Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Young People of Today; or, There's No Mind Like a Closed Mind...

Still in the Sunshine State, it is hard to credit this morning's news that the Student Union of the University of Queensland has put the campus Newman Society on "probation" for distributing and displaying pro-life, pro-women material.
"I know the Newman Society thinks the union is being heavy handed, but the student union voted in 1993 for free, safe abortion on demand so all women have a genuine choice when faced with unwanted pregnancy," Mr [Joshua] Young [President of the Student Union] said.

Mr Young said the vote was about 1,900 pro-choice, 1,400 against and 200 abstaining.

Asked if it precluded other viewpoints being put forward in debate on campus he said: "It does."
Deary me, what ever happened to young people's disdain for the past? A vote is held sometime back in the dark ages of the early 1990's (in this case by people who would now be old enough to be Mr Young's parents, for God's sake) decrees that from now on the "right thought" for everyone to think must be "abortion on demand", and today's students will brook no dissent from that view? Methinks that Mr Young ought to get out his copy of Orwell's 1984 and "read, learn and inwardly digest" a bit.

24 Comments:

At Thursday, May 15, 2008 12:12:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

The issue is not just that the vote was fourteen years ago. There is the bigger issue of why a students’ union should take it upon itself to dictate what students may think or say. Even if it is still the case that 1,900 students favour favour a policy of free, safe abortion on demand while only 1.400 oppose it, how does this deprive the 1,400 of the right to express their opinion on the question?

I’m telling you, this man is confirming every prejudice I ever had about the State of Queensland!

 
At Thursday, May 15, 2008 12:51:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

Is there a bit of a tension, though, between criticizing UQSU for trying to suppress views which dissent from the official line, while castigating John Garratt for publishing views which dissent from the official line?

 
At Thursday, May 15, 2008 3:36:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Cheeky. There are two points to be kept in mind:

1) The binding authority of any human assembly (be it church, parliament or student union) extends only so far as its legal jurisdiction.

2) The governing bodies of voluntary associations have authority over those who, wishing to enjoy the privileges that come with membership in such societies, voluntarily chose to be members of them.

Thus the Catholic Church has legal (canonical) jurisdiction over all her clergy, over all her baptised members individually, and over all her dioceses and parishes and agencies collectively. Membership in the Church is voluntary, and thus those who choose to be members of the Catholic Church and to enjoy the privileges that come with that membership also have a duty to accept the governing and teaching authority of the Church.

Student Unions also have legal jurisdictions over their member societies. In the case of UQSU, I would question whether that legal jurisdiction extends to the political and religious views of a member organisation. Of course, the Newman Society is a voluntary member in the Student Union and thus may need to ask themselves whether, in order to retain their integrity, they may need to recind membership (and the corresponding privileges) in the Student Union.

In the case of John Garratt Publishing, well, since they are not an agency of the Church, they do not come under the Church's canonical authority. It would only be to the degree that they are voluntarily associated with the Church that recognition of the Church's authority would therefore come into the question.

Despite the fact that the mission statement of John Garratt Publishing includes to "assist the church to fulfil its mission", and their website describes their aim as "to offer resources for schools and parishes and their members to make Christ more present in the world today", they nowhere explicitly claim to be a Catholic institution. I do not know whether the owners and directors of John Garratt Publishing are personally members of the Church (in which case they would come under her authority). Nevertheless, their materials and their focus is predominantly Catholic, and they are happy for their customers to have the impression that they are a Catholic publisher.

by choosing to publish, promote and provide resources that are not in accordance with the faith of the Church, John Garratt has demonstrated to me that they are not a Catholic publisher or bookshop and should not be mistaken for such. In choosing to dissociate themselves from the authority of the Church they should realise that they are also forfeiting any privileges that they may have been able to expect had they maintained such an association.

That's what I meant by "going to far". As for me and my house, we will support a Catholic bookshop.

