Written by Student Rights on 24 November 2011 at 12pm

Obama effigy was stupid and hateful - not the stuff of civil society

The news that members of the St. Andrews University Conservative Association spent last Friday night burning an effigy of US President Barack Obama is something that highlights the many different kinds of extremism on university campuses in the UK.

Whilst it may seem over the top to describe this incident in this way, the result of such actions could be very serious.

Rather than just a simple joke, the act of burning an effigy is intimidating, barbaric and contrary to ideals of a peaceful campus environment. As well as this, the image has an uncomfortable resonance with the white opposition to the civil rights movement in the 1950s.

This view was echoed by the St Andrews Students Union spokesman who said that “the burning of political or public figures in effigy can be an act of hate, stifles productive engagement and can be offensive”.

The Vice-President of the Students Union concurred, stating “I do not believe this was a racist act but I don't believe that makes it any less disgusting”

Here at Student Rights we stand for promoting open and productive relationships between student societies that disagree with each other’s views.

The key way in which to do this is to encourage and foster communication and balanced debate between political opponents.

By openly burning an effigy in this way the Conservative Association has surely seriously damaged the chances of this happening. There is also a chance that they will have put off other students from joining the society and expressing their ideas through these actions.

As a result, it must be highlighted by universities to their student societies that to take such an aggressive, violent action, regardless of how distasteful someone’s views are deemed to be, is utterly unacceptable.