Politics Society announces “high profile Middle Eastern speaker”

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Lancaster University Politics Society has announced an event with a “high profile Middle Eastern speaker” on Wednesday 27 November. The description for the event said: “We’ve been super busy getting this event ready for over a year, tickets will be available soon.” The identity of the speaker has not yet been revealed.

At the event, students will not be allowed to bring in coats, bags, laptops, mobile phones, and bottles. Audience members may be randomly searched to uphold this, and no filming or photography is allowed to take place.

A Politics Society event in March 2019 with Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, was postponed by the Exec as they needed “more time to prepare.” The day the event was supposed to take place, it was met with protests from local pro-Palestine activists, as subtext reported. Around 35 University students and local activists demonstrated in Alexandra Square on 27 March, when Mr Regev had been due to visit the campus, but he never appeared.

In October 2017, a speaking event by Mr Regev at the University of York was marketed as: “In conversation with a high-profile Middle Eastern speaker.” Nouse, a York University student newspaper, reported that details of the event were only disclosed at 6am on the day, and that there was a large private security presence alongside security measures provided by the University.

Mr Regev has visited many university campuses before, including Queen’s University Belfast in October 2018, where the Students’ Union protested the visit. The QUB SU President, Connor Veighey, said that the visit “normalised the actions of the Israeli government” and that “this event highlights a blatant disregard of the university’s commitment to equality and social justice.”

Lancaster University Students’ Union held a controversial campus referendum on Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel in 2015. Although more students voted yes than no in the referendum, the largest number of votes went to ‘abstain’, meaning BDS was not approved.

One of the charitable objectives of the Students’ Union is to provide “forums for discussions and debate for the personal development of its students.” However, societies planning to host controversial speakers must fill out an External Speaker Request Form, which includes a “Declaration of any knowledge of controversy attracted by the speaker or topic in the past.” In deciding whether to permit the speaker, Students’ Union staff have to assess the potential for the speaker’s presence on campus “to cause fear or alarm to members of the student body” or “to give rise to breach of peace,” among other things.

The Politics Society Exec made the following statement to SCAN:

“The Politics Society is organising a discussion and Q&A event with a high-profile Middle Eastern speaker. We expect this to be an informative and educational event and it will be chaired by an academic with specialist knowledge of politics in the Middle East to ensure that the discussion is fair and balanced. The identity of the speaker will be announced in due course.”

LU Politics Society Exec

A Students’ Union spokesperson said:

“Lancaster University Students’ Union is currently supporting the Politics Society in organising for a high-profile Middle Eastern diplomat to attend a discussion and Q&A event on campus. We’re happy to support our members in organising an informative and educational event of this kind.”

Students’ Union spokesperson

Lancaster University was contacted for comment.

Correction (13/11/19): An earlier version of this article said that the Politics Society’s March 2019 meeting with Mark Regev was cancelled after it was met with protests from pro-Palestine activists. It had, in fact, been delayed a week prior as more time was needed to prepare. SCAN is happy to publish corrections, and concerns should be made, in the first instance, to the Online Editor at scan.onlineeditor@lancastersu.co.uk.

Andrew Williams

News Editor 19/20.

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