The Queen Mary University Palestine Solidarity Society is reported to have been banned from hosting events for eight weeks by the university.
This comes after the society hosted an event on 26th January featuring, via video link, Ahmed Alfaleet, a Palestinian who served 20 years in prison for killing an Israeli in Gaza in 1992.
Released in 2011 as one of the hundreds of prisoners exchanged for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Alfaleet now teaches Hebrew in Gaza.
The ‘Israel Advocacy Movement’ had complained that the organisers had tried to conceal the fact Alfaleet was a convicted murderer.
More worryingly, their footage of the event appears to show one of the organisers insist that he was an innocent man.
However, the speaker’s background does not appear to be the reason for sanctioning the society, and it is important past convictions alone do not preclude speakers from appearing on campuses.
Instead, it has been reported the event violated a number of Student Union (SU) regulations as the SU did not approve Alfaleet’s appearance.
Such punishments are not uncommon when a student group deliberately avoids following the procedures put in place by universities.
Recently, the Queen Mary University Islamic Society was also suspended for breaking Student Union rules including inviting speakers without approval.
Regardless of the background of speakers, it is right universities and student unions have policies and procedures in place for external speakers.
This not only ensures that speakers can be properly vetted, but also means institutions can put measures in place to ensure events run smoothly.
Should societies try to evade these regulations, as appears to be the case here, it is important universities take any complaints seriously, something Queen Mary and its principal Simon Gaskell have done in this case.