Free speech society founders claim they are gagged by YUSU

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Students’ Union Sabbs have tried to suppress the formation of a society promoting free speech and YUSU transparency, according to the group’s members.

Members have claimed their application to start the ratification process was vetoed by YUSU insiders, while YUSU Activities Officer Chris Wall insists there was no foul play.

Provisionally-named ‘York Liberty’, other names including ‘Open York’ and the ‘Free Speech and Secular Society’ have been suggested.

York Liberty joint-founder Jake Strong said the society aimed to promote free expression and transparency on campus.

He said: “We’re a decentralised group, aiming to bring individuals together to better promote their shared interests: at the moment we have teams working on informing students of University and YUSU governance, and on bringing speakers that have been no-platformed elsewhere to York.

“Our members often have strong involvement elsewhere – for example in student media or politics – and might not normally work together; our goal is to provide a platform from which co-operation on our central beliefs can be fostered.”

York Liberty hopes to publish reports detailing the inner workings of YUSU, including processes society members claim many students will be unaware of.

They want to remain focused on University and campus issues.

Strong claims YUSU admin bods tried to block the society’s ratification, saying: “Correspondence with YUSU started and ended with an initial society application.

“We were told that the YUSU officers on the committee essentially vetoed it.

However  YUSU Activities Officer Chris Wall, disputed these claims and said: “Societies ratification is one of the hardest parts of this role.

“I don’t want to be turning students away from doing what they want.

“Societies are ratified by a committee made up of 8 representatives from the different society groups who are elected by societies.

“Each group wanting to start a new society fills out a form detailing their society.

“That form is then compared to a yes or no criteria as judged as best they can by the committee.

“The main reason societies don’t get ratified is because of a duplication of another societies aims.

“This is because splitting resource (whether that be time, money or space) on more than one group doing the same thing would not be an effective way for societies to run and would create many under resourced groups with few members.”

Society members argue, however, that the society does serve a unique purpose, with York graduate Tom Davies saying he was surprised that nothing like it had been done yet.

Strong said many of the people involved in York Liberty were involved in other societies including The York Student Think Tank, The Lemon Press, Nouse and the York Lib Dems.

He said: “I’m committed to keeping us decentralised and letting anyone who wants to get involved in one of our areas join a project or start their own with our support.”

The foundation of this society is in spite of the fact that York was rewarded a ‘green rating’ for its free speech policies earlier this year by Spiked, an anti-censorship magazine.

In the same report, YUSU was slapped with an ‘amber rating’, citing the earlier expulsion of hockey team members from the Union as  a contributing factor.

They were ejected following the discovery of a racist and sexist private Twitter account by Vision.

To find out more about York Liberty, or to get involved email Jake Strong, [email protected]

3 thoughts on “Free speech society founders claim they are gagged by YUSU

  1. “York Liberty hopes to publish reports detailing the inner workings of YUSU, including processes society members claim many students will be unaware of.”

    And they are surprised that the application wasn’t even considered?

  2. “Students’ Union Sabbs have tried to suppress the formation of a society”

    “Members have claimed their application to start the ratification process was vetoed by YUSU insiders”

    While this really isnt that far fetched, Is there actually any proof of backing these claims up?

  3. We certainly weren’t ‘gagged’.

    The idea that society ratification was vetoed stands very specifically in the context of a report we had from Societies Committee: we were told that YUSU officers dismissed the concept of York Liberty as a society AS OPPOSED TO a campaign group, a new category with substantial differences to societies – but not exactly thrown to one side.

    We certainly can prove that this is what happened, but we aren’t claiming that it amounts to ‘gagging’ at all – just that it removes our interest in ratification.

    – Jake

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