RHUL Debate Society to host No-Platforming Debate following Katie Hopkins cancellation

Royal Holloway, University of London’s (RHUL) Debating Society have decided to host a debate about no-platforming on Monday Oct 14 following the cancellation of an event with Katie Hopkins on campus. 

Their Facebook event describes the no-platforming debate as “a special Socratic debate… where we will debate the recent flurry regarding no-platforming this week.” 

The Katie Hopkins event was cancelled by the Student’s Union (RHSU) on Oct 10 after they cited concerns regarding the security of the event as “the chance of a counter protest to her presence is extremely likely.” 

Many students have used both Facebook and Twitter to express disappointment and anger over the proposed event as well as Debating Society’s decision to stand by their invitation of Katie Hopkins. The society have said that they, “as a society, do not endorse any political belief, any party stand point or any ideological standpoint apart from the freedom to debate.” 

Jessica Lee, President or Debating Society, said this on Twitter

“The right to debate must be fought for on every university campus. We are academics and we have the right to disagree vocally and learn more about the world as we do so. To disagree or to de-platform, is not the question. The former is our inherent right on campus.” 

Students Take Action

An open letter signed by several societies on campus was published on Oct 10, calling for the cancellation of the event. The letter, posted on various social media platforms to gain more traction, has been the subject of criticism on the Overheard at Royal Holloway Facebook group, with several students disagreeing over what some perceive to be “no-platforming” of a key political figure. Others, most of whom from marginalised backgrounds, argue that Hopkins presence on campus is a danger due to rhetoric largely targeted at ethnic minorities, Muslim people and the LGBT+ community. 

Renee Landell, former BME representative for RHSU said:

“It is Black History Month and instead of inviting key black figures to the university to engage in healthy discussion, l we invite Katie Hopkins. The irony. Cancelling the event because of ‘safety reasons’, begs the question, was our safety considered when she was asked? Was our safety considered when this was allowed? As a black woman, I would like to know how it got this far in the first place. Cancelling the event means it was once given the green-light when it should have seen red from the very beginning. Free speech belongs in universities because it is essential to democracy. But, free speech, bears responsibility and is therefore limited by hate speech. Opinions are fine. Racism, Islamophobia and the like cannot and should not ever be debated. Discussed, but not debated.”

Is a picture worth a thousand words?

Students have also questioned the Debating Society’s use of a photo from the 2017 Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia as the cover photo for their no-platforming debate.

Jake Bite commented, “Debate Soc has removed my comments twice now when I’ve questioned them about why they chose a picture from the deadly Charlottesville rally in 2017, which depicts a nazi kicking [an] antifascist’s sign. Not up for much of a debate are we?” 

Bite also said on Facebook, “Why Debate Soc think it’s ok to first invite an alt-right speaker, then try and make the image they chose for their event look like it has anything to do with no-platforming is ludicrous.” 

“The picture used for the event page was not meant to be charged in any fashion whatsoever. That picture is amongst many that appears when one types in ‘protest’ on google.” RHUL Debating Society told London Student

Photo Credit: Michele Theil

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