It’s embarrassing that MPs care more about censorship than students do
We have to do more to stand up against safe spaces
Apathy is disastrous. Apathetic people don’t vote, and then get upset when elections don’t work out they way they’d like them to. Apathetic blokes don’t go to the doctors for weeks after noticing some nasty symptoms. Apathetic students are keeping quiet as a vocal minority goes about wrecking the very basis of our education: free speech.
You’ve all seen the stories. Speakers refused here, debates shut down there, songs banned from playlists and papers off the shelves. It’s all a bit silly, isn’t it?
The bans aren’t the worst thing, that prize is reserved for pathetic response from those at university. When the problem started, it was met by firm resistance from students who knew that open debate had to be protected on campus. Nowadays, these censorious policies and actions go through without much of a fuss from the general uni population.
It’s understandable why. The majority of students come to uni to get a decent degree whilst enjoying the freedom afforded to them by living away from home in a new town. After a year of getting involved with the free speech debate on campus, going through three years of cheap alcohol, occasional lectures, and sports nights on a Wednesday without stopping to think about all the political stuff sure does sound tempting.
Let’s look at some of the bans and restrictions that we’ve allowed to happen by being so passive over this. SU officers at UEA felt the need to ban sombreros because they’re “cultural appropriation”; Manchester’s SU banned feminist Julie Bindel for not being the right kind of feminist; the NUS once sent home a DJ for playing Blurred Lines (which is probably banned at your SU, too); the self-styled “dangerous faggot” Milo Yiannopoulos was barred from even turning up at Manchester; Leeds (and many other SUs) removed The Sun from their stores, because apparently the weak eyes of women can’t possibly handle a newspaper. Oxford cancelled an abortion debate because it was between two blokes and then they banned a magazine called No Offence as it was deemed to be…offensive and Cardiff blocked veteran feminist Germaine Greer from speaking on campus as the Women’s Officer argued that her views had “no place in feminism.” To top it off, under safe space rules, Edinburgh University Students’ Association almost removed someone for “shaking her head aggressively”. It’s embarrassing that we let this continue.
Academic freedom is slipping away from us faster than ever. To make matters worse, some Conservative politicians have decided that they should help us out too. At this week’s PMQs, Victoria Atkin asked the Prime Minister to assure her that she also opposed censorious policies like safe spaces. Theresa May duly obliged, arguing that they chill freedom of speech and could even damage the economy.
Are we really going to sit back and let the Conservative party fight our battles for us? Radicals all over the world used to constantly stand and be counted as they protested against injustice and illiberalism. They opposed the military draft, government brutality and they fought for equality and individual rights. Today’s radicals demand that their universities be turned into safe spaces where the expression of different views are stifled. The next crop of students must make sure that they do not continue this shameful legacy.