The Union Notes:
1. That the right to freedom of opinion and expression is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
2. That the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the right to manifest religion or belief, is enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
3. That these rights are also protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (Articles 9 and 10), and in English law, including through the Human Rights Act 1998,
4. That the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 includes a commitment that universities must “ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for … students” on university and students’ union premises, and that this includes the duty to ensure that “the use of any premises of the establishment is not denied to any individual or body of persons on any ground connected with-
a. the beliefs or views of that individual or any member of that body; or
b. the policy or objectives of that body”
5. That the University of Reading’s Regulations for Conduct state “Freedom of discussion is basic to a university and all its members must tolerate and protect the expression of unpopular opinions.”
The Union Believes:
1. That the Students’ Union has a duty to uphold freedom of expression and freedom of thought for all members, regardless of political, religious, or other affiliations,
2. That certain restrictions on free speech, including existing RUSU prohibitions on harassment, intimidation, threats, incitement to hatred, and verbal assault, are necessary for protecting students,
3. That the current prohibition of causing offence, contained within the RUSU Behavioural Policy, is counter-productive, as;
a. It places serious and unacceptable restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of thought,
b. It is not consistently applied, as many offensive actions go unchallenged,
c. In any situation where serious harm is caused by an action, RUSU can and should enforce its prohibitions on harassment, etc.
The Union Resolves:
1. To uphold the rights of students to freedom of expression and freedom of thought, for the benefit of students and within the limits allowed by the law,
2. To recommend, under Clause 91.3 of the RUSU Constitution, that the Trustees amend the RUSU Behavioural Policy so that the line which now reads “Behaviour should be lawful and not cause offence” will read “Behaviour should be lawful.”
3. To ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of thought are taken into account in future Policies.
Vote YES if you believe that university campuses should be a place for discussion and debate, not censorship.
Vote YES if you believe that RUSU should treat the beliefs of all students equally and with respect.
Vote YES if you believe that free speech is an important right for everyone, regardless of religious, political, or other affiliation.