Following on from the Students’ Union’s All Members Meeting earlier this year, please observe the below update regarding the Union’s Freedom of Speech policy.
On 20th March 2017, a motion was put forward at the Students’ Union’s All Members meeting asking for a review of the current policies surrounding Freedom of Speech.
The Union’s Board of Trustees, chaired by former Vice-President Academic Affairs, John-Paul Dickie, met earlier this month and have released the following statement:
The heading "The Union Notes…" are to be read in the following context.
The trustees would make clear that they recognise that freedom of expression is a fundamental right protected under the Human Rights Act 1998 by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). They are keen to ensure that such right is upheld by the Union. However, it is also recognised that a right to freedom of expression is not an unqualified right; article 10(2) of the ECHR sets out circumstances in which restrictions can be placed on free expression, for example with the aim of protecting the rights of others.
The Union, as a charity, has an additional statutory framework within which to operate. These additional obligations are reflected in the above policy.
The section of the motion entitled "The Union Believes…" does not represent the views of the Trustees as drafted. The Trustees would however wish to set on record that the suspension of the Conservative Society's Twitter account (following, it is understood, the sending out of messages by an individual without express consent of the Society itself) could have been dealt with better. Training has been given and procedures taken to seek to ensure that such situations are better handled in future.
In light of comments received within this motion, the Trustees have agreed to review the Union's disciplinary procedures, as well as its External Speakers Policy.
Student engagement with the Union is welcomed. In order though to promote the interests and welfare of students (one of the objects of the Union charity), the Union needs the ability to regulate use of social media and other platforms at the University in order to protect the wider student body from discrimination and abuse. "Freedom of speech" does not override this duty on the Trustees.