Icurrently find myself in the uncomfortable position of defending the right to be a vile individual; but by Josh Callander, our AU President, choosing to ban across the board white T-shirt socials for sports societies he is acting with an ill-conceived heavy hand and is grossly overstepping a line that should never be crossed even with the best intentions. To me he is pandering to a misguided belief that banning expressions that are disgusting beyond belief is the right thing to do. Instead he is doing nothing more than degrading our integrity as a place of learning and contributing to a situation that is worse in the long-run. If university is not the place you do not come across views, beliefs and cultures that are polar to your own then where are the appropriate places?
A wide spread ban of a particular activity says only one thing: that those subject to the ban cannot be trusted. It shocks me to think that the AU can possibly envisage that such a large proportion of students would write anti-Semitic comments or any other sort of offensive statements. What do they think of us? Do they seriously think we all harbour vile offensive thoughts?
Now one might say that they have to react in some way and as they can’t find the abhorrent perpetrators then this is something they must do. Yet do we really think that collective punishment for someone else’s behaviour does anything other than breed resentment within our community. Worse than that though, is that it places some of the blame onto everyone under the ban, that’s everyone who participates in an AU affiliated club – either they think that no one in an AU club can be trusted to be a normal human being or that we are all to blame for what was written?
Not only though is this ban an attack on all of us decent human beings who do not have such putrid serpent like thoughts slithering around inside of us, but it is also an outright attack on institutions that have always been bastions of free speech. At first I found myself agreeing with this ban; white T-shirt socials have a history of bringing out the worst in people – only last year a right-wing political society had a similar instance of drawing highly offensive symbols on their shirts. Surely then this sort of behaviour should be prevented and should never occur in our community, and a ban on an activity where offensive statements consistently occur sounds like a good idea. Yet it fails to actually deal with the source of the behaviour, it masks the vile thoughts but fails to actually eradicate them.
The written statement is a symptom of a far more complex problem not a virus in itself and we need to realise that.
The university should drop the ban with immediate effect and in its place it should invest resources into a program of education, integration and understanding – it should have done this a long time ago as this sort of behaviour is nothing new. We need to foster an atmosphere of collective understanding of everyone’s differences whether they are directly linked to us or not. Views shouldn’t be silenced they should be expressed no matter how disgusting and uncomfortable they are; then these views can be challenged.
If we choose to educate instead of silence we can make people see that actually not only are they harbouring thoughts that are entirely wrong but also these views hurt fellow community members. If on the other hand we sew up the mouths of people not only will these views remain but will likely manifest into something much worse over time.