Image Credit: Turning Point UK
After years of trying, Turning Point UK York branch has now been classed as “recommended to ratify” by YUSU. The group in question was rejected amid concerns that their conduct would breach the code of conduct once ratified. Due to reasons of governance and legality, the ratification of the society is now underway.
Nouse spoke with YUSU President, Patrick O’Donnell, regarding this, and discussed with him what precedent this ratification means for York. On the matter of what precedent TPUK’s “recommended to ratify” status sets, O’Donnell tells us that “it sets the precedent that we try and facilitate free speech on campus where we can but we also put in adequate safeguards for all our students wherever we feel that we need to.”
O’Donnell went on to clarify that “this decision to ratify Turning Point was made from the governance deci - sion - it wasn’t made by any trustees personal beliefs. We do recognise concerns from the student community about the actions of the national and international bodies of Turning Point UK and USA, and as such that is why we have put certain conditions in place for full ratification of the society.” One of these conditions is that all of their committee members must undergo “equality and diversity training.” Until this, among other conditions, is completed, TPUK “can’t run any physical events on campus. He adds that “we would ask students to report any incident where they feel that student groups or individuals have crossed the line” and that “while we recognize that we want to encour - age free speech and political debate, we have to do that respectively and within our broader awareness of our community.”
On this issue of safeguarding and student welfare, we asked O’Donnell whether TPUK’s “recommended to ratify” status was symbolic of the union prioritising free speech over student welfare. He responded to this by saying: “we want our students to have opportunities to debate and ex - press their views, but those debates must be respectful and mindful of all our other groups on campus. We have spoken at length about the issues that have been raised, such as the petition which is currently being circulated. This is why we have posed those four conditions for their ratification, which we would not usually do for most other societies.” Relating to an incident last week, where TPUK were listed as a stall in Freshers’ Fair, O’Donnell clarifies that this was “an administra - tive error and they should not have been listed on the Freshers’ Fair map.” YUSU created two maps for the fair in question, one in which listed TPUK in the event that their ratification was accepted, and one without them in the event that TPUK were not ratified. Therefore, because TPUK have not yet achieved full ratification, the map without their stall should have been posted to the website.
Finally, we asked O’Donnell if he personally believes TPUK should be ratified. He began by expressing how his “personal views are well-known, but this decision was taken from a governance point of view where personal views are irrelevant.” O’Donnell heavily suggested his own disagreement with the views of TPUK, stat - ing that the group is not one he would “naturally engage with based on my personal views” and that his “natural inoculation is not of that point of view.” However, he did comment that he has “absolutely full confidence that the decision made, from a governance perspective, was the right one to make, where personal views are ir - relevant.” He states that “the broader responsibilities of the Student Union and the University are to make sure we have the correct balance between free speech and wellbeing for our students on campus