â€˜Hell hath no fury like the second rate.â€™
The date was 10th October 2012. It was deadline day at Roar! Newspaper. All the editors had to send in their pages for proofing. There was a unique buzz in the office that day: A story had been circulating on newspaper websites and Twitter from early that morning. The story was about Lord George Carey, an alumnus of Kingâ€™s. He had made controversial statements about gay marriage at a Conservative Party fringe conference in Birmingham the day before. There was no question about it â€“ we had to run it as our front-page story. â€œStop the press!â€ Laura Frater and I began discussing how we were going to write the article among the usual hubbub of the office. The article was to call for the removal of the image of Lord Carey from the Strand Campus windows of alumni.
I have regrets about the way the initial story was reported. Although the sensationalist front-page was effective in getting students to pick up the paper, the headline â€˜Archbigot Careyâ€™ certainly was not conducive to the discussion or our argument. Neither was the provocative manner in which the article was written. On 10th October 2012, we were second rate.
I also believe there to be an issue of representation that I did not consider on that day. Roar! exists to represent the students. How was I to know that Student Council would unanimously support the campaign and many students would sign KCLSUâ€™s petition? It was incidental that once the issue was released on campuses, the campaign gained the support of Kingâ€™s students and the elected representatives at KCLSU. It transpired that Careyâ€™s comments did in fact upset a significant number of students at the College.
The campaign has however been met with scorn from a minority of students. The most troubling criticism relies on the concept of freedom of speech. I reject the notion that this is an issue of freedom of speech. Lord Carey is wholly free to espouse his views on gay marriage and these views get sufficient amounts of publicity in other places.Â It is homosexual couples that lack a freedom here, the freedom to have a marriage if they want one. I believe that if a person wants to have a marriage with another person, then they should have that freedom.
One Roar! contributor argued that civil partnerships provide the same legal rights as marriages. A third year LGBT student said: â€œTo many, [this line of argument] bares similarities to the time in America when, yes, blacks and whites could get on the same bus, that is, they both had the same legal right to get on the bus, but black people were confined to a certain section of the bus.
Therefore, itâ€™s like when someone says â€œYou can have a contract and you can have all the same legal rights but we will call it something different.â€ It sounds like someone saying â€œYou can sit there, but you just canâ€™t sit here.â€ Although a civil partnership provides the same legal rights as a marriage, it just doesnâ€™t have the same cultural significance or social meaning as that of a marriage.â€
On 10th October 2012, we expected our report to blow up on campuses and start a College-wide debate. The issue immediately caused Student Council to pass a motion calling for the College to remove the image of Carey from the Strand Campus windows, disassociating itself with the former Archbishop of Canterbury. A petition was set up to gauge the opinion of the students and at the time of writing, it has over 250 signatures. The Guardian chased up the story and reported the campaign in its Diary section. The London Evening Standard also printed a piece on the campaign. On 10th October 2012, exuberantly typing at a computer, I had no idea our expectations would be so thoroughly exceeded.
However, the College is remaining firm in its rejection of the campaign. I, and many other Kingâ€™s students, believe that the Lord Carey story is an issue that concerns students who were made to feel otherised by his statements. Due to the support of Student Council and the feelings of the students who have signed the petition, I think the College should listen.
You can sign the petition here
You can follow Ben Jackson on Twitter at @bjacksonuk