2.What the author of the article in question refers to as a ‘debate’ is the Q&A session. This event was specifically designed as a one-speaker event. Following the 30 minute talk by Mr Santos, the Society opened the floor for questions. All members of the audience were given the opportunity to put forward questions for Mr Santos, many of whom did.
3.I would like to inform the author and the readers of the article that I contacted Dr Mario Novelli with regards to Martha Ascuntar, when I was informed she would be in Bristol during the Vice President’s visit. Dr Novelli requested that Ms Ascuntar to speak at the event, but I informed him that it was a one speaker event, but that Ms Ascuntar could attend if she wanted to. I agreed to acknowledge that she would be there, and should she wish to ask any questions, she could do so during the Q&A. WE DID NOT AGREE TO GIVE MARTHA ASCUNTAR A PLATFORM TO SPEAK. She held a speaker event of her own two hours beforehand, with no links to the International Affairs Society.
4.The Vice President of the Society and myself decide who to invite on the panel and if the guest speakers do not wish for other to be on the panel, they are free to withdraw their confirmation to speak at our events. We decide who to have on the panel not the speakers and if they do not agree, they are free to pull out. Several have done so before. THE COLOMBIAN EMBASSY DID NOT HAVE A SAY IN WHO WE INVITED IN THE AUDIENCE OR ON THE PANEL. THEY THEREFORE DID NOT VETO THE DECISION as claimed in the article.
5.Ms Ascuntar was given the opportunity to ask a question as were other members of the audience. Dr Novelli suggested 3 minutes while the chair allowed her 60 seconds. The Q&A is designed specifically for the audience to ask questions to the panel speaker and for the speaker to answer. However, as is often the case, those who are asked to put forward any questions end up with long winding comments instead of concise questions. This very often cuts into the amount of time that is allocated for the Q&A and several members of the Society have complained that long comments rather than questions have not given them the opportunity to ask questions of their own.
6.As for the attack on the Vice President as he left, I was very disappointed by the paint-throwing incident which could damage the University’s chances of attracting high profile speakers, regardless of their views. This is the first time that the University, especially a Union Society has held so many high profile speaker events in two terms. The speakers who have visited have been high-profile, all of whom are internationally known or leading experts in their fields. The Society is designed to host public lectures and debates similar to those at the LSE. And this attack has the potential to deter speakers to visit if they feel they will be embarrassed or endangered even though the University is considered a world class one.
7.The International Affairs Society is a fundamentally non-campaigning and non-partisan organisation and the views of our guest speakers are in no way connected to the views of the society. In response to the assault of the Colombian Vice President after the event of March 15, the International Affairs Society would like to publicly condemn the perpetrators and offer its apologies to Mr Santos. The responsibility for security lies with the University and not the society. Whilst we regret the incident, we cannot take any responsibility and will attempt to work with the university to help protect controversial visiting speakers.
If you would like to know more about the events or the society, please visit the website. If you would like to contact me, my email address is attached to this article.