(Or a Lutheran one. Or an Evangelical one...)

 
At Friday, May 16, 2008 9:36:00 am , Anonymous Hans Kung said...

Before readers of this article judge the union president in his actions, you may not know that the union president's hands are tied by the current rules of the union.

As the uq union is a voluntary association, all materials produced by student clubs affiliated to the union need to be approved by the union president. If the union president approves material that is against union policy as previously determined by referendum then the president can be summarily dismissed from office.

In this case the Newman Society put the union president in a very difficult position. They didn't seek the approval of the president for their materials before they distributed it. Then when the president told them that the material could not go out with the official sanction of the union because it contravened settled policy, they cried foul.

It seems that this entire exercise was a cynical publicity stunt on behalf of the Newman Society to gain publicity by flagrating violating rules for union-affiliated clubs - which they were clearly aware of. The Newman Society know full well that they could have distributed materials on campus as "UQ Catholics" or whatever.

However, what they really wanted to do was cause trouble for the conservative union exec and get some publicity out of the whole exercise. If the Newman Society REALLY felt passionate about this issue, they would assemble the 1500 signatures required to hold a new referendum instead of trying to manipulate the union president into breaking the very rules that he has to keep!

 
At Friday, May 16, 2008 12:09:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

Ah, student politics! Dontcha just love it?

I must admit I had notices in the newspaper report a statement that the SU president was associated with the Liberal party, and I remember thinking “why say that?” Now I know.

Still I have to pick you up on one point:

“ As the uq union is a voluntary association, all materials produced by student clubs affiliated to the union need to be approved by the union president.”

This doesn’t follow at all. Voluntary associations do not have to control or limit their members’ freedom of expression, and the great bulk of voluntary associations make no attempt to do this. I can see no reason why the UQSU should do so, and compelling reasons of principle why they should not. If the Newman Society want to point up the absurdity and offensiveness of this controlling stance, then good on ‘em.

I have to say that I have no sympathy at all for the union president; if he is willing to take and exercise office in such an authoritarian organisation, he deserves every embarrassment that comes his way. If he agrees that it is right for the Union to behave in this way he is a disgrace, and if he disagrees he should resign.

 
At Friday, May 16, 2008 1:30:00 pm , Anonymous Hans Kung said...

Very self-righteous words Peregrinus,

The alternative of course is for catholic students to continue to distribute material on campus but just without the words "authorised by the UQ Union"? Why can't they just write "UQ Catholics"? Why deliberately try to provoke a situation with a student union that has had long standing pro-choice policies for years? Seems like a publicity exercise to me. Given that the Union is voluntary now, if the Newman Society feel so aggrieved by such authoritarianism, why don't they just voluntarily disaffiliate from such a terrible organisation!

 
At Friday, May 16, 2008 2:05:00 pm , Anonymous Mike said...

HK, are you from UQ?

Did the material say "authorised by the UQ Union"?

Aside from the rule itself being extremely totalitarian, it is a stretch - and totally the president's interpretation - to call the poster as described "anti-abortion". Sending a positive message for pregnancy is not the same as denying the "right" to abortion, and in any legal argument it should not be construed that way.

Sure, the Newman Society are (hopefully) anti-abortion. But the rule is apparently not that such people may not participate in University life, but that the material may not itself be "anti abortion".

"Dictatorial" is an appropriate word for the rule itself. Using a "pro choice" ruling by 6% of the population 15 years ago to quash any opposition to it is totalitarian. And if the president won't take responsibility for these rules, then who the hell will? He could intiate a change to them, or he could apply them fairly. There really is no excuse.

 
At Friday, May 16, 2008 5:44:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

The alternative of course is for catholic students to continue to distribute material on campus but just without the words "authorised by the UQ Union"? Why can't they just write "UQ Catholics"?

