Students at Brunel University staged a walk-out during a debate in protest against the university’s decision to invite Katie Hopkins to be a panellist.
On Monday evening, students left the room half-empty when they walked out of a debate in order to express their disappointment at their university’s decision to invite the controversial columnist to sit on the panel.
Kate Hopkins vs Brunel students
The 50 students involved waited for Katie, who was the fourth and final panellist to give her opinion on the first question, to begin speaking before simultaneously standing and turning their backs on her. When she finished talking, the students silently left the room in what fellow-panellist and journalist, Harriet Sergeant took to Twitter to describe as “a dignified and effective protest.”
The debate, which was titled “Does the welfare state have a place in the modern economy?”, was the first in a series of ‘Big Questions’ debates, which are being held as part of Brunel University’s fiftieth anniversary celebrations.
In the run up to the night, a number of students had voiced their concerns about the decision to invite Katie, who infamously referred to migrants as “cockroaches”, to speak on the campus of a university which is ranked joint fifteenth in the Times Higher Education list of the 25 most international universities in the world.
History student, Angus Bugg-Millar, justified his decision for taking part in the protest by saying “I walked out because I thought it was wrong that she was invited for our 50th anniversary celebrations. She doesn’t represent us in any way, and came only for selfish means; to increase her platform and aid her career in being a professional troublemaker.”
“Our students were right to walk out, Brunel is better than Katie Hopkins”
Brunel’s Student Union President, Ali Milani, later uploaded a blog post, entitled “Our students were right to walk out, Brunel is better than Katie Hopkins”, in which he praised the students behind the walk-out, which he said made him especially proud to be a part of Brunel.[video:https://youtu.be/HKVTE9Vj5uA]
Mr Milani wrote “the conversation at no point has been about banning Ms Hopkins from speaking on campus, or denying her right to speak. It is instead about saying it is distasteful and incongruous for our University, as part of a 50th celebration event, to provide a platform to someone who adds nothing to the intellectual or academic discourse; and an individual who publicly utters such overtly bigoted views.”
In response to the decision to invite Katie Hopkins, a spokesman from Brunel University said “the future of the welfare state is a vital issue for everyone and, though we may not agree with everything they have to say, all four of our debate panellists not only hold views shared in every community in Britain, they have a platform with which to promote them.”
“Those students who walked out did so peaceably and without disrupting the event for others. Those who stayed took the opportunity to challenge and question the positions of all our panel members in a positive manner,” the spokesman continued.