An exercise in how not to use no-platform on campus

Another academic year starts, a new round of freshers arrive and the continuing lot get ready for the year that actually counts towards the overall degree classification.

At the tail end of last year and just before the new academic year started, I joined forces with a University friend of mine to set up a Labour Society covering the Maritime Greenwich and Avery Hill campuses (with help from the two local CLPs, Eltham and Greenwich & Woolwich). At that time I was the general secretary of the Leftist (now Marxist) Society. The planned launch of the society was planned over the four months we were away from University, spurred on with the interest we recieved from Greenwich students via our Facebook group. We’d booked our stall at the two Freshers Fayres and created a petition for our centrepiece campaign. Sounds fairly standard and typical of political society activity, right? Well, it was – up to a point.

About a month before we were due to launch at the Fayres, I recieved word from the society chair that our campaign petition was banned and we were to take down all mentions of campaign from our website and Facebook group. No real explanation for this was offered, but I did hear that there was some confusion over the SU’s own plans for the issue we were campaigning on.

This was not an isolated case, however. As recently as a few days ago we were informed that we were not allowed to promote campaigning events from either CLP – especially unhelpful as a campaign weekend is coming up soon. Additionally, our website content has to be constantly vetted and checked. If anything provokes a challenge, it is likely to be revoked. And the reasons the SU give for these measures? The NUS’s own no-platform policy, which appears to be extended to political societies across the board.

I know for a fact that this kind of usage of no-platform features nowhere on official NUS policy. No-platform is designed to prevent fascist organisations or societies that are extremist/racist in aims and beliefs from being able to stand for NUS elections or participate in NUS functions. Why the SU at my University choose to use it against a legitimate Labour Club, I don’t know.

I’m all for the SU ensuring that we are behaving and acting in accordance with the official constitution and regulations by which all societies are bound. We’ve done nothing but co-operate so far and will continue to do so. However, I will not accept that no-platform is a legitimate weapon to use against us – because it is not there to crush opposition.

The entire situation is lunacy – we cannot function as an active society if everything we’re doing will be opposed for no apparent reason. We abided by the rules, signed up enough people and are now completely legitimate, so I can’t see what their problem is. Also, our website is owned by us – why exactly should we be vetted for publishing independently of SUUG’s own page? I can understand that they don’t want bad publicity from a society – hence why we allow them to view our articles before they are actually published. But to simply ask us to remove content because one officer doesn’t agree with it is completely without justification. Perhaps if we’d actually written something offensive or deregatory, then I can understand. But that’s not how we operate – we are only critical of the student union when we believe that their activities conflict with our own beliefs in the Labour Club.

This is a complete travesty of student democracy, especially with regards to political societies. With actions like this, is it any surprise that the turnout is so low in the SU elections year on year? This is one of the things we’re trying to change, because Greenwich is in desperate need of student activism. It’s not like people aren’t interested – the response for both the Labour and Marxist society has proved that much. People want change – but if we’re continually blocked at every turn, it’s no wonder that people will soon turn their backs to it.

No doubt myself and the current chair have a lot of patience. With what we’re coming up against, looks like we’ll need more tolerance than is human in this kind of situation.

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