Student unions: a tyranny of the minority

At the end of last year, King’s College London became the latest university to ban Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’.

As has happened at a number of other UK universities, the song was banned because it, supposedly, trivialises female sexual consent. Along with bans of the Sun newspaper and the continued implementation of ‘No Platform’ policy, which bans fascists and extremists from speaking on campus, it seems student unions are disturbingly fond of censorship nowadays.

Indeed, King’s College’s ban on ‘Blurred Lines’ almost wouldn’t have been newsworthy given so many universities had already done so. However, the way in which the motion to ban the song was passed through the student council was both revealing and disturbing.

Two amendments were introduced in response to the motion at a meeting of the King’s College student council in November. The first proposed to nullify the motion because it breached freedom of speech. It was defeated immediately. The second requested that the motion be translated into a college-wide referendum. This too was defeated, with supporters of the ban either cynically painting the referendum proposal as a ‘delay tactic’ or, more troublingly, suggesting it would surrender the ban to the ‘tyranny of the majority’, with ignorant students voting against a ban that is designed to help protect potential victims of rape.

This is revealing in two ways. First, it shows the lowly view student representatives have of the average student. The implication seems to be that students are simply too stupid to appreciate the positive impact of the ban, and therefore don’t deserve to vote on it. What’s more, it reveals the lazy thinking and cowardice of student-union officials. If they thought censorship was just in this case, why not try to convince the student body of their line of argument?

Having long given up on fostering a genuine student movement, student unions seem to operate as a conservative elite, spending all of their time meddling with by-laws and tightening university regulations.

King’s College London’s ‘Blurred Lines’ ban may not have been anything new, but it illustrated how student unions have become a tyranny of the minority.

Jacob Diamond is an undergraduate student of international politics at King’s College London and a spiked intern.

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