The students’ union at London’s City University has voted for a motion stating that “there is no place for the Sun, Daily Mail or Express” on its “campuses or properties.” It says the outlets in their current form fuel “fascism, racial tension and hatred.”
The motion was adopted by a majority vote at Thursday’s annual student union meeting.
“That freedom of speech should not be used as an excuse to attack the weakest and poorest members of society,” read the motion, titled “Opposing Fa[s]cism & Social Divisiveness in the UK Media.”
Among its other statements are “that the media has a duty not to stir up racial tensions and hatred just to sell papers” and that “far right leaders and mouthpieces such as Nigel Farage, Richard LittleJohn and Katie Hopkins should have no place in the mainstream media.”
City University is the alma mater of Mahatma Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair – who all graduated from its law school – and home to one of the UK’s leading journalism schools.
The Guardian reported that, out of a student body numbering nearly 20,000, only 182 were present for the vote to pass the motion. Its practical implications remain unclear.
“A number of motions passed are committing resources of the union and will need the further consideration of the board of trustees,” said Yusuf Ahmad, president of the City University Student Union. “The union is currently unaware of any outlets on campus selling the mentioned media publications. As with all motions, the union will be considering how it implements this.”
Potential consequences could include a ban on the newspapers in student facilities, and barring any of their employees from participating in debates, or lectures on-campus.
“Students on our journalism courses value being able to access the views of publications and broadcasters across the industry and the department will continue to enable all these opportunities,” Professor Suzanne Franks, head of the department of journalism at City University, told the Guardian.
“The students in the class I was teaching today were furious and understandably so at gesture politics from a fraction of the student body. They understand that the answer to journalism that you may not like is to do the journalism better,” said George Brock, a prominent lecturer.
The decision was also condemned the Index on Censorship, a pro-free speech group.
“People should be free to choose what they read. Rather than banning things, we should be encouraging people to voice their objections to views and opinions they don’t like,” chief executive Jodie Ginsberg said in the Guardian.
Some students have reportedly withdrawn their automatic membership of the student union.
“As a journalism student I’m really worried that I’m now a member of an organization whose official policy is to ban national newspapers,” undergraduate Jack Fenwick told the Press Gazette.
“I have already emailed the chief executive of the Students’ Union asking to opt out of my membership with them as I’m simply not comfortable being part of a group that holds such views.”