The Union is moving towards taking a stronger stance on Freedom of Speech. Over the past few months a conversation has begun around the role of Imperial College Union in supporting students’ freedom of speech. The question of “Are we doing enough to promote dialogue and debate?” lies at the centre of this move.
Union officials are recognising that Imperial can be a place of contradictions. College and the Union don’t exactly have a history of engaging in many practices associated with the ‘politically correct’ left. These include trigger warnings, no-platforming and boycotting. These policies are often attacked by alt-right personas as restrictive of free speech. Yet at the same time the safe space policy and the external speakers policy (which requires the Union to vet external speakers) could be seen as restrictive of students’ freedom of expression.
Similarly Imperial prides itself in the involvement of its students and staff and the Union has the highest numbers of clubs and societies of all UK Universities. Yet campaigns rarely take off and when they do, they don’t necessarily get as much support as they could or should.
Whether this is a result of the type of people that populate Imperial or an effect of Imperial’s institutional culture of silence is up for debate. However just as there’s a strong push for student involvement in clubs and societies, whether that’s through sport participation or involvement with the arts, the feeling in ICU seems to be that there should be a similar push in forming educated, socially aware citizens, capable of debate and if necessary action.
Within the next year we should be seeing a full restructuring of campaign management at the Union, though changes in the way campaigns are supported and the resources available for them are already underway.