Following a meeting this morning with their Atheist Society and the AHS, South Bank University’s Student Union has issued a full apology on its website, stating “We have apologised to the Atheist Society for the actions taken and the distress that it has caused… We remind students that the appropriate response to opinions they may find offensive is to engage in healthy debate respecting the rights of others to hold views or beliefs differing from their own.”
The AHS welcome this statement as a the start of a sensible approach to free speech for our members at South Bank. AHS President Rory Fenton said, ” Again and again our members are censored and then apologised to. Apologies are all very well but it would be better if these incidents never occurred. The appropriate response to being offended is to engage in debate, not censorship. We will be looking for ways to pursue this issue further with national student bodies, national university bodies and public bodies including the government to seek whatever amendments to law and policy are essential to prevent this sort of interference with our members’ legitimate activities. I hope that this statement from South Bank’s Student Union will encourage other Student Unions to reflect on their responsibilities towards the rights of their students”
Cloe Ansari, President of the South Bank University Atheist Society said, “I welcome this statement and apology from the Students’ Union. We are glad that junior union officials will no longer be able to censor our society or prevent us from holding debates. It is encouraging that the Union President and CEO have fully supported our right to free speech, we hope that this support will be accepted by the Union officials who had censored and harassed us. We will be meeting with the Union President and CEO again in two months to follow-up on their commitments”
Importantly, the Union has also committed to protecting Atheist Society posters from damage by storing them behind glass cases and has made clear that the Society can hold debates that criticise religion.
The Union will meet again with the Atheist Society and AHS in two months to follow-up on this commitment.