Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Freedom of Speech?

This evening I was reminded about why I'm glad I graduated from student politics when I attended a meeting of the Central Societies Committee in TCD. This body oversees the student societies in College and is one of the five capitated bodies in College. At various points in history I served as Secretary, Chair and Treasurer but I now just attend the thrice yearly general meetings as the representative of the Choral Society.

On the agenda was a motion to mandate the CSC representatives on another committee to vote in a certain way if a motion were proposed on a certain topic. The back story to this is long, complex and I don't really know many of the details and nuances, but the long and short is that the Senior Dean wanted the right to pull student publications if they were likely to get the College in to serious trouble over their content. The members of the Publications Committee were trying to build support for their "freedom of speech" campaign by passing these motions at meetings of the other capitated bodies.

The problem was that it was clear from the outset that the CSC was not in favour of passing the motion. Many people wanted to speak against the motion but only two for which meant that under the rules only two speakers against were allowed. Talk about a restriction of freedom of speech! While in the end the motion was soundly defeated by about 2-1 the proceedings really made a mockery of the system. Surely if a group want a motion passed they should be able to bring along speakers in favour of their position. Why should opponents be silenced to keep up the pretence of a McKenna style, fair and balanced debate?

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