‘No-platforming’ speakers could be illegal according to Cambridge
Cambridge’s criticism of banning speakers ‘within the law’ comes after the removal of academic Dr Salih from a Palestinian society event
In their evidence to the Joint Committee of Human Rights' 'Freedom of Speech inquiry', Cambridge University has supported 'safe spaces' but warned 'if no-platforming (such as preventing others from attending or expressing their views within the law) occurs within a safe space environment, this could be contrary to the University’s statement on freedom of speech and may even be illegal.'
The university recognized that 'safe spaces and of no-platforming are distinct' in their warning and that 'these groups provide opportunities for those with similar experiences to meet for productive discussion'. However, the university itself showed no qualms with the way in which the 'Prevent' strategy (a governmental anti-terrorism initiative) is implemented within the university. Instead they focused on the university's successful implementation of the programme.
In stark contrast, the evidence from CUSU focused primarily on the 'Prevent' strategy as providing 'clear evidence that free speech is being suppressed at the University of Cambridge'. The evidence used the example of the removal of Dr Salih as chair of the debate 'BDS and the Globalised Struggle for Palestinian Human Rights'. Dr Salih is an academic and currently a Reader in 'Gender Studies' at SOAS.
The University told The Tab about the instance, 'following calls from the organisers for extra safety measures, a neutral chair was provided to ensure that all sides were represented in what is an important and often emotionally charged debate.' still claiming that the decision 'was in line fully' with their 'code of practice on meetings and public gatherings on University premises that ensures the use of University premises is not inappropriately denied to any individual or body of persons on any ground connected with their beliefs or views or the policy or objectives of a body (with the exception of proscribed organisations) of which they are a member.'
Daisy Eyre told The Tab that whilst 'We're really pleased to see that the University has defended the right of students to organise 'safe spaces' of solidarity and discussion', 'We also hope that the University will look closely at tis own power and at the ways in which Freedom of Speech is suppressed through its implementation of Prevent.' referring to the incident, which the university had defended in their comment.
The evidence warned that the current implementation of 'Prevent' could lead to 'to Muslim, International and BME students feeling unable to participate in debate, or even discuss the problems they might be facing.'. The report also challenged the universities failure 'to consistently challenge hateful speakers.' arguably directly challenging the university's stance against 'no-platforming' in their evidence.