For nearly a week, ‘Warwick For Free Education’ has “occupied” a new building on campus which is not open to students, claiming to be making a stand against low pay for teachers and the “marketisation of education”.
I’m always intrigued by students politics, particularly when a 6 day occupation is taking place on my doorstep. However much to my disappointment, I was informed that I am in fact banned from the premises on account of my being a conservative, (along with fascists, racists and trans exclusive radical feminists – why not lump us all together). I was warned that no oppressive speech or behaviour is allowed since this is after all, a “safe space”, and I must respect everyone’s gender pronouns.
Events and discussions taking place during this occupation include ‘Warwick for Justice in Palestine’, ‘Prevent and Borders’, and ‘An Anti-Capitalist Guide to Reproductive Rights’. You might be wondering what these have to do with free education and Warwick’s staff pay. The answer is: absolutely nothing.
There is a lot to digest here. The fact teachers aren’t being paid enough at Warwick is something many students would support, we care a lot about the staff and their treatment. But the ‘occupiers’ of the Slate have alienated virtually the whole student body through their barmy occupation “rules” and exposed the movement to be more about their intolerant, far-left politics than pursuing solely the issue at hand. The Israel/Palestine debate is clearly irrelevant and serves to create further tension and division, especially for the Jewish Society which already struggles as a minority on campus. Once again, the far-left are selective about whose rights are considered and who is to feel safe in their space.
In the midst of such injustice, interested, and rather miffed about the fact I was banned, I decided to get in touch on the Facebook page. I politely asked why I was banned on the grounds they disagree with my political views, and asked if there was someone I could talk to further. “Nope” was the first response, to which I questioned the inclusivity of their supposedly universal movement, and was swiftly given the explanation “sorry not sorry”.
It is important we take a stand against such blatant intolerance. The actions of myself and other conservatives on campus has put pressure on the individuals responsible for the ban -many of whom were open to conversation- and it has since been lifted. However safe their space, these blanket assumptions about the malignity of views they don’t understand must be challenged. Different political societies on campus must pursue dialog or else blanket bans, no-platforming and further division will escalate. At some point we stopped respecting one another and this must change (after all, respecting does not mean agreeing), for the sake of free speech, and the intellectual and personal benefits which accompany it.
If this is Corbyn’s “kinder, gentler” politics I would love to see the alternative.
Sophia Bryant is Co-Founder of Generation Conservative