I recently took part in a debate against the President of Chester Students’ Union on whether newspapers should be banned on campus because of page three.
Would you believe that the Union had actually banned the sale of The Sun, the most popular national newspaper which sells over 2.5 million copies a day? There had also been no consultation with the students. I must say at this point that the President stressed this was a decision apparently made in the interim period until the next student council meeting.
Interestingly though the Student Council is not elected by the student body but members are effectively selected by the Sabbatical Officers. I sat on the Student Council last year because as I was invited. This year I was not invited (in my view) due to being very vocal that it must be elected. My position was quite clear: I felt uncomfortable making decisions with absolutely no mandate or legitimacy. A group of students including myself at the Union AGM managed to change the Union’s Constitution so that it had to be ‘Fully elected’. Their definition is clearly different to mine as it just hasn’t happened. I have not voted for anyone and could not tell you what the membership is.
My main point in the debate was that I have absolutely no desire to read or buy The Sun but it is a national newspaper and page three is not at all illegal. I humorously questioned at one point whether SU actually stood for the Students’ Union and not the Soviet Union. I was immediately told to stick to the point by the Chairman (quite rightly so) but it had the desired effect. The audience began to think – what next? If the Union can ban something because it isn’t to their taste… what next?
The former President of the Students’ Union who was in attendance correctly said that the Union was treading on very thin ice and this was dangerous. What right does the Union have to ban a national newspaper?
I concluded with something like: “If the Union wants to ban/campaign against page three this was not the way to do it. By all means campaign and petition but to remove the papers from sale without any consultation with those who they represent is unacceptable. We are all adults and have the freedom to choose, we do not need the union to do that for us”
You will be pleased to learn that the result of the debate was a victory for ‘the free society’ and for democracy. The audience voted that the Union should not be able to ban newspapers. Disappointingly however the Union has not retracted their decision yet as far as I am aware & has not published the results of the debate. I wonder whether it would have done if I had lost?
This article first appeared on Robin’s personal blogsite, and is reposted here with permission.