Opinions of the Author

In an astonishingly insensitive move, the official Queen Margaret Union magazine QMunicate has compared their fellow student union, the occupied Free Hetherington Research Club, to Vichy France.

Under the headline ‘Further Fiasco at the HRC: Campus sees occupation unrivalled since the time of Vichy France,’ the union’s organ proceeded to unleash a series of series of bizarre claims about the hugely successful occupation and re-opening of the Hetherington.

Most prominent among these was the claim that:

“A source from inside the SRC [not named in the article but it’s the same quote in the Herald credited to Tommy Gore] revealed concerns that the protest may distract from the upcoming publication of the cost reduction plan and the following debate at the university court, among the most pressing actions concerning the economic cuts affecting the University of Glasgow.”

In fact, when the devastating level of cuts being imposed by university management were revealed, the occupation became a hive of activity, with students converging on it as a space to organise to try and save their departments and courses. It has become a hub for contacting the media, organising flyering and promoting the student-organised march on the University Court on Wednesday February the 16th in Qudos.

The idea seems to be that the occupation of the Hetherington is acting against the political fight to save education at Glasgow University. In fact it is a space encouraging the politicisation and self-organisation of students, something the so far relatively inactive QM board of management could do well to learn from.

QMunicate claims that we are confused about whether our protest is aimed at the Scottish or UK governments, claiming our focus on the Tories ignores the reality of devolution. Our answer is simple: we oppose all authorities who seek to damage education for the sake of dogma, whether they are located in Westminster, Holyrood or University Avenue.

QMunicate seems to think that the Hetherington building would be better used as part of the university’s plan to convert it to arts labs and office space, rather than what the vast majority of students want – the return of a much loved student facility. This seems to reveal a level of ignorance of the views of ordinary students.

But by far the most offensive aspect of the article is the flippant reference to a fascist government. Presumably the reference to Vichy was meant to be humorous, but the joke falls flat when even a cursory examination is made of the real historical record.

Since it re-opened, the Free Hetherington research Club has carried out its academic mandate by establishing a free university open to all, with GU staff volunteering to give their time for free lectures and talks, making the student movement’s demand for free education a reality. We have created a venue open for the use of community groups and student societies, which has been a massive success. And we have opened a successful, autonomous, non-commercial, democratically run space providing students with a place to go on campus to sit, relax, study and socialise with free meals and tea and coffee.

Let’s compare this open and democratic success story to the historical record of Vichy France. The regime of Marshal Petain was established by the Nazis after the conquest of France. They enthusiastically collaborated with the German occupation, and all the violent horrors it unleashed. The Vichy puppet government was staffed by anti-Semites and racists. As soon as the Vichy government came to power it began a campaign against “internal foreigners” – Jews, left wingers, gypsies, homosexuals. They implemented policies of eugenics.

They then proceeded to establish internment camps for the tens of thousands of people who had been declared to be no longer French citizens. They served as transit camps for the groups viewed by the Nazis and their French collaborators as subhuman, from where they were transported to death camps for extermination.

We acknowledge that QMunicate puts in the small print on its back page:

“Views expressed in QMunicate do not necessarily represent the views of the Queen Margaret Union.”

However, in this case this disclaimer is not going to cut it. A colossal failure of editorial control has taken place in allowing a supposedly “joke” headline to go out which in fact is an insult to Jewish people, gay people, Holocaust survivors and the memory of the French Resistance. We demand that the staff of QMunicate disassociate themselves from this article, and issue an apology for their ridiculous insensitivity. If this is not forthcoming in a timely fashion we will have no choice but to highlight the issue to Holocaust memorial groups and all those dedicated to making sure the memory of those who were victims of the Nazis and their collaborators is not taken in vain.

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  1. Jennie Kermode says:

    QMunicate typifies the reasons why non-students generally find student politics hilarious. Educated students, of course, simply find it depressing.

  2. Stephen Scott says:

    I think the point you make is fair enough, but you must remember that you are referencing a student magazine.

    If one were to think back to the days of Ru Mac, he wrote things far more inflammatory than this, and a simple editorial mishap is nothing to get one’s panties in a twist over.

