We asked YUSU Presidential Candidates about their opinions on key issues in free expression and speech at the University. Millie Beach (http://elections.yusu.org/manifesto/11342) replied:
Question 1: Under what circumstances should external speakers, or members of panels, be denied access to campus or the right to speak?
I believe that the student union should encourage freedom of speech as it is a fundamental human right (see Human Rights Act of 1998). On a more personal level, I feel that universities have historically been a centre of learning and discussion and just because you disagree with an opinion, doesn’t mean that the speaker doesn’t have a right to voice it. However, I feel like we need to carefully consider on a case by case basis whether speakers are allowed to speak if they are encouraging ideas that incite terrorism, violence or are against criminal law. I do feel as though we need to improve the safeguarding facilities put in place, including not hosting these events in close proximity to accommodation, including break out rooms, and working with Part time officers to support anyone who may feel discriminated against.
Question 2: Under what circumstances should the contents, or presentation, of courses be changed in the interests of student welfare?
One of the reasons that York is continually successful academically is because of the breadth and challenging nature of university courses. Therefore, I believe that the contents of courses should not be reduced to protect student welfare. However, there should be a more developed system in place for allowing students to discuss issues with seminar tutors and lecturers, in order for academic staff to make allowances for them. Despite this, I think the university can always consider ways to develop the breadth and diversity of a course to be more inclusive, and would work to encourage this if I were president.
Question 3: What facilities should be made available at the University to students who feel threatened by some views, opinions or debates to remove themselves from environments in which those are present?
• A breakout room from the event so that students attending can leave for a while if the event becomes a trigger.
• An opportunity for students to challenge ideas while not having to attend the event, perhaps through a spokesperson or through the chair.
• Good signposting for any students who feel threatened by the debate.
Question 4: When is it appropriate to withdraw a media article, or prevent it from being published, in the interests of student welfare?
I believe that YUSU should reduce the amount of censorship currently operating with student media, they are award winning for a reason! However, if an article will have a directly significant negative and harmful impact on the welfare of the individual then it would be necessary to work out a compromise. The media should be focusing on critiques of professionalism rather than personal attacks. Name and blame rather than name and shame.