The Beaver blackout – LSESU has sunk to a new low
After banning its rugby team for handing out crude pamphlets, reprimanding its atheist society for wearing blasphemous t-shirts and banning a newspaper on the basis it was oppressing female undergraduates, it seems the London School of Economics’ Students’ Union (LSESU) is now completely unashamed about dictating what can and can’t be said, thought or written on campus.
Yesterday, LSE’s student paper, the Beaver, was due to go to print when SU heavies intervened and pulled several of its articles. With students’ union elections taking place tomorrow, the Beaver was due to print a package of articles analysing the prospective candidates.
‘We had prepared a paper that included content we thought students would appreciate this close to elections. This included interviews with former students and campaign coverage’, read the Beaver’s statement on Facebook, flanked by images of executive editor Alexander Fyfe and managing editor Liam Hill with tape over their mouths. ‘At our print deadline this afternoon’, the statement continued, ‘the SU intervened and prevented us from publishing a significant amount of our content. This sets a dangerous precedent for the freedom of your student newspaper, and by extension what you can read.’
The Beaver prides itself on its editorial autonomy from the union, which supplies its funding. ‘[D]espite being published by the LSE Students’ Union, the Beaver has a strong tradition of independence’, it states on its website. However, this week it seems the union was happy to override this in the name of avoiding any pesky criticism with the ‘GenSec race’, as it’s called on campus, looming.
Neither Hill nor Fyfe were available for comment. But, as Jason Wong, the subject of one of the offending pieces, tells me, their reticence is not surprising.
Wong, a former member of LSESU’s court of governors, had given an interview to the Beaver in which he had shared his thoughts on the prospective candidates. No stranger to the campus PC brigade – he was forced to apologise for an un-PC campaign leaflet in 2011 – he had some strong words in the Beaver interview for the incumbent general secretary, Nona Buckley-Irvine.
Buckley-Irvine has been the media face of some of LSESU’s most high-profile acts of censorship, from disbanding the rugby club for distributing jokey-sexist leaflets in October to successfully campaigning for the Sun and ‘Blurred Lines’ to be banned on campus.
‘There has been a consistent aggression against free speech and students’ liberty in general’, Wong tells me. ‘Nona has been at the forefront of a lot of it.’
Irvine, along with several of her colleagues, are standing for re-election in tomorrow’s poll. And, Wong says, their move to censor the Beaver shows that their allegedly ‘progressive’ acts of censorship in the past have given way to plain gerrymandering: ‘The Beaver ban goes beyond ideology. With previous acts of censorship at LSESU, it was supposedly about fighting to protect women or fight misogyny. This is clearly just about power, about winning a re-election.’
The Beaver has pledged to publish the offending pieces next week – after which point the specific bylaw, invoked by the LSESU to censor the paper, will no longer be valid. Here’s hoping Beaver writers and students alike strike a blow for free speech at the polls tomorrow and vote out these sanctimonious and self-serving sabbs.
Tom Slater is assistant editor at spiked and coordinator of the Down With Campus Censorship! campaign.
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