Update: Woop! UCLU have rescinded their ban at long bloody last.
In yet further grandstanding of the power unaccountable bureaucracy holds over freedom of speech, a former UCL student has been blocked from delivering a talk on the fight with Daesh in the Middle-East. Originally due to speak at the invitation of the university’s Kurdish Society, Macer Gifford was unilaterally barred by UCLU’s activities and events officer, Asad Khan, on grounds so vague as to be borderline absurd. Defending his actions with the lurid euphemism that ‘one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist’, Khan continued to write that ‘in every conflict there are two sides, and at UCLU we want to avoid taking sides in conflicts.’ For one, it is deeply disturbing to hear any moral equivalence be drawn between the predatory and barbaric political system under construction by Daesh and its Kurdish national opposition, the YPG; but a pre-emptive ban on an individual with first-hand expertise on a subject whose facts are forever blurred in the mainstream media runs counter to the very spirit of independent thought we should aspire to nurture at a university.
We must not allow undemocratic vetoes to be cloaked in this shady language of political neutrality. UCLU has made repeated political interventions in the past, and will continue to do so in the future with or without the consent of its sabbatical officers; several motions have been moved in recent years against the Israeli occupation of Palestine, for example, a theme which deserves to be revisited again. Moreover, despite Khan’s claims to the contrary, not all of his colleagues were informed of his decision to bar Gifford, and he certainly has no right to legitimate such any pronouncements with reference UCLU’s student body, essentially none of whom were consulted. Khan must be censured, and the ban on Gifford immediately rescinded.
Originally written for the UCL Free Education bulletin.