The University of Manchester Student’s Union informed us this afternoon that they are banning Julie Bindel from speaking in a panel discussion on feminism and censorship. The reason for banning her is given as “based on Bindel’s views and comments towards trans people, which we believe could incite hatred towards and exclusion of our trans students.”. The full statement can be found here.
We were very sad, though in no way surprised, to be notified today that our Students’ Union is seeking to censor our upcoming of event. Once again those residing at the top of our SU are making a joke of free expression and the university ideal. Our event, “From liberation to censorship: does modern feminism have a problem with free speech?” was one that had received significant attention on campus. We were expecting a good turnout from pre-existing and new students alike, and as such are sad and frustrated to delay the event for the time being. They have banned Julie Bindel from speaking outright, and deemed Milo Yiannopoulos sufficiently dangerous to warrant a closed event, where admissions will be limited. The reason being for the former speaker centres around the safe space policy and her falling foul of it. We have always argued that this flimsy bit of legislature is nothing more than an insidious piece of weaponry used by our SU leadership to fashion the university in their own image, and this current act of censorship proves it. Speakers far more controversial and “offensive” than Julie have been permitted and even suggested by the SU on previous occasions. Yet they have decided to apply the principles of the safe space policy now and on us. We feel that the manner in which it has been done is at best sloppy on their part, and at worst inconsistent to the point that it suggests an abuse of power.
As for Mr Yiannopoulos, we are yet to receive information as to why his attendance necessitates extra security measures and limited availability of seats. Last year, when similar conditions were imposed upon two of our events we were happy to comply. The reason being that we believed a measure of safety was required for our speakers and for ourselves. However, these circumstances are not present for our upcoming event, and so we reject outright the conditions being imposed upon us. We will not take this lying down and plan on bringing as much attention as we can to the increasingly censorious, illiberal and quasi fascistic nature of the people governing our Students’ Union. We will not go ahead with the event until some of the conditions imposed upon us have been lifted. Free speech is not just an abstract concept debated upon in academic circles. It is a discernable and essential good, as well as an inalienable right for one and all. We plan on fighting for it tooth and nail on our campus. We are a nonpartisan organisation that does not promote one ideology over another. We simply argue that the freedom to express a controversial or challenging opinion is held equally and by all. Without this freedom we are robbed of the ability to refute or confirm the views that we have formed, and are thus diminished as people and as students.
On the grounds of controversy and offence, the invitation of Julie has been denied to us, and therefore we ask for your support and participation in providing people the opportunity to hear and refute opposing views, and maintain the right to make up their own mind unimpeded by those who wish to infantilize and censor. Without our ability to listen and speak, with have no voice and no education.
Edit 06/10/2015: The Woman’s Officer Jess Lishak has published a more detailed explaination on Facebook why Bindel was banned.
Edit 2 06/10/2015: Jess Lishak has deleted her Facebook statment explaining the ban. A copy and image can be found here.