Despite what they say, Warwick’s SU couldn’t care less about protecting free speech

Their u-turn over Maryam Namazie only happened when the scrutiny became unbearable


Term has barely begun and already the Students’ Union has faced global media scrutiny for their decision to ban the human rights campaigner Maryam Namazie from spreading her opinions on campus. The ban has now been over-turned but don’t be so quick to commend them for it: it seems they only flip-flopped after the pressure from the press and a gaggle of half-celebrities became unbearable.

The SU believes it has a responsibility to screen anyone invited to speak on campus. It believes it knows best and it believes you’re incapable of defending yourself from scary ideas which might whip you up into a racist, homophobic, Islamophobic pogrom. Of course, the SU does this all in the name of free expression, in fact according to President Isaac Leigh the SU endeavours to continue its “commitment to free speech”.

Namazie may now be allowed to speak on campus, but we're no closer to having a 'free' campus

Namazie may now be allowed to speak on campus, but we’re no closer to having a ‘free’ campus

Here’s the thing: the SU doesn’t seem to care about protecting free speech or know what those words mean and the fact it pretends to is a slap in the face for everyone who actually does. It’s fortunate Mr Leigh’s statement was written because I imagine he’d struggle to say such a comment and keep a straight face, especially considering his institution continues to ban The Sun and Daily Star newspapers, as well as the “displaying of material that is likely to cause offence to others”.

Free speech isn’t free unless it’s unfettered and banning rags and speakers from campus is a flagrant assault on it. Disagreement, whether offensive or not, is integral to a society of individuals and the SU doesn’t seem to understand that. Free speech is the birth right of everyone, not a privilege to be bestowed at the leisure of a gaggle of student politicians and middling bureaucrats. So, for as long as the “Students’ Union” claims it has the power to dictate what can and cannot be said, we won’t enjoy freedom on campus – ironic, when you consider this is a place intended for the exchange of ideas.