I wasn’t aware that the material [i]did[/i] say “authorised by the UQ Union”; that isn’t in the newspaper report. Certainly if that was the case, it would justify disciplining the Newman Society, because the claim would be untrue. I don’t see, though, why they should conceal the fact that they are the Newman Society. Why should the Newman Society have to pretend to be some other organisation in order to express its mind on this question?

Why deliberately try to provoke a situation with a student union that has had long standing pro-choice policies for years?

To protest against the policy? Or to protest against the Union’s assertion of the right to silence other student bodies? Either of these would look like good reasons to me.

Seems like a publicity exercise to me.

Of course it’s a publicity exercise; all poster campaigns are publicity exercises. For that matter, the Union’s adoption of a pro-choice policy is a publicity exercise, given that it’s not in the business of providing abortions itself. The whole point about freedom of speech is that it does give people the right to publicise things. What’s so terrible about a publicity exercise?

Given that the Union is voluntary now, if the Newman Society feel so aggrieved by such authoritarianism, why don't they just voluntarily disaffiliate from such a terrible organisation!

Probably because they would lose a lot of money. From their own point of view – and, indeed, from everybody’s point of view, protesting against authoritarianism and pressuring the Union to become democratic would seem like a much better course of action. You’re not seriously arguing that it’s in the best interests of UQ students to have a union which behaves in this intolerant fashion?

 
At Saturday, May 17, 2008 6:31:00 pm , Anonymous Hans Kung said...

peregrinus said:

"...I don’t see, though, why they should conceal the fact that they are the Newman Society. Why should the Newman Society have to pretend to be some other organisation in order to express its mind on this question?"

It is incredible to me that a pro-life Catholic student club would WANT to voluntarily affiliate or associate with the UQ Union. Is it surprising that the Newman society are being disciplined for distributing pro-life material as part of a pro-abortion organisation???

'---> Given that the Union is voluntary now, if the Newman Society feel so aggrieved by such authoritarianism, why don't they just voluntarily disaffiliate from such a terrible organisation!'

"Probably because they would lose a lot of money."

The Union does not give clubs & societies (including the Newman society) any money.

 
At Monday, May 19, 2008 12:39:00 am , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

"The Union does not give clubs & societies (including the Newman society) any money."

Oh. My mistake.

What, then, is the point of affiliating to the student union? Is there any advantage at all? There is an obvious disadvantage if the SU claism the right to tell you what to think, so there must be some compensating advantage.

Or, to put it another way, if the SU were to expel the Newman Society, how would that affect the Newman Society?

 
At Monday, May 19, 2008 11:38:00 am , Anonymous hans kung said...

There would be no real effect as the Newman Society is affiliated to the UQ Chaplaincy via the Catholic priest on staff there. If the Newman Society wanted a stall for Orientation Week etc, it would book it through the Chaplaincy rather than the student union. Probably a better result all round.

Again, in my view this is a cynical publicity exercise designed to embarass the Union President into enforcing a union policy that splits his executive.

As Matthew says: "By their works, you shall know them."

 
At Monday, May 19, 2008 3:23:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

I don't see why you think it's "cynical". If the Union has a policy of telling other societies what to say and think, surely they ought to be embarassed over it?

 
At Monday, May 19, 2008 4:27:00 pm , Anonymous Hans Kung said...

Peregrinus,

It’s cynical because when you join a church, political party or voluntary association (like the UQ Union), to some extent you are signing on with their policies. Should people who support polygamy, abortion, married priests, atheism etc join the Catholic church? Of course not! Why would such individuals join the Church? Answer – to cause trouble. Put simply, if the Newman Society doesn’t like the union’s policies then they should run a referendum to change them or disaffiliate. Their lack of enthusiasm for either option fortifies my view that it is a publicity stunt. “By their works, you shall know them”.

 
At Monday, May 19, 2008 6:02:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

I think we’re talking about two separate issues here.

There’s the issue that the SU has a policy on abortion. That’s one thing.

