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EDITOR'S NOTE: Why free speech on campus matters

Listening to a Communist state over their own students leads the University down a dangerous road.

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Image Credit: James Cridland

Over the past week, while I’ve been attempting to decide my Editor’s Note, I’ve wanted this space to be a bit more than details on how many paninis we've bought from the library cafe over the last week (about four) or how our office might slowly be sinking into the lake (maintenance assure us we’re fine.) Thankfully, a story was broken by a York alumnus in The Times that made up my mind.

York campus security, it emerged, sided with students from the University Chinese Society in partially taking down a wall criticising the protests in the country (our full report is in the page across.) In doing so, they set a dangerous precedent that York’s students, Cantonese or otherwise, must refrain from expressing their personal views if it offends others: an idea so damaging it barely needs explaining. What were they thinking?

York’s vibrant student media relies on the principles of freedom of speech and expression. We need YUSU’s guidance when we get stories wrong, but we can largely expect relative freedom regarding what we print, and whose articles we carry. This edition alone features student voices on a vast range of topics that include the decriminalisation of sexual entertainment venues, the importance of environmentalism in pop music and a piece about the misconceptions surrounding bisexuality: none of which would find particularly enthusiastic support within the politburo of the Chinese Communist Party.

York shouldn’t be siding with one group of students over another when it comes to mainstream political views. Doing so sends the message to other political societies that their voices aren’t valuable, that they aren’t acknowledged. This decision will ultimately be negative for York if societies like the York Union begin to limit speaker choice. I can't imagine that every student is a fan of Peter Hitchens either, but that doesn’t decrease his value to discourse on campus.

Our press freedom is central to everything we write, and although we’re aware the University won’t like everything we print in our editions, we need to be confident that they respect our right to say it: if not, then work is at risk of losing its uniquely diverse student media.

Frustrated as I am, I couldn’t complete this Editor’s note without thanking all the people that helped this, my first paper as Editor, emerge. First: Joe Silke for putting up with me as Deputy Editor, and Pat Hook-Willers for the great re-design of our contents and front pages. Also Maddie and Callum, for being the endlessly enthusiastic aids you have been for this edition, and finally our Muse Editors Jonny and Alex, who have moved heaven and earth to giveNouse sections a hand this issue. I look forward to the upcoming year ofsixNouses and at least double that in library paninis. I hope you enjoy our paper!

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