Written by Student Rights on 25 January 2012 at 6pm

Oldest society at UCL under fire

UCL's prestigious Debating Society, founded in 1828, has come under fire from the University College London Student Union after an alleged breach of protocol in checking speakers for a debate on pornography held in December last year.

The Debating Society is said to be subject to disciplinary procedures after the UCL Union decided that a long standing verbal agreement between the Society and the Union was no longer applicable. The Society itself predates the Union.

The Union is seeking to retroactively penalise the Society for hosting an event entitled, "This House Would Censor Pornography" which featured a former porn star Renee Richards, the Chairman of the Adult Industry Trade Association, Jerry Barnett and Campaigner and Activist with the London Feminist Network and OBJECT, Dr. Julia Long. UCL Union insist that not all these speakers were properly vetted and therefore caused a breach of a protocol that while written, has not been adhered to for years under previous understandings with sabbatical officers.

The society is said to have accepted that the Union would be enforcing rules much closer, having been embarrassed on many previous occasions due to external speakers. It remains unclear why the Union has therefore decided to pursue an old event hosted by one of the least controversial societies.

UCL has been under fire over the past few years for its poor approach in vetting speakers on campuses. Student Rights has previously successfully campaigned against the extremist preacher Abu Usamah appearing on campus. He did however appear in in 2008 and 2009 at the campus, flying in the face of the legitimacy of the Union's policy on external speakers. Other appearances have been made by: 

- Jalal Ibn Saeed 

- Zahir Mahmood 

- Abdur Raheem Green 

- Haitham al-Haddad

- Murtaza Khan

- Uthman Lateef

Wasim Kempson, a colleague of Murtaza Khan, is due to appear in February 2011.

Speculation has arisen over why the Union has chosen the Debating Society and an event on pornography, retroactively at that, to make an example of. Some students have asserted that the Union wanted to make an example of a society that they felt it would be 'easier to attack' rather than ones with sensitivities from religious or political angles.

Raheem Kassam, director of Student Rights said: "It seems rather bizarre that the Union would take this level of disproportionate, retroactive action against the oldest society at UCL. It screams somewhat of overcompensation, or that the Union is being lent on from above to make an example of an 'uncontroversial society'. This is a university with so many transgressions in both past and present when it comes to external speakers that it is hard to take seriously - but it is serious and it is needless bullying."