Goldsmiths students’ union may take action against the Islamic (Isoc) and Atheist, Secularist and Humanist (ASH) societies over the row that erupted during Maryam Namazie’s lecture last month.
The students’ union said in a statement it had “concluded [its] investigation into the events that took place at the ASH event on 20 November,” and elaborated over four action points.
Maryam Namazie was invited to speak in November on behalf of Goldsmiths’ ASH society on ‘Apostasy, Blasphemy and free expression in the age of Isis’, but the lecture was disrupted, with allegations of intimidation and at least one death threat being made.
The statement continued: “We will arrange meetings with the Islamic and Atheist, Secularist and Humanist societies individually and identify actions that will be taken by each society. This may be followed by disciplinary action against individual society members and/or a society.”
As part of its response, the students’ union has also committed to “review [its] external speaker procedure and safe space policy in line with best practice from other institutions” and to arrange a meeting with all societies to brief them on this review.
The statement added: “No society will be able to proceed with an external speaker even unless this briefing has been attended.”
Finally, the students’ union will organise a compulsory annual training session for clubs and societies who wish to invite external speakers in the beginning of each year.
Responding to the statement, the president of Goldsmiths’ ASH society told London Student: “From the information that the SU has reluctantly given to me it is very unlikely that we will be disciplined.”
He added: “The video [of the lecture] illustrates no wrongdoing on our behalf,” and described the students’ union’s response as “somewhat confusing”.
Goldsmiths students’ union announced it was investigating the lecture shortly after the ASH society said it would make a complaint against the Islamic society. The union also asked Namazie to remove a recording of her lecture while the investigation was being conducted, but the speaker refused.
The Islamic society, in the immediate aftermath, also accused members of the Atheist society and security staff of “unnecessary bullying and violence” during the talk, adding in a statement: “The university should be a safe space for all our students. Islamophobic views like those propagated by Namazie create a climate of hatred and bigotry towards Muslim students.”
The National Union of Students (NUS) and other students’ unions employ a “safe space” policy to ensure an accessible environment in which every student feels comfortable, safe, and free from intimidation and judgement. This policy extends to all events hosted by the union.
Goldsmiths students’ union’s own safe space policy document reads: “Goldsmiths Students’ Union (GSU) recognises that systematic oppression excludes certain groups whilst providing others with unequal power.
“The safe space policy is designed to protect oppressed groups and enable their full participation in the student union. GSU is committed to operating as a space which is inclusive and supportive in which no forms of discrimination are tolerated.”
However critics, including Goldsmiths’ ASH society, have labelled the policy as “free-speech suppressing”. A petition calling for the National (NUS) to reform its safe space policies gained almost 2,500 signatures within a week.
London Student attempted to contact both the Islamic society and the students’ union for a comment but neither responded at the time of writing.