The top five most ridiculous student bans

Yamir Ash

Topics Free Speech

The intolerant zeal with which British students’ unions have banned everything from pop songs to national newspapers has grabbed headlines over the past year. But ‘Blurred Lines’ and Page 3 are just the tip of the campus-censorship iceberg. Here’s the five most ridiculous student bans that may have passed you by.

5) Tequila club night closed down by Leeds University activists

The Tequila club night was the oldest and most popular student night in Leeds, running for almost 20 years. However, this long tenure didn’t stop it quickly succumbing to the steamroller of student censorship when, last year, it posted a promotional video on Facebook called ‘Fresher Violation’. The video included a number of ‘sexually aggressive’ comments from drunk patrons of the club night. Despite apologising and deleting the post within hours of it going up, the complaints came in hard and fast, with 100 students turning up to protest outside the club and an online petition to close the night gaining 3,000 Facebook ‘likes’. The media joined the storm, as the phrase ‘rape culture’ was used to mark the club night for slaughter. A police investigation sparked by the controversy ended in the night being closed down, and subsequent attempts to re-launch it elsewhere have been thwarted by the authorities’ threats of a license review.

4) University of Birmingham bans sombreros

Last November, the University of Birmingham’s Guild of Students put in place a series of restrictions on what students could wear to fancy-dress parties. Students donning sombreros and other ‘racist’ costumes found themselves turned away from student-run club nights. In one instance, a student was turned away for dressing up as ‘General Aladeen’ from the Sacha Baron Cohen film The Dictator. The irony of banning a costume inspired by a film that ruthlessly poked fun at the censorship of authoritarian regimes seemed to be lost on Birmingham’s union officers.

3) Leeds University bans sexist greeting card

A jokey greetings card comparing women to dogs was banned by Leeds University Students’ Union (LUU) at the beginning of this year. In a statement, LUU said the card was ‘offensive and degrading to women and against what LUU stood for’. The card, which bore the harmless, albeit not particularly funny, message of ‘Beware of the dog: she might look sexy in hot pants but she’s probably got Chlamydia’, was only the latest victim of a union which had already banned ‘Blurred lines’ and the Sun in quick succession. It was just the next step in the union’s crusade to prevent anyone on campus ever being offended. The basic principle of ‘buy it if you like it’ was disregarded in the noble effort to quash the oppressive power of a single greetings card.

2) Swansea University bans pole-dancing society

Swansea University Students’ Union (SUSU) banned a pole-dancing society last year, citing the activity’s ‘intrinsic link to the sex industry’. Dozens of students who had signed up to the club for its health benefits were told by a union spokesman that pole dancing ‘contributes to an atmosphere where women are viewed as sexual objects and where violence against them is acceptable’. One wonders if the students’ union reps at Swansea will continue their righteous crusade and impose further bans on activities ‘intrinsically linked’ to the sex industry – sexual intercourse, for instance.

1) University of Exeter bans Safer Sex Ball due to sex

In February 2013, the University of Exeter Students’ Guild had to cancel its controversial Safer Sex Ball after CCTV footage of a couple having sex during the event went viral. While it is unclear whether the couple in question were indeed practicing safe sex, it still did damage to the guild’s fledgling reputation, following previous allegations of sexist jokes in the guild magazine. A guild spokesman said: ‘The negative reputational damage has overshadowed the outstanding work that the committee and RAG [student-run charitable organisations] do to generate charitable funds and student opportunities.’ This didn’t prevent Exeter students from being disappointed that a bad joke, and a couple making the most of ‘student opportunities’, lost them the chance to receive a free Jack Wills condom.

Yamir Ash is currently interning at spiked.

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Topics Free Speech


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