OUSU Council voted to scrap a referendum on its controversial No Platform policy last Friday, deciding instead to replace it with an amended version.The new version is intended to be much more specific in detailing who and what are covered by the policy.The referendum was called by OUSU President Martin McCluskey at the end of last term, in response to the demands of JCRs. It had originally been scheduled to take place in fourth week.However many members of OUSU Council felt that the problem was with the wording of the original policy rather than with the idea of a No Platform. An amended version of the policy was drafted by OUSU Vice-President James Lamming (pictured), which Council then voted by a clear majority to accept.
Lamming said, “Along with almost everybody, I’m relieved that this issue has been settled and that we can now focus our energy on improving areas that have an immediate impact on the student experience.”Keble JCR President John Maher, who has in the past been a vocal critic of the policy, agreed. “The general reaction is one of relief; everyone was tired of fighting about No Platform and there’s a feeling that the issue has finally been settled in a fair way,” he said.He added, “I’m disappointed that students won’t get to vote on No Platform but I guess at the end of the day the point of democracy is that you don’t always get your way.”One student, who preferred to remain anonymous, said, “I feel really frustrated. OUSU has dangled the possibility of voting on this issue in front of us and now they don’t have the decency to follow through with it.” The amended policy distances OUSU from the National Union of Students (NUS), which has a relatively strong No Platform policy. NUS President Gemma Tumelty said, “Academic freedom and freedom of speech are often cited as reasons to afford a platform to racists and fascists.”However, NUS believes that the right to freedom of expression must not be separated from, or take precedence over, the right to freedom from oppression,” she added.
No platform policy changes:The name: The new policy is nameless in order to distance it from other No Platform policies, such as that of the NUS.
Oxide and The Oxstu: The old No Platform policy applied to all OUSU media, leading OUSU to ban Oxide presenters from interviewing Nick Griffin in Hilary 2007. Under the new policy, “Media covered in independent agreements” such as Oxide Radio and The Oxford Student are editorially independent.
Use of OUSU mediums: Under the new policy only individuals who are going to actually advocate violence using OUSU mediums are prevented from using them; under the old policy, anyone who had previously advocated violence against a minority group could be prevented from using OUSU mediums.
Decisions must be ratified by council: The old policy gave the OUSU executive the power to decide which individuals or groups should be refused a platform; under the new policy, any decision taken by the executive must be ratified by a simple majority at OUSU Council.