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16th November 2015

University society forms independent association in order to host event

The University of Manchester Free Speech and Secular Society forms the Manchester Free Speech Association after the Students’ Union refused to hold a proposed debate

In response to controversies over the Students’ Union’s Safe Space policy, and in order to hold their event, ‘From Liberation to Censorship: Does Modern Feminism Have a Problem With Free Speech?’, previously banned, the Free Speech and Secular Society have formed a new group called the Manchester Free Speech Association (MFSA).

This group was formed to, according to member Ed Pletscher, “hold events that are not possible inside the SU.” Pletscher adds that “the banning of Julie [Bindel] and Milo [Yiannopoulos] was the cause of the Manchester Free Speech Association.”

The University of Manchester’s Safe Space policy has been a controversial topic on university campuses recently. Last month the Students’ Union decided to ban the appearance of both Julie Bindel and Milo Yiannopoulos at a debate hosted by the society, due to concerns that their transphobic views were in breach of their safe space policy. The Union said in a statement at the time that they were “made aware of various comments lambasting rape survivors and trans* people, and as such we are concerned for the safety of our students on the topic of this event.”

The aim of the policy is to predicate that “societies and representatives must not allow visiting speakers at events they have organised, or promoted, to: Say things that are likely to incite hatred against any individual or group based on age, disability, marital or maternity/paternity status, race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or sexual activity, gender identity, trans status, socio-economic status, or ideology or culture.”

The Free Speech and Secular Society are proposing potential amendments to the safe space policy which is up for review at the next senate meeting on the 3rd of December and the result of this meeting may have serious implication on the campus culture in future.

Commenting on the policy and its need for reform, Leonardo Carella, a leading member of the Free Speech and Secular Society, said: “It’s more of a problem within the student body, between the SU and the rest of us. The SSP (Safe Space Policy) creates a grievance culture that doesn’t help the people it’s supposed to protect and pits student against student.”

Mr Carella further adds: “It demeans us students by not treating us as reasonable adults, it infringes the right to free speech, it gives the university a bad name, it fails to prepare students for real life, and it gives the Exec powers they should not have.”

Due to the fact that this is not a society that wishes to be associated with the university, the funding for the MSFA must come only from the pockets of the members of the MSFA.

The newly-created event includes a third speaker, Jane Fae (a writer for The Guardian and a well-known feminist), to be included in the debate.

In the end, Ed Pletscher is “glad it is going ahead” and hopes “it will be a good debate where all three speakers will be challenged.”

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