Last Updated on March 2, 2021
A student at Aberdeen University has been banned from the Student Association for two weeks after saying “Rule Britannia” and defending the British military.
Elizabeth Heverin, a first year History and Politics student at Aberdeen University, was banned from the university’s Student’s Association’s (the British equivalent to a Student’s Union) building and facilities, for a full two weeks, after speaking up during a Student Council meeting.
The topic of the meeting in December was the discussion of a motion as to whether to continue the Association’s ban on allowing the University Officer’s Training Corps, the Army Reserve unit that recruits from university students, to recruit on campus. Heverin, along with a number of students from all backgrounds, spoke out against the motion.
At one point during the meeting, one student claimed that the British army being on campus would “make international students feel uncomfortable, due to the atrocities committed by the Empire.” Heverin responded, querying why somebody who had been terrorized by the armed forces of a country would want to come to that country to study. Later on, she also quipped “Rule Britannia” in the Microsoft Teams chat.
After the meeting, a complaint was launched against Heverin by another member for her comments, with the Aberdeen University Student’s Association determining that she had broken a number of bylaws, and arguing that the phrase “Rule Britannia” could be “construed as potentially discriminatory.”
“Discriminatory or racist language or behaviour will not be tolerated in any circumstances,” an email to Heverin reads. “It is important to remember that the student body at Aberdeen is diverse and made up of students from many countries. Care therefore needs to be taken in the choice of language used, and local cultural references may not always mean the same to other as they may do to you.”
The SA were not able to determine whether there had been a “deliberate racist intent” in saying “Rule Britannia,” but Heverin was still punished for falling foul of bylaws that included rules that students “must not use foul or abusive language.” Another student had also said Rule Britannia in the chat, but they were not punished for their comments.
Speaking exclusively to National File, Heverin said she failed to understand why any of what she said could be considered “racist” at all. “I feel as if I have been sanctioned by my university for the sole crime of being patriotic,” she added.
Unsurprisingly, the action taken against Heverin is not a one-off event. In 2016, fellow student Derek Gardiner was banned from the debating society for four weeks, for daring to say in a debate on taxation that gender studies degrees were a waste of time and taxpayers’ money.
The same year, George Galloway, the former MP and now leader of the pro-Scottish Unionist Alliance for Unity party was physically attacked by a gang radical transgender activists at the university, with glitter poured all over him, when he spoke to students. He has quoted this incident as one of the main reasons why he no longer speaks on university campuses.
In 2018, AUSA prevented the pro-life student organization, Aberdeen Life Ethics Society, from affiliating, and would not offer “funding, facilitation or platform” to the society, due to their pro-abortion policy. Alex Mason, a spokesman for the group, said that “AUSA’s willingness to censor dissenting speech… should be chilling to any-fair minded student who believes the free exchange of ideas is essential to a university’s ethos.”
“I am personally concerned that if this carries on, there will be no future for freedom of speech within Scottish universities,” Heverin concluded.
National File reached out to Aberdeen University Student’s Association for comment, asking them if they considered the phrase “Rule Britannia” racist by default, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.