The University of East Anglia Students’ Union has stopped a speaker meeting going ahead tonight on their Norwich campus because UKIP had been invited. The event was organised by the Political Debating Society but a student launched a campaign to prevent UKIP from participating.
The University said its Students’ Union had launched an “internal investigation” into whether rules had been breached by the society when they invited UKIP.
In a statement sent to Norwich Evening News UEA Students’ Union said: “The review will consider the potential for any decision to limit freedom of speech as per the university’s code of practice in pursuance of the 1986 Education Act; the potential for the event going ahead to cause the union to be in breach of its equal opportunities policy; the potential for the event going ahead to cause the union to fail in its wider legal duties; the potential for the event going ahead to cause reputational risk to the Union; the potential for the speaker’s presence on campus to cause fear or alarm to members of the student body; and the potential for the speakers presence on campus to give rise to breach of peace.”
They also pledged to hold a “consultation” into the matter, after which they will decide whether the event should go ahead.
The ban on UKIP would mean one of their most well known alumni, Douglas Carswell, would not be allowed to speak. Carswell defected to UKIP and stood down as MP for Clacton forcing a by-election that he won last month.
Carswell said: “It is sad that in 2014 there should still be people who want to ban ideas and prevent free speech. It is patronising to suggest students need protecting from UKIP, a genuinely reformist party offering us real political reform.
“As a former UEA student, I am looking forward to speaking at an event at the university in the New Year. I hope anyone fed up with our failed political system might come along and discuss how we can change things.”
The student who organised the petition, Timea Suli said: “Our message is simple: please take your intimidating politics elsewhere. We do not believe that UEA is the appropriate venue for UKIP’s message. The UKIP members attending are not elected officials and have, therefore, not gained the support of the people at the ballot.
“They are phishing for votes; votes that are hurtful to many people in our student body.” She has confirmed she would be willing to allow the event to go ahead in Norwich Town Centre so that students can “interrogate”.
The University is not believed to have banned any other speakers recently, and they welcomed left-wing radical Owen Jones at a recent event.