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The Students’ Union has responded to allegations in The Times, and campus newspapers, that personnel removed pro-Hong Kong democracy posters by Cantonese students at Freshers fair. The news follows allegations by many of the same publications that doing so was an affront to free speech: an allegation YUSU’s statement vehemently denies.
Writing in response to an open letter by University of York alumnus Elliott Banks, who criticised the decision, the Union said it had “been conducting an investigation into the matter” that included meetings with “staff and students who were there.”
The investigation reportedly confirmed that there was a “disagreement” between two groups of students and the Union staff at the event, but stopped short of saying that Union staff had compelled the students to remove material in any way. Instead, the report argues, the students had made an “offer” to remove some of the material in order to resolve the situation. It also confirmed that material had not been forcibly taken down by YUSU staff, something which original media reports had never alleged.
YUSU’s statement now places it at odds with the sources used in the original story by York alumnus Henry Dyer. Sources quoted by him said that they felt “pressured” to take the material down. The disagreement between YUSU and its critics is complicated by the fact that most of the media reports surrounding the now-infamous scandal had not been written by students with first-hand experience of the incident.
YUSU did make an apology to students, saying that it was “sorry if the students felt they had to remove legitimate materials promoting discussion of a conflict overseas,” adding it was “aware of the Education Act, [which] has a proud history of promoting freedom of speech and expression.”
The statement can be read in full here.
The original open letter can be read in full here.