I believe that every member of Hull University Union has a choice. They have the choice to purchase and read The Sun, to buy one of its competitors, or not to buy a newspaper at all. This is a choice that exists for as long as each of the newspapers is sold in the Union shop. Removing the nation’s most popular newspaper from sale destroys this choice.
Posting on Facebook, Union President Richard Brooks writes:
“The reason UEC proposed and voted in the way it did was because we have a Zero Tolerance to discrimination policy…We put to UEC specifically to get more student consultation.”
Now, I’ve done some searching and this appears to be the only statement put forward (so far) by the Union about the rationale behind the proposed ban. The first I knew about the proposed ban was the article by The Hullfire, and I expect this is the same for many students. That much of the student body was unaware of this proposal suggests that there has been a distinct lack of engagement by the Union Council and other Union members with the student body. In fact, this statement by Brook’s was actually a comment on a post: not a formal public statement on behalf of the Union Exec or anything like that.
The decision to locate the Union Council at the Scarborough Campus also exemplifies this problem. The vast majority of the student body resides at the Hull Campus. By right, each student is allowed to attend the Union Council and have some engagement; locating the Council where the minority resides cuts off all those at Hull. (This issue would, to be fair, also exist if the Council were to take place at Hull, although to a much smaller extent.) There are a couple of reasons why this location cuts off a vast number of students: Cost and time. Many students have commitments to clubs and societies, or simply can’t afford to jump on a train to Scarborough.
Given that there was no prior engagement with the student body, and the previous point, it seems reasonable to suggest that the Union Council were aware that this proposal would be controversial, and were trying to brush it under the carpet, hidden from the view of the student body.
Now, what reasons does the UEC have for banning The Sun? Brooks argues that “The Sun regularly… stigmatises and discriminates” and that this in some way violates the “Zero Tolerance to discrimination policy.”
I’ve been reading the Zero Tolerance Policy and can find no way that The Sun breaks it. The policy, as Leon French has pointed out, “applies to people, not inanimate objects”. These people should also be members of HUU – I’m 99% sure that we have no Sun journalists at Hull.
Now, given that The Sun doesn’t break the Zero Tolerance Policy, is there any other policies that it might break? The only one that it might even verge on breaking is the Harassment and Bullying Policywhich “prohibits the display of offensive material, for example pin ups and posters.” If we accept thatThe Sun’s “Page 3” breaks this policy, then we need address the nature of other magazines for sale in the Union: Viz magazine is for sale.
I’d like to point out that I’m not a reader of Viz, I have merely seen it for sale within the Union. However, there is one newspaper that is availablefor free within the Union: The Hullfire. Whilst I’m grateful to George Allen for exposing this debacle, I think that some of the content withinThe Hullfire is also offensive: namely the current issue.
I may be in the minority, but I chose to come to Hull, it was my first choice University. The general tone of the Fresher’s issue of The Hullfire is one that I personally find offensive. I’m sorry Hullfire, but “Hull not your first choice? Was it anybody’s?” is offensive to those students that did work hard to achieve their place at University.
Ignoring the several spelling errors (Geroge Allen anyone?), the attitude of this specific issue is one that actually harms the University in a multitude of ways. The newspaper is available in a number of outlets around campus, for free. There have recently been University open days. For a prospective student to see this material is damaging – why would they want to go to a University which the students aren’t proud to be at? A University where the student’s admit they are only there because of a phone call in Clearing. A University where the student publication can’t spell correctly.
So if the aim of the proposal is to remove offensive content from the Campus and make it more inclusive, other media should also be banned.
In Allen’s article about the proposal, we can find a further reason given by Richard Brooks:
“The content of [The Sun] and the values that it espouses are not appropriate for a Higher Education institution.”
I may have voted for you Mr. Brooks, but I can’t disagree more here. No matter what The Hullfiremight imply, students at any “Higher Education institution” are going to be intelligent. They are going to be well informed, they are going to have the ability to understand and process information. They have the ability to make the decision about what they want to read.
Throughout our education we are told that University is supposed to be place were new ideas are developed, where we develop individual thought and learning capacity, where we make our own judgements. It is simply impossible to do this when we are unable to access certain media.
The majority of students at the University will be 18+ – they are legally adults. We can decide what we find appropriate and whether we want to access that content.
Thank you Jamie Boote for voting against the proposal, thank you very much indeed.
I’ll finish as I started: Every member of Hull University Union has a choice. It is their right to decide whether they want to read The Sun. Not the Union’s and especially not an minority that has explicitlynot liaised with the student body.