The councils of the Students’ Association have decided not to introduce a ban on the controversial song Blurred Lines.
The Students’ Representative Council (SRC) voted against the motion to support a motion to stop playing Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke in Students’ Association venues. The motion to stop playing the song was thrown out by the Student Services Council (SSC) as proposer Chloe Hill, the president of the Association, failed to find someone to second it. The motions were proposed at a joint meeting of the councils.
The song was deemed to “blatantly condone and rationalise attitudes towards female students that are regressive and unacceptable” by the member for gender equalities, Ali West. The motion argued: “The Students’ Association has an obligation to ensure that all of it’s members feel welcome and safe in the Students’ Association’s venues” and “the song promotes a normalisation of a misogynistic and disrespectful attitude that is inconsistent with and an offence to the values of the Students’ Association.”
The motion was proposed in support of Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA), which banned the song in its venues earlier this month. At the meeting, Ms Hill said that she had received an email earlier in the afternoon to say that other universities would also be banning the song.
Ms Hill said: “We are not trying to ban songs that are offensive but ban songs that actually are potentially harmful to people. That is the reason that this particular song has come up as such an issue for some people.”
Later, she told the councils why she was motivated to support the motion. She said: “Students have come to us to say they are very unhappy with the song. They are very unhappy with what the song advertises. We are here to debate these issues and we are here to make sure that the Students’ Association as a building is a place that students want to come to… This is exactly something that we should be talking about.”
Many members of the SRC were concerned that the passage of the motion would set a precedent of censorship within the Students’ Association and the possibility that this would lead to bans on other sons.
Equal opportunities and welfare officer Hibak Mohamud Yusuf argued: “Where does the line go? There are so many songs that are so much worse than this. For instance, the song Get Low by Lil Jon. Everyone has heard that song and it’s so much worse.”
Sadie Hochfield, the Association community relations officer, added: “Within the top 40 unfortunately there is sexism, there’s racism, there’s domestic violence and I completely agree that if you ban one, it’s a slippery slope.”
A debate began between the members of the councils as Ms Hill and Ms West tried to defend their motion.
Ms Hill responded to concerns about censorship. “I agree that there needs to be a line but surely the line is between being sexist and promoting rape. There’s a point a which it becomes dangerous and I think that is probably it.” Ms West argued that it’s “something that is emblematic of a bigger problem… it’s a way to say we do care about this particular issue and we’re going to do something about it and here is something concrete that we are doing right now. There are more things that need to be done. St Andrews is in many ways, light years behind in this kind of thing.”
She continued: “This is a problem that is deep and pervasive within our culture and this kind of song, this kind of media is what allows that to continue. This is an issue that is really dear to my heart personally and we can’t allow it to continue. This is a small move and it is kind of throwing pebbles at a giant but it’s better than throwing nothing at all.”
Tensions mounted between Ms Hill and the rector’s assessor, Pat Mathewson, when she accused him of proposing that the motion was “mad.”
Mr Mathewson had commented: “I think it would be wrong to say that the biggest story would be that the SRC or the SSC turned down this motion but that the biggest story was that it was tabled. Go back to your average St Andrews student and I think they will think it is insane that we are debating this right now and quite frankly, I am concerned that this is lip service to addressing a really serious issue… Fine, we can pat ourselves on the back and walk out of here but we haven’t really done anything.”
Ms Hill argued that this use of the word “insane” may prevent other students approaching them with issues in the future and requested that he should apologise.
There was also a concern that the ban would be difficult to police, especially considering the number of activities that go on each day in the Union. Societies officer Courtney Lewis added: “We have 147 affiliated societies. They use this building all day. They use this building all the time. We’ve got 13 people on our committee. We stop them… If someone doesn’t bring it to our attention, we really don’t know… As far as our societies are concerned, it’s absolutely implausible that we will ever be able to do this.”
After a heated debate, the SRC voted 13-7 not to pass the motion, meaning that the song will continue to be played in all venues in the Union.