A controversial proposal at the 428th Union Council meeting on whether the University of Nottingham’s (UoN) Students’ Union (SU) should support a no-platform policy to exclude hate speakers and fascists from our Union failed to pass on Tuesday 9th February.
The motion was proposed in response to the actions of the neo-Nazi British nationalist group National Action, who placed stickers with neo-Nazi messages across campus on Saturday 30th January 2016.
The proposed motion requested that the SU prevent hate speakers who are members of, or associated with, hate groups and fascist groups from speaking on campus, including Al-Muhajiroun, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, BNP, the English Defence League, National Action and Britain First.
Had the motion passed, the list of banned speakers could have been extended upon request at further Union Council meetings.
“The motion was proposed to the SU to stand up as an anti-fascist and anti-hate speech organisation”
In the wake of the actions of the National Action group, the motion was proposed to the SU to stand up as an anti-fascist and anti-hate speech organisation by banning any of the above organisations from having a platform within the Union.
When the motion was opened up to audience and panel debate, a panel member asked whether such action was necessary in the wake of what they believed to be a small-scale incident.
The response from the motion speaker indicated his belief that this was an issue that affected a large number of people, most notably significant minorities such as the Jewish and LGBT societies.
“Peake also highlighted that the SU has a system in place for managing these types of issues”
An audience member then highlighted their belief that this motion would not prevent groups like National Action from coming onto campus illegally, which was the case with the incident on the 30th January.
Sam Peake, SU Community Officer, said that the proposal of a no-platform policy has arisen in sensitive circumstances in the wake of the actions of the National Action group, and that there is already a comprehensive legal system in place to stop such situations from occurring.
Peake also highlighted that the SU has a system in place for managing these types of issues, and that the only freedom of speech that is left is that which remains after the legal system has been acknowledged.
In response to Peake’s remarks, the motion speaker indicated that his proposal was not attacking free speech, but that such groups should not be allowed to espouse a rhetoric of hatred. He also indicated his belief that it was a “failure on the part of the SU” to allow National Action onto campus.
“Rob Jennings, SU Activities Officer, said that the SU had done a lot to address the issue”
Rob Jennings, SU Activities Officer, said that the SU had done a lot to address the issue and had taken it very seriously.
He highlighted that every step taken by the SU had been considered carefully and that the police and campus security had been involved. However, he pointed out that the SU had chosen not to condemn the actions of the group publicly as it did not want to publicise them.
A member of UoN Feminists then suggested that the motion be amended to include rape apologists within the ban, which proved controversial.
The proposed amendment seemed to highlight the extent to which the motion would give the SU the power to add to the list as they saw fit. Such ideas suggested that the list of those who were banned could be added to without the consent of a panel, which was quickly declared false.
“Audience members expressed concerns over how much the motion would affect what could be published by student media”
The debate then moved towards the extent to which the legislation would change existing policy, as illegal groups such as National Action are already banned from UoN campuses.
The question of freedom of press was also discussed, with audience members expressing concerns over how much the motion would affect what could be published by student media, including Impact.
In his concluding remarks on the issue, Sam Peake highlighted his belief that such legislation must be considered carefully before being applied, with free debate ultimately being what allows the best ideas to flourish.
In his final remark, the motion speaker reiterated his respect for free speech, while restating that minorities must not feel under attack on campus. He suggested once again that it would be a “giant failing” of the SU to vote against the motion.
The motion was taken to the panel, where a two third majority vote is required for a motion to be passed. With just 3 ‘yes’ votes against 15 ‘no’ votes, the motion ultimately did not pass.
Image: Newtown Graffiti via Flickr