Then there’s the issue that the SU has a policy on any subject and demands that SU members should not have or express any other views on that subject. It’s the last bit I have a problem with. Note that my problem has nothing to do with the fact that the policy in this instance relates to abortion, still less with the fact that it happens to be a pro-choice policy.

To be blunt; I have no problem with the SU adopting this policy. It’s the way the SU attempts to enforce the policy that bothers me.

It strikes me as frankly Stalinist to take the line that, once a particular policy has been adopted by an organisation, then nobody in the organisation is ever allowed to express a different view. For a start, how can the policy be subsequently debated, revised or rejected, if nobody is allowed to disagree with it?

Besides, what harm can it do the SU to acknowledge the blindingly obvious truth that members of the SU may have differing views on some matters? Why should the Newman Society not be allowed to say that they disagree with SU policy on this matter? Their disagreement will hardly surprise anybody. Why, indeed, should it bother the SU that the Newman Society disagrees with their policy, and says so? If the policy does indeed enjoy the democratic support of the SU members, the disagreement of individual members or organisations is not a threat to the policy, or to the SU. And, if it doesn’t enjoy that support, then quasi-Stalinist measures to shore it up are hardly justified.

The bottom line: it would be unrealistic to expect that all members of the SU will be of one mind on any matter on which the SU adopts a policy. The SU’s attempt to enforce the pretence that they are makes it seem that the SU is afraid of reality, afraid of discussion, afraid of debate and afraid of diversity of opinion. And perhaps they are; I can’t think of any other reason for the stance they are taking.

 
At Monday, May 19, 2008 6:20:00 pm , Anonymous Hans Kung said...

Peregrinus,

It seems pretty simple to me.

Can individual Catholic churches/dioceses be pro-choice, pro-ordination of women, pro-marriage of priests, pro-gay marriage, pro-stem cell research, pro-euthanasia?

No.

Why not?

Because the church has its own canonical law and set of approved doctrines and theologies which its churches are expected to follow.

Churches which cannot follow those paths are disciplined and if necessary ex-communicated or revoked.

Voluntary organisations have rules which have been arrived at over years of debate and reform. New members or organisations wishing to affiliate with those voluntary society should be expected to follow those rules.

The union is an unincorporated association. As such, the President holds full legal liability for all materials produced under the auspices of the union and its affiliates. Ergo, the President MUST approve all publications of affiliated clubs.

Should the president approve material which denies the holocaust, promotes racial hatred or physical violence against particular members of the community (queer students, women etc)? Absolutely not. Freedom of speech is not an absolute. Some speech is designed to shut down other forms of speech. Those forms of speech certainly aren't free and may even be unlawful - as a result they cannot be officially sanctioned.

Some would argue that pro-life materials such as that produced by Newman Society is a form of hate speech as it is designed to demonise women who have an abortion as child-killers. The union president does not accept this. He simply took the line that the material was unapproved and thus should be removed. He took a further line of referring the material to the union's clubs and societies committee (an elected body of students) for advice as to whether or not the material breached the union's policies.

The bottom line is that the Newman Society are free to distribute whatever material they wish, they just cannot do so with the approval of the union. Just as the Catholic Church has an approved catechism and theology which provide a boundary around which Catholic thought operates - ergo, the Union.

 
At Monday, May 19, 2008 10:24:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

The bottom line is that the Newman Society are free to distribute whatever material they wish, they just cannot do so with the approval of the union.

That’d be a perfectly acceptable outcome as far as I am concerned, but it is not, unfortunately, the bottom line. The real bottom line is that, so far as I can tell from the newspaper reports, the Newman Society neither claimed nor sought the approval of the Union for their poster –that is, they displayed it without approval, which you evidently feel they ought to be able to do - and yet the Union president is still quoted as saying that viewpoints other than the Union’s are precluded from being expressed on campus. Obviously, the Union President does not share your liberal and tolerant views (or mine).