    As a person with both Jewish-russian ancestry and someone who has moved in the gay community, I think you have taken this entirely out of proportion.

    I hope in the interest of the ‘fairness’ you purportedly advertise, you do not delete this comment.

  3. Stephen Scott says:

    In response to Jennie, I wonder how a student magazine that both remains editorially independent and light-hearted seems to cause so much controversy and ill-feeling.

    Also One would wonder how university students could be considered anything other than ‘educated’.

    Maybe we should all concentrate on matters more relevant than qmunicate’s article.

  4. Sarah says:

    Ruari Mac was a disgusting misogynist and if he’s out of QMunicate these days (it’s too crap to read) then good.

    I really don’t think folk would be saying it was ‘just a joke’ if it made a more direct reference to the holocaust, but just because people are ignorant of occupied France’s role in the holocaust, does not make that comment okay.

    It’s not an editorial mishap either, it was a deliberate choice of words by the author.. Designed to make the Free Hetherington look stupid, but actually just making themselves look like a total ignorant idiot.

  5. Stephen Scott says:

    In response to Sarah, you are of course entitled to your opinion on Ru, personally I think he’s a great guy who has made a lot of people laugh over the years.

    I don’t know where you’re getting your sources, but it WAS an editorial error. If you really think the writers of qmunicate hate the Free Hetherington, then you, sir, cannot take a joke.

    If you want to be taken more seriously maybe you lot shouldn’t come into one of your unions and shout down the president.

  6. mohkohn says:

    I think there are other associations with Vichy France / WW2 than the holocaust. I think our headline is silly and rather disrespectful.

    The article was a snide attack piece and I worry that the debate has shifted to our line of argument rather than the original piece. I would also rather not draw attention to bad journalism, except to issue factual corrections where necessary.

  7. Stephen Scott says:

    I know having an internet argument is the most pointless thing ever, but stop taking yourselves so fucking seriously. You’re students ffs, not egyptians.

  8. Jennie Kermode says:

    Students go to university to become educated. Not all of them have much education when they arrive, though many plunge straight into the type of journalism that depends on it. Not all of them achieve much education whilst they’re there.

    I wouldn’t call QMunicate highly controversial – if the subject hadn’t come up, I wouldn’t have bothered to call it anything at all. It’s mediocre by the standards of student journalism and much of that is, frankly, down to laziness – writers in the process of learning will always make mistakes but editors, who should have at least a couple of years’ experience under their belts, don’t have the same excuse. It’s worth commenting on because one hopes that an effort might be made to improve it. Outside of the Arts (and sometimes there too) far too many students leave the university with poor writing skills and student publications should be one way of engaging with them to remedy that.

  9. mohkohn says:

    Um to be clear I meant the QMunicate article was snide – I just think we’re can do without the headline and be the bigger people here (I’m a participant)

  10. Stephen Scott says:

    > I just think we’re can do without the headline


  11. On a Grip, getting one says:

    Anti-semite? Congratulations on conducting a reasonable argument and promote an atmosphere of open dialogue. QMunicate takes a laid-back approach to the news, and the comment has to be read in that context.

    Free Hetherington is lazy by the standards of student protest movements – cf this post, the one where you all jump up and down on piles of Cosmo, and the one where you imprison Aaron Porter.

    The threat in the last sentence of your article is craven.

    Also, did the Arts department teach Jennie Kermode condescension?
    They’ve done an awfully good job.

  12. Carson says:

    “Free Hetherington is lazy by the standards of student protest movements – cf this post, the one where you all jump up and down on piles of Cosmo, and the one where you imprison Aaron Porter.”

    Our events calendar since the occupation began and stretching into the next few weeks, look at it. Unfortunately, folk haven’t had time to blog about all of the numerous events that have been happening, and that is definitely a shame cos some really interesting stuff has gone on. I was going to write a post about the transhumanism discussion we had t’other day but just haven’t had time. On that note, I intend to makes sure there are write-ups of some of the awesome events we have coming up – the talk by WestGAP, the guest lectures by Dr. Benjamin Franks and Dr. Rosi Carr… and maybe the Wall-E showing!

