We are deeply concerned about the decision to invite Katie Hopkins to a Debating Society event tonight. Whilst we strongly believe in the principle of free speech and the importance of academic debate, this does not extend to hate speech.

Hopkins is a far right extremist, who has repeatedly made Islamophobic and racist statements that encourage and embolden a culture of racism and xenophobia. She has also previously targeted Exeter students with racist abuse. There is no evidence to suggest that Hopkins will behave any differently during the debate: she has already commented on social media that she does not intend to abide by the University’s freedom of speech policy which requires ‘sensitivity to the diversity of our university’s community’.

Over the past year, staff and students have worked tirelessly to make the university a diverse and welcoming environment, through the Provost’s Commission and the ‘We Are All Exeter’ campaign. Katie Hopkins’ views fly in the face of all of this hard work, and demean the status of the University as a tolerant and free thinking environment which allows all students and staff equal respect and care.

There are also significant concerns about whether proper event booking procedure was followed. Staff and students have a right to know whether proper procedure was followed and how the University came to the decision that Hopkins’ presence on campus did not violate the free speech policy, especially given her previous targeting of Exeter students. It is essential that the University clarifies:

  • When the risk assessment took place;
  • Whether the University was notified at least 10 days in advance, as required by policy;
  • Whether the event was referred to senior management for assessment, as required by policy;
  • How the invitation aligns with the University’s duties under Prevent.

We want to reiterate that we are very proud to work and study amongst such a diverse community. We stand in solidarity with all of our staff and students in the fight to tackle racism and intolerance at Exeter.

Members may also find it useful to see the safety precautions that are being undertaken for the debate and a University statement.