has now been reversed after an appeal hearing took place on Thursday evening in front of the SU’s disciplinary panel.

Following the incident, several current and former SU officers have told The Linc they’re not happy.

Postgraduate Officer Bradley Allsop says it isn’t an “isolated incident”.

He said: “The SU has a track record of shutting down criticism of its actions and we need students to come to the next ASM (All Student Members’ meeting) to help send a clear message that we will not put up with it anymore.”

Another SU officer, who did not wish to be named, told us before the decision to reverse the ban was announced that they were “deeply concerned”.

And they’ve now told us that while they’re “happy to see the appeal was successful” it “doesn’t change the fact that this event took place”.

They said: “There still needs to be a meaningful discussion of what free speech is and means to ensure that our university follows the principles of being a beacon for healthy debate and the evolution of new ideas.”

Josh Charles, who was the College Officer for Social Science until he resigned just after Christmas, told The Linc that the SU has tried to censor its members on social media in the past.

Josh says he was told to delete a tweet from his personal account following an SU training day for student reps.

He said: “After an enjoyable but exhaustive day I jokingly tweeted ‘Had a really good day meeting the new School Reps. Really hope the SU hasn’t scared them away’.

“The next day I received a phone call from John-Paul Dickie (Vice President Academic Affairs), saying ‘there had been some concerns around your tweet’ citing ‘it could bring the SU into disrepute’.

“I said the university’s College of Social Science twitter account had retweeted me and that the SU shouldn’t be so concerned if the university was happy to retweet it.

“When I got the phone call and they mentioned my tweet, I knew where the conversation was going. I wasn’t shocked, but I got very defensive, because I won’t back down on those kinds of issues.

“The SU go nuclear rather than have a conversation. They abuse their power as a ‘big scary’ institution to intimidate students into complying with their demands.”

In response, a representative from the University of Lincoln Students’ Union said: “We do not recognise the version of events described [by Josh]. The telephone conversation in question was an amicable and informal conversation during which the elected officer offered advice.

“Our elected full time officers are proud of the SU and feel privileged to have been elected officers of the union. The reports that have been in the media over the last few days are not representative of the work the SU does, day in and day out, to represent and protect students in terms of their welfare support and academic experience here in Lincoln.

“Regarding the issue over the Conservative Society twitter account, only the SU disciplinary panel and the students involved know the full details of this case.  The panel made their decision in good faith following a formal complaint and based on evidence presented to them. Obviously, the details of the case cannot be disclosed.”

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