Your analogy with the Catholic church is, I think, misplaced. The Church in Brisbane is just that – the Catholic church, in Brisbane. It has no independent existence, or any raison d’etre other than to be the Catholic church in Brisbane. But the Newman Society certainly does not perceive itself, and is not perceived, as the manifestation of the UQ Student’s Union to Catholics. It is an autonomous organisation with its own role and mission, which has affiliated to the UQSU because it hopes and expects that that will aid it in doing what it wants to do. I am sure the same is true of every organisation affiliate to the Union.

A better analogy would be, something like the Australian Congress of Trade Unions, or the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, or any of a large number of other bodies which have federated or affiliated in order to advance their members' aims.

It is silly to suggest that, because the Union is a voluntary body, the President and other officers are exposed to personal liability for everything any of the member organizations does. They do not control what the member organizations do, and they are not responsible for it, any more than the Australian Federation of Travel Agents is liable if one of its member travel agencies stuffs up a booking or misrepresents a holiday.

Anybody who argues that a poster showing an eight-week foetus is a form of “hate speech” directed at women is an idiot; if that were true, then obstetrics textbooks would all be in serious trouble, and embryologists would have to deliver their seminars in hiding. Obviously, such people are entitled to express their views, but if they expect these views to carry any weight in a discussion between rational people they delude themselves.

But even if it were a form of hate speech, the President would not be liable, because he is not responsible. No doubt if a member organization were engaged in hate speech, the union would wish to disassociate itself, if necessary by expelling the offending organization. I would support that move enthusiastically. There is, however, no question of that here. The president has not sought to discipline the Newman Society for peddling hate speech, but for expressing views of which the Union does not approve and you can see immediately the difference between these two stances, and why the authority the President claims goes well beyond disassociating the Union from hate speech.

 
At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 9:19:00 am , Anonymous Hans Kung said...

Peregrinus,

"It is silly to suggest that, because the Union is a voluntary body, the President and other officers are exposed to personal liability for everything any of the member organizations does. They do not control what the member organizations do, and they are not responsible for it, any more than the Australian Federation of Travel Agents is liable if one of its member travel agencies stuffs up a booking or misrepresents a holiday."

Unfortunately Peregrinus this is incorrect. The UQ Union is an unincorporated association. As such it does not possess the legal status of a person (ie. it is not-corporated). Consequently, all legal action brought against the Union must be brought against the person who is in control - ie. the President. This situation is reflected in both common law and the Union's own constitution.

Furthermore, all publication from the Union and its affiliated bodies must be approved by the President as the President is assigned the common law and constitutional status of "Publisher". So yes, the President can be liable for materials put out by affiliated clubs and has been held to be so in the past!

On the issue of hate speech, it really is a fine line. I have tape recordings of executive members of the Newman Society telling students who come to the stall that:

"It's a proven fact that having an abortion is bad for your health..."

"Abortion IS murder..."

Leaving aside the accuracy of these statements, there could be a case made that statements like this villify women who have had or are considering a termination.

This is a very difficult issue to navigate and I think the President is correct to distance the union from it. As an executive public officer, the President is not a policy officer, the President is a decision maker and as such must abide by the rules of the union.

As I said earlier, if the Newman society is really keen to change the policy and not merely seek publicity and their names in the paper then they will get cracking on the necessary number of signatures to have a referendum of students called!

 
At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 11:59:00 am , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents is also an unincorporated association. This is a complete red herring. The officers of an unincorporated association may be legally liable for the acts of the association, but they are not liable for the acts of each member of the association.

Similarly, I struggle to see how the President is the publisher of anything the Newman Society (or any other club or society) puts out. It is quite obvious that the publishers is the responsible officer or officers of the Newman Society.

