Spiked’s ‘free speech rankings’ have missed the point

Free speech is not the same as ‘I can say what I want’

The University of Edinburgh has again come under fire for being a hive of anti-intellectualism and illiberalism following Spiked’s “free speech rankings”.

In a stunning indictment, Spiked criticize the University and EUSA for, amongst other things, placing restrictions on inappropriate speech and banning rape culture, even going so far as to give Edinburgh a RED warning regarding free speech.

This has led to a cacophony of debate in the national press with think pieces and news stories lamenting the molly coddledness of today’s students and that this wouldn’t have stood in their day. They were down the mine debating Nietzsche from dawn ‘til dusk, and still managed to come out with a 2:1 and a job.

Spiked seem to be presenting these results as the end of university education as we know it. Students will graduate and burst into tears when someone at work says that the coffee has run out.

What Spiked seem to have missed is that essentially no one is affected negatively by Edinburgh’s “anti-free speech” policies.


For example, EUSA’s safe space policy requires that everyone is treated with respect and is allowed to speak without interruption at student council meetings.

Seems reasonable.

Even if this were some absolutely draconian, Stalinist policy where students were kicked out of uni for even thinking something vaguely anti-feminist, it would affect the vast minority of students.

At the October 2015 Student Council meeting, where debates included FemSoc’s “I’m a feminist because…” campaign and banning arms companies from campus, the maximum number of people voting was less than 80.

80 people.

Out of 30000 students.


There seems to be this idea that a safe space is this phantom of censorship, where conservatives and libertarians are unable to confront pesky lefties because of the invisible hand of EUSA censorship.

But EUSA’s safe space policy, is a code of conduct for debate, making sure all participants’ views are respected. It even protects the views of those that are more foreign to EUSA’s traditionally left-wing views.

A bastion of the idea of free speech, you could say.

EUSA President Jonny Ross-Tatam agrees that the safe space policy improves the facility for free speech.

“Safe spaces are about broadening free speech in our SU – by making sure all our students can freely debate and share ideas while being protected from overt abuse and discrimination.”

“Often this debate sees people cherry-picking one or two events and constructing a narrative that doesn’t really match with the reality of life on campus.”

“Go to any debate on campus, hosted by the Students’ Union or any political or debating society and you will see free, open and creative debates on all kinds of issues.”

Look at how authoritarian our state is

Spiked also criticize the University’s Trans Equality Policy, and EUSA’s costumes policy.

These two policies can be summarized thusly: “Treat transgender people with respect” and “don’t black up, you twat.”

Should student unions be lambasted for encouraging diversity and inclusion amongst their students?

And what are the costs if these policies are overturned?

Who will suffer more- a minority suffering abuse or a bigot prevented from being able to air their hateful views?

Get a grip, Spiked.