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University Backs Down After Blocking Critical Social Media Accounts

Published on: 18 Mar, 2022
Updated on: 18 Mar, 2022

By Hugh Coakley

The University of Surrey blocked a student group last week because of criticism made on social media about the association of the university with arms manufacturer BAE Systems.

The People & Planet group, which claims to be “the largest student network in the UK campaigning for social and environmental justice” said they had been censored by the university.

Following pressure from the students UoS unblocked their comments, saying they “did not intend to close down discussion”.

The university had put out a statement on their social media platforms on March 10 saying it “stands on the side of peace and reconciliation and holds dear the principles of freedom, democracy and self-determination”.

But students and activists had branded this as insincere in the light of the presence of the arms manufacturer, BAE Systems, in two buildings on the Surrey University Research Park. And former trustee of the group and Surrey alumni, George Buskell, asked whether the social media posts had: “Touched a nerve?”

University of Surrey temporarily blocked posts critical of their relationship with the arms industry, specifically BAE Systems, but said the “did not intend to close down discussion”.

A university spokesperson said: “We removed a small number of replies to one of our Instagram posts on social media last week that we felt were distracting from this focus on the people in our community who have been affected [by the situation in Ukraine].

“We have unblocked the People and Planet Society account, and did not intend to close down discussion.”

People & Planet have campaigned against the university’s links with the arms trade. student and the Surrey branch president, Lucy Field, is fourth from the left.

According to its website, People & Planet is the largest student network in the UK campaigning for social and environmental justice. It says: “We envision a future in which spiralling inequality, instability, climate crisis and resource depletion are reversed, and a world in which the balance of power in society has fundamentally shifted to an equal world that benefits all of us.”

The group ranks the University of Surrey as 74th out of 154 UK universities for its environmental and ethical performance.

The president of the Surrey branch of People and Planet, student Lucy Field, said: “University management cannot have it both ways. They are either putting peace first, or the profits of the arms industry.

“We have been campaigning since November with the aim of pressuring the university to cut its ties with the arms trade, in particular with BAE Systems.”

 

 

 

 

 

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