Now, if the Newman Society enters into an agreement with the Union that the President will review and approve everything the Newman Society issues, then the President might be viewed as the publisher (along with the Newman Society officers, not instead of them), because he now does have some degree of control. But its quite obvious that such an agreement is not designed to protect the President from legal liability; it increases the risk of liability, rather than reducing it. The President could protect his own position much more effectively by not attempting to control what the Newman Society does.

Whatever the reason for the claim of the Union President to regulate what other clubs and societies say, then, it is not to protect the Union or the President from liability. It seems, in this case at any rate, to be intended to enable the Union to silence views of which it disapproves. The President has been quite frank about that, and I see no reason to disbelieve him.

Hate speech can be a fine line, but a poster showing an eight-week foetus comes nowhere near it. Nor, I have to say, do either of the other examples you give (though they are in any case irrelevant; there is no suggestion that the President has sought to stop Newman Society members saying whatever they like on their stall). If you can find a court or tribunal anywhere in the world that has held such things to be examples of hate speech attracting legal penalties, I’ll eat my hat.

If the President wants to distance the Union from such statements, I have no problem at all. All he has to do is to say that these are the views of the Newman Society, not of the Union.

You keep asking why the Newman Society doesn’t mount an effort to get the Union policy changed. One could be smart and say that such an effort would be seriously handicapped if the expression of views critical of the current policy is banned, as the President claims. But the real answser is that the Newman Society has shown no desire to change the Union policy; they merely wish to be able to express their own policy.. There is no evidence that they object to the Union having a policy, or that they wish to change that policy. They are not, you see, afflicted with megalomania.

 
At Wednesday, May 21, 2008 9:56:00 am , Anonymous Hans Kung said...

Peregrinus,

Again, your assumption is wrong. The union rules clearly state that in a referendum both sides of the question are to be allocated equal access to resources. No censorship is sanctioned in that open contest.

I think your reasoning is becoming somewhat circular but regardless, noone wants more abortions to occur. Everyone wants fewer abortions to occur. If the Catholic Students' Society is really serious about reducing abortion, they would get active around issues of rape, poverty and accurate information about contraception.

But of course they don't because it is all just a media stunt. I truly hope that Mr Peregrinus and Mr Schuetze are active around the issues of rape, poverty and contraception education as abortion prophylatics rather than just being anti-abortion.

 
At Wednesday, May 21, 2008 12:03:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

You keep trying to change the subject, Hans, and i won’t let you away with it. The issue the concerns me is not whether the Newman Society’s policy is sound, well-thought out, justified or whatever. The issue is whether the Newman Society – or, by extension, any other group of students or individual students – has the right to form and express their own ideas on this or any other subject.

The President maintains that they do not; once the Union has spoken, all other must be silent. You seem to a agree with the President’s position, though on the basis of reasoning which the President himself does not advance.

You keep returning to your claim that the Newman Society’s stance is “cynical’, but that is irrelevant, unless you feel that the right of others to express their views is dependent on Hans Kung accepting that they are sincere or, at any rate, not cynical. But the whole point about freedom of expression is that it allows people we don’t like to express views we don’t like; otherwise it is meaningless. For the same reason, your hopes about whether David and myself do or do not do with respect to the problem of crisis pregancies are completely irrelevant; the right of the Newman Society to express its views doesn’t depend on our merits either.

 
At Thursday, May 22, 2008 4:29:00 pm , Anonymous Hans Kung said...

Peregrinus,

My approach is to deal with your objection, demolish it and then point out further logical or philosophical inconsistencies in your approach.

Here is my essential syllogism -

1) the UQ Union has rules and policies,
2) the Newman Society is a long-standing affiliate of the UQ Union,
3) the Newman Society is well aware of the UQ Union's rules and policies,
CONCLUSION: If the Newman Society is unable or unwilling to comply with the UQ Union's rules and policies then it should disaffiliate from the Union. Said disaffiliation will have no effect on the ability of the Newman Society to distribute its message.

