YUSU criticised for debate condemnation

York Union Debating Society has spoken out about the YUSU Executive’s decision to send a letter to the Oxford Union President, condemning his invitation to controversial figures Nick Griffin and David Irving

York Union Debating Society has spoken out about the YUSU Executive’s decision to send a letter to Oxford Union President, Luke Tryl, condemning his invitation to British National Party leader Nick Griffin and discredited historian David Irving. York Union have decided to send their own letter to Tryl, giving him its full support.

Maryah Mufti, York Union President said: “I respect the democratic process that Anne-Marie, YUSU President, outlined for us but we do have a lot of interaction with the Oxford Debating Union, while YUSU doesn’t and it would have been nice to have been kept in the loop-especially as we are a YUSU society. It was assumed by Oxford that it was our opinion as well, whereas today with the vote we just took, we will be planning on sending a letter to Oxford telling them that we had this debate and that students voted in favour of supporting them.”

Her comments came after a York Union debate last night that passed a motion supporting the Oxford Union’s decision to invite Griffin and Irving to speak, with 79 votes for and 14 against.

Edmund Scholey, Vice-President, York Union explained the decision to hold the York debate. “The Union believes in hearing all sides of the argument in order to come to a more informed decision. We believe it is important with free speech to call all points of view and will obviously be telling Oxford Union our own view point,” he said.

Michael Batula, YUSU Racial Equality Officer, who with his co-officer Ishmael Norris wrote the YUSU letter said, “Both sides have missed the point about why the letter was sent out and the actions of what it was supposed to show.” He added: “I think that it is my job to let students know the reasons for writing the letter.”

Anne-Marie Canning defended YUSU’s decision to send the letter by explaining how the YUSU Exec worked to those assembled at the debate. “The two racial equality officers came to the Union Executive with concern over this event. These are your elected representatives and they asked us to support them in writing a letter. We voted to support them, and even if we had not voted to support them they would have sent the letter on their behalf anyway. It is in their job description.”

The controversial debate took place on Monday, despite strong condemnation by the NUS, many affiliated student unions and other high-profile individuals such as Equalities and Human Rights Commission chairman Trevor Phillips. Tryl afterwards said that the event had been a success, claiming: “We had David Irving and Nick Griffin, both challenged and subjected to the proper scrutiny of students.”

A YUSU Union General Meeting is being held on Thursday November 29th to discuss the topic “Should we condemn the BNP”, with voting online the following week.

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