The expulsion of a 19-year-old student from a university union, for using the phrase “Rule, Britannia” during a hustings, has sparked heated debate on social media, with many seeing it as part of the ‘cancel culture’ movement.
On Wednesday evening, the Telegraph reported that Elizabeth Heverin had been banned for two weeks from Aberdeen University student’s union for using “discriminatory or racist language” during a virtual hustings about the British Army’s presence on campuses.
Heverin’s reference to “Rule, Britannia,” which saw her disciplined by officials at Aberdeen University Students’ Association (AUSA), has further highlighted the broad spectrum of views on the phrase from the 18th century song. A number of Twitter users expressed their support for the university union in clamping down on the use of “outdated” rhetoric. “Rule Britannia is awful, racist, jingoistic claptrap that has no place in a modern society,” one commenter wrote.
Some took a more measured approach, noting that celebrating colonialism does not have a place in modern Britain, and that the students’ association had severely overreacted. “Whilst I don’t agree with Rule Britannia’s underlying celebrations of colonialism, I think it’s a bit harsh to ban a student for just using those words unless she spouted other things we’re not aware of,” one tweeted.
However, many were keen to hit back at the so-called “cancel culture” and “woke” movements in the UK.
— Cornishgirl🇬🇧 (@Cornishgirl9) March 18, 2021
“A student has been BANNED from a university union for saying ‘Rule Britannia’ during a debate about the British Army.”#Woke is the new fascism. Universities are home to the new Hitler Youth!https://t.co/TJ9Tfrp5Qv
— Free Speech Matters (@OutragedMary) March 18, 2021
Heverin herself was shocked by the university’s disciplinary action, telling the Telegraph “it feels like I’ve been prosecuted for the crime of being patriotic… It’s scary to think where freedom of speech at the university will go from here.”
The song ‘Rule Britannia!’ along with ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ engendered considerable discourse last year when the BBC proposed to pull the songs from the last night of the Proms concert show. In the end, the BBC succumbed to public pressure and the songs were reinstated.
The news was met with dismay and anger across many parts of Britain. Tory MP Susan Hall called it a “ridiculous” bow to political correctness. Fellow politician David Davies says the BBC, as an organisation “claiming to support diversity,” can certainly find room for the time-tested British favourites.
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