By Victoria Dyer, Student Correspondent
The Bristol University Conservative Association (BUCA) have raised questions over the University's commitment to freedom of speech after security charges incurred after Rees-Mogg event in the previous academic year forced them into the red.
Jacob Rees-Mogg’s attendance to the University of the West of England last year sparked protest and violence amongst students. Given the situation at UWE, when the announcement was made that Rees-Mogg would also give a talk at the University of Bristol, the University necessitated the need for a secuirty presence for the politician.
The necessary secuirty charges were subsquently placed upon the BUCA, amounting to a total cost of £496. This has reportedly placed the BUCA in the minus at the beginning of the 2018/19 academic year.
Although the Bristol Conservative Society has stated they do not object to the requirement of security in anyway, they have suggested such charges are ‘a sad indictment for free speech on university campus that is required for all speakers.’
The BUCA have stated that they ‘unreservedly reject’ the notion that they are responsible for meeting the costs of security provision.
Questions over freedom of speech have been raised as a result of the charges. The BUCA deputy chairman suggests that despite there being no outright ban on Rees-Mogg’s attendance, structural obstacles were met in the form of requirement to pay such high security costs, making the event trickier to navigate and stage.
The BUCA have further argued that the precedent that possible protest and violence requires security emboldens the motives of political opponents to heighten their hostility openly towards speakers at the University in order to require the presence of security and therefore damage the society financially.
A University of Bristol spokesperson said the University is "firmly committed to upholding Freedom of Speech as well as ensuring events are conducted safely and within the law."
In hope to repay the debts, the BUCA have cooperated with Rees-Mogg in order to obtain items for an online public auction. The auction which will begin on Monday will see goods such as a bucket hat signed by Rees-Mogg being sold and auctioned-off.
Featured images: Harry Eastley-Jones