I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw a faded anti-privatisation sticker written over with “The university is a factory – STRIKE!”. I laughed ironically as Sussex has certainly earned its rep as the 6th most left wing, sorry, political university in the UK in my time (according to Which? 2013/14). Reflecting on the anti privatisation movement over the last two years, it seemed like there were times half the campus were in Falmer bar doing a Ron Burgundy- laying back in a chair, beer in hand saying “wow, that escalated quickly”.
While I can’t help but find a correlation between privatisation, the subsequent improvement in services and leap up in the Times Higher Education league tables, I’m all for backing what you believe in. The Guardian loved our political edginess, but then I suppose if one pays for a large advert in their paper, they’re likely to take an interest. And despite those few protestors who fancied themselves as the next Che Guevara, ramming ideologies down your throat, pissing off just enough students to enrage an anti-anti-privatisation movement, politics is important, and we all deserve our right to express our views.
Going back to the sticker, I was also partially laughing at the metaphor. In comparison to previous years, this one has been a quiet one. Maybe the good weather, albeit turning now, has created a poor political vintage from Sussex. Which brought me to question: has our political edge become faded grandeur, almost to the point of being laughable?
Once again however, the simmer has come to boil.
For those unaware, the LGBTQ Student Representative has started a petition to ban UKIP from campus. The petition gained support from 150 signatures two weeks ago. If I rightly interpreted the article from last week’s Badger, the aim is to prevent UKIP from sharing their anti-same sex and immigration views on campus. The Students Union Policy Panel is currently considering the suggestion on the grounds of protecting its ‘safe space’ policy that states: “The Union is committed to providing an inclusive and supportive environment without fear of sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, or any other form of discrimination”. I can appreciate the logic behind the suggestion, however, I am inclined to agree with the Politics Societies response which is against the proposition.
Censorship flies in the face of democracy. While this article will remain politically neutral and will not comment on UKIP’s stance, on a purely connotational level, freedom of expression far outweighs the merits of censorship. If the Policy Panel are seriously going down this legally treacherous road, putting the right to freedom of expression at risk, I would implore them to take a larger survey by offering a referendum to the whole of the University.
Not to knock the suggestion, I am all for taking measures to promote equality and fairness. But perhaps part of university is to expose oneself to radical ideas, to come to an educated decision on the matter, rather than engage in a nanny-like scenario. While I appreciate I may not have been compelled to write this article if the BNP were rallying on campus, but we do have to work the assumption that we are all smart enough to make our own decisions.