A student society has been censored for talking about censorship
To the list of what can get you censored on a university campus we can now add ‘talking about censorship’.
The University of Lincoln Students’ Union has suspended its student conservative society’s social-media accounts until 1 May over allegations of ‘bring[ing] the University of Lincoln Students’ Union and the University of Lincoln into disrepute’.
According to a statement from the society, this was due to ‘an anonymous complaint over two tweets’. ‘The first, in relation to freedom of speech, linking an article from spiked, and the second was in relation to an SU questionnaire that had to be completed before voting in recent SU elections.’
After reading spiked’s Free Speech University Rankings (FSUR), the society decided to publicise the fact that Lincoln Students’ Union had received a Red ranking. Screenshots of the offending tweet, seen by spiked, show a picture of Lincoln’s ranking page, alongside emojis with their mouths zipped shut.
Another student conservative society, the Hull University Conservative Association, flagged up the alleged censorship of the Lincoln society on its Facebook page. At time of publishing, Lincoln’s SU has not issued a statement, or responded to spiked’s requests for comment.
The conservative society’s social-media accounts are said to have been handed over to the SU, and the offending tweets have been hidden from public view. The society claims that in making the comments it was ‘simply trying to raise the important issues of free speech and democracy, and the tweets in question have been taken out of context’.
This is beyond parody. An SU has handed down a ban to students for saying it’s too ban-happy. Lincoln Students’ Union’s own Safe Space policy claims that it will ‘ensure a balance of opinions’. But clearly this does not extend to opinions that the SU disagrees with.
spiked founded the FSUR precisely so that students could use it to pressure campus authorities into repealing censorious practices. That some student groups are not even allowed to publicly criticise their own unions just shows how bad campus censorship has become.
The conservative society has decided to ‘continue to comply with the proper SU procedures’. Perhaps it’s time students chucked out the SU rulebook altogether, and made a stand against these institutions that so clearly hold them in contempt.
Ella Whelan is assistant editor at spiked and coordinator of the Free Speech University Rankings. Follow her on Twitter: @Ella_M_Whelan