Students stage walk-out as Katie Hopkins begins speech
Video shows students at UK university turn backs on controversial TV personality
A speech by controversial commentator Katie Hopkins during a university debate in London prompted a mass walkout in protest at her invitation.
Rows of Brunel University students stood and turned their backs as the Sun columnist took her turn to speak about the future of welfare, before filing out when she had finished.
The 40-year-old television personality, who has caused outrage with her views on benefits and the migrant crisis, was left with a half empty lecture theatre for the rest of the event.
A video of the protest was posted on YouTube by the Union of Brunel Students (UBS) on Tuesday.
Hopkins’s invitation to take part in the debate led may students at the “diverse” university to complain, although officials decided to keep her on the panel.
Ali Milani, president of the (UBS), who helped organise Monday’s “silent protest”, said: “Katie Hopkins has expressed some overtly controversial views that our students find offensive.
“We have a very diverse campus, we expressed our concerns that she has no academic credibility and contributes nothing to the debate.”
Mr Milani (21) said the union raised its objection to Hopkins’s involvement with organisers last month.
“This was clearly an act on the university’s part to fill a room and be controversial,” he said.
A number of students approached the union, which agreed to represent them and organise the walkout.
“We have to have a conversation about how we feed the oxygen to online trolls and Katie is a symbol of this.
“Our students turned their backs and they left an empty lecture theatre for her to speak to.”
The union leader said “around 50 per cent” of the audience were left in the auditorium.
The debate, which posed the question “Does the Welfare State have a place in 2015?” and had the Guardian’s public services editor David Brindle as chairman, was the first in a series to celebrate Brunel University’s 50th anniversary year.
Sitting alongside Hopkins on the panel was the university’s emeritus professor of social policy Peter Beresford, campaigner for social justice Rev Paul Nicolson, and Harriet Sergeant, a research fellow for the Centre for Policy Studies.
The university recognised the students’ right to stage a peaceful protest and said the rest of the debate was “passionate” and the remaining audience “played a key role”.