The inclusivity of the Students’ Union had to be “maintained”

Another “uh oh no you can’t make jokes about erm you know that one guy” episode, this time at the University of Bath.

[“]According to CWIPS” was the title of the performance that had the cramped, upstairs-corner of the Bath Brew House roaring with laughter. The show combined pop culture, Richard Dawkins, and the bestseller of all time – the Bible – to construct an amusingly witty performance. However, prior to the opening night, the society was met with some rather strong requests to edit the show.

[D]uring the opening week one of the SU officials quietly attended one of the rehearsals. Just four hours prior to opening night the committee of CWIPS was told that a sketch involving the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed titled ‘Cooking with Christ’ should be cut. “The SU couldn’t give more of an explanation,” recalls one of the members of the committee regarding the lack of justification given for the changes being made the show, especially on such short notice.

It became known that the Chaplaincy of the University had become involved in the decision making process of the SU. “We were told that the chaplaincy had read it and pronounced that sketch too graphic”, the committee member said, “we come under the authority of the SU, so whilst we don’t necessarily agree with what they asked us to cut we have to respect them as they are elected to their position, however the chaplaincy is not part of the SU.”

Why would a chaplain be vetting a student show?

Also, I frankly don’t understand the role of the SU in these things. I don’t think US universities have an equivalent – a student body that has the authority to censor student plays and sketches, authority that the students have to obey. I don’t see why being elected to their positions gives them authority to say “you can’t perform that sketch.”

The Chaplaincy claimed that the show would have caused “great offence” as the scenes that were cut were “extreme”, it was also added that “the concept of freedom of speech is important and should be respected”.

Spoken like a true chaplaincy.

During a conversation with the SU official, it was made clear that the decisions communicated to the CWIPS committee had been made so as to avoid complaints. Since the show was taking place in a public domain, the inclusivity of the Students’ Union had to be “maintained”.

“We worked very hard in order to make sure our material was enjoyable and pleasant for people of all faiths and backgrounds,” both members of CWIPS highlighted.

The freedom of expression is an important principle to maintain intact at university, especially regarding the arts. Even though the SU has had little experience with censorship of the arts at the University of Bath, the recognition that artistic expression is essential for students to feel free and creative needs to be maintained.

In other news…Kate Smurthwaite has just remarked on Facebook that she’s at QED to talk on a panel about free speech…

I was invited because of the issues raised by my show being cancelled at Goldsmiths because of my views on the sex trade. And – guess what – someone has complained I shouldn’t have been on the panel because of – wait for it – my views on the sex trade. You could not make this shit up!!

We live in interesting times.



  1. Al Dente says

    As an alumnus of an American university I think of the student union as a place with a cafeteria serving cheap, greasy food and providing offices for various student organization.

  2. Blanche Quizno says

    Let me see if I understand: At least one chaplain (aka “clergyperson”) states that certain sketches are “too potentially upsetting” without needing to provide the least evidence to support that contention; the elected student representatives take his word for it because s/he is the boss of them (because religion) and voila! No more free speech, which the chaplaincy acknowledges is very, very, very important.

    Just not so important as doing whatever the chaplaincy wants.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    the elected student representatives take his word for it because s/he is the boss of them (because religion)

    No. The elected student representatives take his word for it because they are a bunch of worthless larval-stage politicians. Just as “every private soldier has a field marshal’s baton in his knapsack”, every student union officer goes to bed at night with a mental image of themselves waving smugly from the door of number 10 Downing Street. Every decision is made with an eye on what it’ll look like in the papers in twenty years time: “Candidate for leader of the Opposition once dissed a vicar!”. Can’t have that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *