subtext’s report on racist and antisemitic comments and questions at a public lecture (see subtext 173) seems to have hurt a few feelings (see letters, below). Isn’t it amazing how quickly people who insist on their own right to express hateful opinions start throwing around words like ‘libel’ and ‘slander’ as soon as someone challenges them? As so often in right-wing populist circles, it seems free speech only travels in one direction.
Since the report, LUSU has confirmed that the group in question was denied society status ‘because there was not enough detail in the students’ plan of activity or their description of the group to convince the committee of the group’s sustainability or unique offer, two of the key criteria that all groups are judged by.’ Perhaps the applicants forgot to mention important details, like how they get hot under the collar about black actors playing historical figures on TV, or equal marriage? LUSU went on to clarify that they ‘are working with the students, as we would any student wanting to form a society, to help them address these concerns of the committee and anticipate that they will resubmit an application[…] The union respects the rights of individuals and groups to hold or express potentially controversial opinions – however, all of our groups are subject to union policies designed to deal with instances of discrimination, harassment or hate speech, which are applied accordingly if issues are reported and evidenced.’ So that’s all right then.
Despite not being a student society, the group in question nevertheless set out to organise an event on campus to discuss the life and times of Vladimir Putin, an event ostensibly co-organised by the Russian Society. Until, that is, it turned out that the Russian Society was, to quote LUSU again, ‘suspended temporarily after its president decided to step down this week and it came to light that the group does not meet a number of the union’s administrative requirements. The union is now working with the Russian Society to address these issues in order to return the group to active status.’ No doubt this sudden interest in the administrative workings of the Russian Society, which led to the campus event being cancelled, was entirely coincidental, and nothing to do with their links with the other group. But isn’t it wonderful how LUSU wants to help all societies to meet their full potential!