By law, everyone has the right to free speech and to peaceful protest but these are not absolute rights; they do not extend to actions that may cause harm or hatred towards others.
This means that your campaign may put forward challenging debate and represent diverse perspectives on a particular issue; this freedom of speech is an important part of university and the foundation of democracy. Your campaign may not, however, target an individual or group inappropriately.
Peaceful or non-violent protest is a right guaranteed under the European Convention of Human Rights, but this comes with important restrictions. Examples of peaceful protests include occupations, hunger strikes, and banner drops/leafleting. These methods all serve to raise awareness of an issue and protest against a situation but restrictions can be put on peaceful protests in which there is reason to believe it could result in property damage, disruption of the community, or create serious disorder. Whilst on campus, you should be aware that the University can intervene with peaceful protests in spaces that disrupt the normal running of the University – you should also be mindful of how this may impact other students.
Limits on Campaigning Activity
The Students’ Union is a registered charity, whose objectives are to enrich students’ lives, the local community, and the University by helping make changes students want to see and by helping students to achieve their ambitions. As the Union is centred around students, charity law limits the scope of the work the Union (and campaign groups) can do to activities in line with this objective. The NUS (National Union of Students) advises that:
Students’ unions shouldn’t use their resources to campaign on an issue that does not affect ‘students as students’
In other words, when shaping your campaign, you should ensure that it addresses issues that are specific to students or will specifically benefit individuals because of their role as a student. Campaign activity outside of this scope is called ‘ultra vires’ and cannot be supported by the Union under charity law. You can find more information on this in pages 100-101 of the Students’ Union Byelaws.