Katie Hopkins event cancelled after student backlash at Royal Holloway

An event featuring a guest appearance by Katie Hopkins, hosted by Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL) Debating Society has been cancelled following backlash from the student community.

Several societies on campus, including RHUL Climate Action, Labour Society, Jewish Society, Feminism Society, ACS, Left Forum, Amnesty International Society and the Women of Colour Collective, launched an open letter at 12pm October 10 calling for the event to be cancelled.

Subsequently, the Student’s Union released a statement confirming that “a proposed event hosted by the Debating Society and featuring Katie Hopkins will not be taking place next week.” 

According to RHUL students, the event was discussed by Debating Society members during Freshers Fair, held in September, but had not been formally advertised via Social Media.

Several current and former students used Twitter to voice their concerns regarding this event, with the former Afro-Caribbean Society (ACS)  president stating, “This is absolutely disgusting and even more insulting that this has occurred during Black History Month.”

Maliha Reza, previous Labour Society President, said on Twitter: “Disgusted to find out a debating society at my former university @RoyalHolloway has been given the all clear to platform Katie Hopkins for an event. An absolute violation of no-platforming and a genuine risk to BAME and Muslim students and staff in particular.”

RHUL Labour Society gave the following statement:

“The SU have just released a statement about how the event won’t be taking place next week due to the likelihood of opposition. This only means the event has been postponed, however, and we are still going to protest against it ever being held.”

“As a society, we are highly against the prospect of Katie Hopkins coming to speak as we don’t believe far-right individuals should be platformed at the university. There is no prospect for debate against an individual such as Katie Hopkins as her views are simply hate-fuelled and divisive. The university has a responsibility to uphold the safety and welfare of its students, and inviting someone who is openly Islamophobic, racist and homophobic directly undermines this.” 

With “the history of events involving Ms Hopkins… the chance of a counter protest to her presence is extremely likely,” the Student’s Union said. The multiple risks that have been accessed in relation to the event could not be overcome by the Student’s Union within the timeframe as the event was due to take place during the week commencing Oct 14. 

The Student’s Union’s statement was careful to distinguish between free speech and platforming Ms Hopkins:

“Freedom of speech is exceptionally important, and the Students’ Union does not have what many people refer to as a ‘no platform’ policy, that would place further democratically decided limits on the type of guests invited by groups or the Union itself.”

Debating Society “has turned over a leaf”

The RHUL Debating Society posted this statement on their Facebook page:

“The Debating Society has turned over a new leaf this year, and as part of our expansion we hope to bring in many speakers and hold many events in the spirit of debate. We, as a society, do not endorse any political belief, any party stand point or any ideological standpoint apart from the freedom to debate.”

“Given our autonomy from SU, we, as a society, may invite speakers whose view[sic] do not represent those of the University or the SU. These events and speakers are not endorsed by the Royal Holloway University or the SU.”

They then told London Student, “The committee has voted and majority has decided that the society wishes to engage with all political standpoints in the spirit of debate. So, we shall work in that spirit.” 

Photo credit: Michele Theil

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