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Socialist Alternative Statement on the Deregistration of the Socialist Alternative Monash Club

The deregistration of the Monash University Socialist Alternative club from the Monash Student Association is the most serious attack yet in a nationwide campaign to stifle free speech on university campuses.

The deregistration took place at a meeting of Clubs and Societies on Tuesday 2 September, just four days after federal education minister Christopher Pyne wrote a scandalous article in the Australian, which called on universities to clamp down on Socialist Alternative student clubs because of their involvement in the campaign against Israel’s war on Gaza.

For Pyne and the right wing ideologues at the Australian, shutting down Socialist Alternative is not just about stifling critics of Australia’s support for Israel. It is part of a broader attempt to silence the students who have been at the heart of the campaign against the Liberals’ desperately unpopular attacks on higher education.
Universities are trumpeted as bastions of freedom of thought and expression. But in demanding action against Socialist Alternative, Pyne insists that university administrations should be “very careful not to invoke freedom of speech”. For the Liberals and the Murdoch press, freedom of speech is a right reserved for bigots and not to be extended to critics of government policy.
It is a disgrace that Monash Clubs and Societies has caved and agreed to do Pyne’s dirty work for him. Instead of bowing to demands that student activism be repressed, student associations should be encouraging students to be speaking out against the government.
Danny Cain, an organiser with the WA MUA wrote a letter to the University of Western Australia student association, which also attempted to ban the Socialist Alternative club before backing down in the face of a student campaign. Cain talked about the experience he and other MUA members had when they attended a student protest against budget cuts:
“Myself and other young MUA members did not attend the rally because we are University students and we are going to be adversely affected by these changes, we turned up to protest the Liberal government destroying our society and destroying our future. While the turnout was small it was loud and it was only loud because the group of activists who organised the event were passionate about the cause and passionate about creating a more equal and fair society. If you haven’t picked it already, these activists were from the UWA Socialist club. That’s right, the club leading the way in this community struggle is the club you want to eradicate.”
Across Australia, left wing student clubs and activists are being targeted by a vitriolic right wing campaign determined to shut down all dissent. At Sydney Uni, La Trobe Uni and Monash, individual left wing activists are facing disciplinary hearings that may result in their expulsion from university as a consequence of standing up for their political beliefs.
Christopher Pyne and his student Liberal supporters are cynically using pro-Israel student organisations like AUJS to pursue a campaign to squash any opposition to his agenda.
The Monash Socialist Alternative club is the biggest left wing student club in the country. One of its leaders, Sarah Garnham, is the National Union of Students education officer and has played a leading role in the national campaign against Pyne’s attacks on education. This, not spurious accusations made by right wing students, is the real reason the club has been banned.
Socialist Alternative students at Monash have no intention of taking this attack on freedom of speech lying down. We will fight all the way until deregistration has been rescinded. We call on all supporters of free speech to back our campaign.
A petition demanding the decision to overturn the banning of the Socialist Alternative Monash Club can be signed at the link below.
Lot's Wife

The author Lot's Wife

2 Comments

  1. Note: I was C&S VP many years ago, and these are my views only, not the views of any one currently on or affiliated with the C&S executive or council.

    If SA actually paid attention to the C&S constitution, they would understand that they contravened it by blocking students from attending an event, which, even if they have completely different political views, is not allowed (if these students then caused a major disruption, security should be contacted to deal with the situation), and such contravention requires a punishment, as decided by the C&S exec. An appeal can be lodged to the C&S Council, where all the club presidents will decide if to uphold the deregistration, apply a different penalty, or remove all penalties.

    The fact that over the many times that SA has been registered as a club on campus they have been de-registered by the C&S exec and then by the C&S council, which represents a massive proportion of students on campus (President of every club, some clubs having >3000 members, which is more than the number of voters in some MSA elections), highlights that they do not fully understand what it means to be a club on campus.

    The framing of this as a stifling of free speech is frankly, highly offensive. Over many years SA has been given chances, and they keep breaking the rules that /ALL/ clubs on campus are bound by. I commend the C&S executive for their decision, and hope that the C&S Council upholds it.

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