    But aye, to claim that ‘stunty’ things are the sole activities of the Free Hetherington is totally disingenuous and I genuinely hope this is due to misinformation rather than malice. 🙂

  13. Allan says:

    I take it from this outrage that you also disapprove of the photo on your own facebook page of a pair of rich white kids mockingly recreating scenes from the Egyptian demonstrations?

    For reference.

    • Sarah says:

      HAH, I really hope that was an ironic joke. But just incase you really are that daft & offensive, I’ll play along

      The Egyptian revolution = a good thing
      The occupation of France and the Holocaust = a bad thing

      Suggesting that celebrating the awesomeness of the Egyptian revolution and that guy who made a riot helmet out of bread by taking a funny photo, is in some way comparable to the QM’s shite magazine making an offensive comment, is ridiculous.

      Knowing the people in that photo too, it’s massively ignorant of you to assume they’re rich. Maybe coming from Paisley and being on the dole because there’s no jobs for graduates constitutes rich in your topsy turvy world of fucked up and offensive moral equivocations, but it doesn’t in reality.

      Searhing that hard for things to complain about just makes you look like a desperate hack.

  14. Allan says:

    Being on the dole in Scotland is rich by a global standard, so yes I’d say it’s a fair comment.

    And the picture appears to be a mock up of a protestor being hit by the police. You can’t write a whole blog post complaining about flippancy and then have such flippancy associated with the campaign itself.

    Solidarity, not mockery!

  15. Sarah says:

    Only someone who’s never experienced life on the dole could say such an ignorant thing.

    • Allan says:

      I’ve actually spent quite considerable stretches on the dole having come from an area where employment is incredibly scarce. But that’s neither here nor there.

      My point was that complaining about one line in such a petty manner looks bad, and as you put it yourself

      “Searhing that hard for things to complain about just makes you look like a desperate hack.”

      And if people are going to post such a ludicrous article as this then they need their own house in order.

      Now obviously I don’t actually find the photo offensive. That would be a ridiculous over-reaction. Much like getting upset about the comically exagerated comparing of the occupation of one building to the wartime occupation of an entire country.

      Now having said that I think the student occupation of an unused space and putting it to use is actually a very good thing. Hopefully it continues on and those involved are able to maintain it. But this blog is an embarrassment and really seems to glorify the most embarrassing and damaging elements of it.

      The patriarchy article for example. With the space within Hetherington people could have colaborated to create a zine dealing with issues surrounding gender, body norms and so on. I’m sure people from various disciplines would be happy to help put together something good to hand out for free as a counter to Cosmopolitan.

      Instead there’s a blog discussing the glorious success of throwing some things in a bin.

      Put the space and creative energies behind this endevor to good use. Use the blog to make the occupation of the building look like a truly positive thing as opposed to the petty garbage that’s on here at the moment.

  16. Carson says:

    “The patriarchy article for example. With the space within Hetherington people could have colaborated to create a zine dealing with issues surrounding gender, body norms and so on. I’m sure people from various disciplines would be happy to help put together something good to hand out for free as a counter to Cosmopolitan.”

    Good idea. Let’s do it! 🙂

    • Allan says:

      Excellent, that’s the sort of positive approach this thing needs to bring people back on board. I wish you all the best with it!

  17. Matt says:

    Not the first time QMunicate writers have let slip some extremely editorially-dodgy, anti-Semitic or bigoted comments: –

    Remember the notorious “god damn it I hate Jews” issue?
    When copies had to retrieved and the remark hurriedly scored out in ball point pen?

    A ‘laid-back’ editorship allowed the thinly veiled ‘ironic’ prejudices to seep through.

  18. Your mum says:

    Thought I should inform everyone who got their knickers in a twist over this that the News Editor that let the Vichy France strapline slip through her usual beady proofreading is now in charge of the whole magazine. Feel free to have a look at her first issue and give her all the grief you want. http://qmunicate.wordpress.com/2011/10/07/issue-89/

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