EXCLUSIVE: Tory Soc silenced by SU for criticising their ‘hostility to free speech’

Their social media accounts have been suspended, pending investigation

Lincoln University’s Conservative Society have had their social media accounts suspended following tweets critical of the university’s reputation on free speech.

The Conservative Society have alluded to two offending tweets. The first is alleged to be a criticism of the University of Lincoln and Lincoln SU’s collective hostility to free speech. The other is thought to be the society questioning the inclusion of students’ favourite Spice Girl, in the SU election form.

Whilst their Facebook account appears to have been deactivated, the Twitter account @LincConSoc now bears blacked out profile and cover photos, and the description “OUT OF USE UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE”.

At present, it is unclear whether the ban covers the society as a whole or simply their social media accounts.

In a statement the SU has sent The Tab, they say: “For obvious reasons, we cannot comment on live disciplinary matters concerning members of one of our clubs and societies however; we can confirm that due to a suspected breach of the code of conduct a request has been made that the Conservative Society temporarily suspend their social media account.”

The tweets

This tweet, sent on 14th February, screenshots a report by Spiked, which awarded Lincoln University an ‘amber’ rating for freedom of speech, and the Students’ Union a ‘red’ rating. Both organisations were tagged by the society in the tweet.

The second tweet, unrelated to free speech, criticises questions students were required to answer before voting in Students’ Union elections.

A complaint over these two tweets allegedly led the Lincoln Student Union disciplinary panel to assume control over all of the society’s social media accounts until 1st May.

Conservative Society statement in full:

“On the 6th March 2017, the University of Lincoln Conservative Society, in compliance with a decision by the Lincoln Student Union disciplinary panel, handed over control of all social media accounts to the University of Lincoln Students Union, with the accounts to be suspended until the 1st of May 2017.

“This decision was reached by the SU following an anonymous complaint over two tweets by the Society account. 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.

“The Society was very disappointed with the decision of the SU Disciplinary Panel. However, the Society has collectively chosen to comply with the ban imposed by the Panel and follow the correct procedures. Despite this we will appeal the ban in the correct manner, via a letter to the Chief Executive of the SU.

“We feel the decision that was made is misguided and disproportionate, as the Society was simply trying to raise the important issues of free speech and democracy, and the tweets in question have been taken out of context.

“The Society is greatly appreciative of the support that we have been shown today by many on social media. However, the Society shall continue to comply with the proper SU procedures and as such will only make further comment when it is appropriate.

“Despite this issue, the Society remains active and will continue to be the Conservative voice of students in Lincoln!”

University of Lincoln spokesperson, Elly Sample, provided The Tab with the following statement:

“The Students’ Union is an independent charity run by students for students. Disciplinary matters relating to Students’ Union clubs and societies are resolved through the Union’s own student-led disciplinary committee and the University respects the Union’s right to govern itself independently.

“Upholding academic freedom and respecting the views of others are core values shared by all members of the University. We have a clear Code of Practice on the Freedom of Speech, designed to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is protected for our staff, students and visitors. The Students’ Union has similar policies in place.”

On request, the Lincoln SU have provided the following statement, in full:

“Freedom of speech is a fundamental value of the Students’ Union. The SU is built on a foundation where students can express opinions and ideas freely within the law.

“The Students’ Union is run by students for students. There are agreed policies in place – based on national guidance for charities – which protect students and aims to provide a safe environment in which complex issues can be discussed and debated.

“At Lincoln, student engagement in political processes is high – the recent SU elections produced the highest turnout on record – and the Union provides many different ways for students to express their views and bring about change.

“For obvious reasons, we cannot comment on live disciplinary matters concerning members of one of our clubs and societies however; we can confirm that due to a suspected breach of the code of conduct a request has been made that the Conservative Society temporarily suspend their social media account.

“Though we are aware of some areas of concern regarding Freedom of Speech, we would like to reassure you that Lincoln SU shares the same values as the University of Lincoln in this respect.

“The University of Lincoln Students’ Union is proud to protect the rights of all individuals to express their opinions, ideas, and concerns, and would emphasize that student welfare is at the heart of everything we do.”

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