Supplementary point: Analogous to the Catholic Church, Trade Unions, Sporting Clubs, the UQ Union (and indeed even the Newman Society) have rules and procedures that members and affiliates are expected to comply with. Failure to comply may result in disciplinary action or in an extreme case - revocation of membership. Members and affiliates are free to resign or disaffiliate at any time without penalty.

Please point out to me the logical incoherency in this argumentation!

 
At Thursday, May 22, 2008 6:51:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

The argument is logical, but if fails to address my point, which is that it is wrong for the Union to have a rule which attempts to supress freedom of speech . Your argument simply takes the rule as a given, whereas my whole poitn is that the rule is unacceptable.

I have never said that the Newman Society was right to breach the Union's rules (although, as it happens, I think it probably was). My point is that it is wrong for the Union to have such a rule in the first place, regardless of whether anyone breaches it.

 
At Friday, May 23, 2008 1:20:00 pm , Anonymous Hans Kung said...

Peregrinus,

As I said earlier, absolute freedom of speech is a contradiction given that some speech is designed to limit other's freedom of speech. Examples in the wider society of such limits include the banning in our society of child pornography, racist literature, incitement to violence.

Peregrinus, I daresay you support the prohibition of these materials! Hence you support my position that there are limits to absolute freedom of speech, yes?

So, given that you support limits to absolute freedom of speech, here is my logical argument in syllogistic form:

1) Our union supports freedom of speech
2) Our union recognises that some speech is designed to limit others' freedom of speech
3) Our union has a rule that any policy that receives majority support in a referendum of all students shall become the policy of the union until another referendum on the issue is held
4) A referendum was held that established the union as pro-choice
5) Other referendums/policies of the union include a prohibition of support for uranium mining, sexism, racism and homophobia
CONCLUSION: Our union has a rule that policies of the union relating to materials are binding on its members.

The President of the union is not a policy maker, but a decision maker. He cannot change the policies of the union. His role is to enforce the policies that were decided by the majority of the student body. Those policies can be changed by a vote of students and perhaps they should be changed. However, until they are changed, the President is duty bound to enforce the union's policies.

The Catholic Student Society are free to disaffiliate from the Union or call a referendum at any time. They are also free to distribute pro-life materials without referring to themselves as a UQ-Union affiliated club.

 
At Friday, May 23, 2008 1:41:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

Hi Hans

. . . here is my logical argument in syllogistic form:

1) Our union supports freedom of speech
2) Our union recognises that some speech is designed to limit others' freedom of speech
3) Our union has a rule that any policy that receives majority support in a referendum of all students shall become the policy of the union until another referendum on the issue is held
4) A referendum was held that established the union as pro-choice
5) Other referendums/policies of the union include a prohibition of support for uranium mining, sexism, racism and homophobia
CONCLUSION: Our union has a rule that policies of the union relating to materials are binding on its members.


Now I will criticise your logic.

I’ll grant your first proposition for the purposes of the argument (though I should point out that I don’t actually know it to be true).

I’ll grant your second proposition on the same basis, but I question its relevance in the present context. There has been no assertion that the display of a picture of a foetus would have limited anyone’s freedom of speech, and consequently this proposition does not seen to support an argument that the poster can be banned. Still, I’m open to the possibility that you will rely on this proposition in the course of your argument in some way which makes it relevant.

I’ll grant your third and fourth propositions – the pro-choice policy has been adopted, and remains union policy.

I’ll grant your fifth proposition, but it seems irrelevant.

Your conclusion may or may not be an accurate statement of fact – the union may well have such a rule - but it certainly doesn’t follow from your five propositions.

Nor, even if it were logically established, does your conclusion address my concerns. The issue is not whether the Union policy binds the Newman Society, but whether the Newman Society is are entitled to express disagreement with it. By way of parallel, I am certainly bound by the Income Tax Assessment Act and must make an income tax return and pay income tax, but equally I am certainly free to say whatever I like about any and all provisions of the tax legislation.

 

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