The Conservative Society have been handed back access to their social media accounts after the University of Lincoln Students’ Union (SU) overturned their original decision.
The announcement was made after an appeal hearing took place on Thursday evening in front of the SU’s disciplinary panel.
The SU said the original decision related to “a broader set of issues in addition to a breach of the social media code of conduct”.
On Monday, the Conservative Society were suspended from social media after they tweeted a link to a report which criticised the university’s approach to freedom of speech.
The SU also sought to “reassure students and the wider community that it [the SU] is 100% committed to protecting and promoting free speech on campus”.
Meanwhile, the Conservative Society marked their social media comeback with an ’emoji’ of an open padlock.
— Conservative Society (@LincConSoc) March 9, 2017
They went on to say in a statement: “Seeing your messages of support has helped to maintain our convictions and belief in the importance of free speech.”
Despite being reinstated to social media, the society said the incident had “highlighted a number of serious questions that need to be addressed.”
The SU have also announced a ‘student open forum on free speech’ which will take place on Friday from 1pm-5pm.
This is scheduled at the same time as a previously scheduled protest against the SU – which will still take place as planned.
Protest organiser Hannah Barr reacted to the news by saying: “We will still be holding our protest to get the SU to listen and propose a proper time and date for an All Students Meeting (ASM).
“Plus, we will not be getting involved in the SU’s decision to ‘suddenly’ hold an ‘open forum’, proposed for the exact same time as our open protest.”
Full Students’ Union statement:
“After an appeal hearing this week, the University of Lincoln’s Students’ Union disciplinary panel has reinstated the Conservative Society’s access to its union-affiliated social media accounts. We cannot provide details on the hearing other than to say that the original suspension related to a broader set of issues in addition to a breach of the social media code of conduct which the society signed as part of their membership.
“It is important to remember that students run the Students’ Union and that this is a learning environment where boundaries can be tested and young people can take on responsibilities and make decisions in a safe environment. In this instance, only the disciplinary panel and the students involved know the full details of this case.
“The Students’ Union would like to reassure students and the wider community that it is 100% committed to protecting and promoting free speech on campus, which is preserved in law and vital to the type of free and frank debate which helps students to have their voices heard and bring about change. Whilst we understand why some perceived the action to be an act of censorship, this was not the intention of the panel.
“We will be undertaking a full review of all policies in place and how they impact on Freedom of Speech, as this is staple of everything we do, here at ULSU. This will start with a student open forum on free speech, which the SU will host tomorrow 1-5pm, this is a good opportunity to discuss any concerns with elected Student Leaders who will be present.”
Statement from the Conservative Society:
“Following our appeal of the decision of the University of Lincoln Students’ Union Disciplinary Panel to revoke our access to our social media accounts, we are pleased to announce that our appeal has resulted in the reinstatement of this access.
“We owe a massive debt of gratitude to all of those who have supported us through this difficult time. Seeing your messages of support has helped to maintain our convictions and belief in the importance of free speech. Particularly, we want to thank a number of specific people. Our local Member of Parliament, Karl McCartney, for his unwavering support. Hull University Conservative Association, for helping to bring this matter to people’s attention. Our members, for their trust and assistance. And to those across the country, and indeed the political spectrum, who have offered their support.
“However, we also have a number of comments for the Students’ Union. This whole process has raised a number of serious questions that need to be addressed. How was SU policy allowed to develop to the point that the elected SU officials were able to restrict our right to hold their decisions and policies to account? We welcome the announcement that these policies are to be reviewed. However we also feel that the implementation of these policies by the officers needs to be reviewed also.
“We also hold serious concerns about the transparency with which the SU has acted during this matter. This is most seriously due to the continued refusal to inform the Society of where the original complaint against us originated. We also believe that the policy of the SU to not formally minute the original disciplinary panel meeting, to which we were not allowed to attend, is a further impediment to this. We believe that, given the fact the Panel is composed of our elected officials, taking action to correct this would improve their accountability to the members.
“Finally, while we are pleased to have our access to social media returned, we are disappointed that it took a massive public outcry to happen. We would also like to reiterate that we are yet to receive the public apology for the disproportionate action taken by the SU. We will continue to await this. Most of all, we are just happy that the right to free speech has won out, and will continue to do so.”