The Student Union a Sussex University have shown, again that the words debate, and Student Unions should not be uttered in the same breath.
Westmonster stated: “Free speech event with Bill Etheridge cancelled amid fears of angry mob & excessive censorship”.
Bill Etheridge, UKIP MEP and long time free speech campaigner had been invited by Sussex University society Liberate the Debate, a society set up explicitly to challenge the notion that Students need safe spaces when it comes to political expression.
The Student Union have demanded to run the debate, decide who is the opposition, who is the chair of the debate, sight of the speech itself and for the society to front the costs for any security, necessary due to expected counter demonstrations by left wing groups on campus. Taken together the restrictions amount to the no platforming of an elected member of the European Parliament.
Bill Etheridge said, “I find it so ironic because all I want to do is discuss free speech.
“I have spoken at other universities across the country and had a rough ride from the students which is what I expect. But I’ve never before had a university make it impossible for me to attend.”
David Kurten AM, the UKIP Education spokesman said,
“There is no doubt that freedom of speech is under attack at University campuses. The list of obstacles put in the way of Bill Etheridge, an elected UKIP MEP, before he could make a speech to students at Sussex University was so prohibitive that it is quite obvious that he would have to abandon the meeting and go elsewhere. His opinions may well cause rigorous debate on Brexit and other topics, but the suggestion that students’ safety is at risk from choosing to go and listen to an MEP is ridiculous.”
Peter Anson, a second year Politics and International Relations student, who founded Liberate the Debate society to promote free speech on campus commented, ‘There is an increasing student culture where they feel justified in using physical or violent methods to stop speakers.
‘This will ultimately hurt the academic integrity of the university. We want to highlight that it is healthy to engage in debate, rather than say their opinions can’t be expressed.’