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The idea of a university as a free space rather than a safe space is vanishing watch

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    The idea of a university as a free space rather than a safe space is vanishing

    You might have assumed that universities would be the last institutions in the country to censor. University is meant to be the place that blows away the cobwebs between your ears. Students are freed for the first time in their lives from the pressure to conform imposed by family and neighbourhood. They are yet to go into the workplace, where managerial hierarchies impose their own codes of silence. Lecturers and professors say they believe in academic freedom. The 1986 Education Act specifically obliges universities themselves to uphold freedom of speech under the law.

    Yet all of the above counts for nought. I don’t know how you could measure intellectual deprivation. If you could, there’s a fair chance that universities would be among the most servile and conformist institutions in Britain.

    The confused may also wonder about the targets of censorship. Atheists? Humanists? Surely the left believes in secularism and despises the superstitions that have held humanity back? Not so, and not for a long time. The speakers most likely to be prevented from enlightening students are speakers who uphold Enlightenment. They are targeted for the offence they cause, or ordered to stay silent. In the name of diversity, everyone must hold the same opinions, and remarkably reactionary opinions at that.
    It was Goldsmith’s of course that saw the infamous attempt by Islamists to shout down the ex-Muslim human rights campaigner Maryam Namazie, which became a national story. It is still worth dwelling on. A woman who has fled from theocracy and campaigns for the rights of women everywhere, is shouted down by a clerical mob whose supporters think it ‘progressive’.
    http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/03...ace-vanishing/
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    It's clearly the case. Universities are being associated with regressive ideology and when someone attempts to use rationality to combat unnecessary protesting, this happens: http://www.unsafespeech.com/video/20...0_5n3fk6n05vcm
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    Vanishing in part thanks to a Conservative government that clearly does not value free speech and which has imposed the "Prevent" duty which forces universities and student unions to silence people with non-mainstream opinions.
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    (Original post by Saoirse:3)
    Vanishing in part thanks to a Conservative government that clearly does not value free speech and which has imposed the "Prevent" duty which forces universities and student unions to silence people with non-mainstream opinions.
    Terrorism is not an idea any institution should tolerate, especially if it means creating another 'Jihadi John'.
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    (Original post by Aceadria)
    Terrorism is not an idea any institution should tolerate, especially if it means creating another 'Jihadi John'.
    But unfortunately 'prevent' is preventing things which are most certainly not terrorism.
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    (Original post by Saoirse:3)
    But unfortunately 'prevent' is preventing things which are most certainly not terrorism.
    I agree; my point was that the initial campaign was not necessarily aimed at stifling all freedom of speech.
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    (Original post by Aceadria)
    I agree; my point was that the initial campaign was not necessarily aimed at stifling all freedom of speech.
    Well, if myself and a score of other student activists could foresee the consequences of it as it was laid out, I dare say that the Government with the aid of the civil service should have been able to as well.
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    (Original post by Saoirse:3)
    Well, if myself and a score of other student activists could foresee the consequences of it as it was laid out, I dare say that the Government with the aid of the civil service should have been able to as well.
    Perhaps but you and the "score of other student activists" don't necessarily have millions of people to please and this might have been the only solution to do that.
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    (Original post by Aceadria)
    Perhaps but you and the "score of other student activists" don't necessarily have millions of people to please and this might have been the only solution to do that.
    The fact that using "But teh Muslems are gonna blow us up!!1!" to curtail free speech may be politically popular, but doesn't make it any less lamentable.
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    (Original post by Saoirse:3)
    The fact that using "But teh Muslems are gonna blow us up!!1!" to curtail free speech may be politically popular, but doesn't make it any less lamentable.
    You're just being unnecessarily presumptuous now. You have no evidence to back such a statement.
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    (Original post by Aceadria)
    You're just being unnecessarily presumptuous now. You have no evidence to back such a statement.
    That it curtails free speech?

    Let's start with the Government's official guidelines for universities on how to implement Prevent (available here), which includes the following:

    "Furthermore, when deciding whether or not to host a particular speaker, RHEBs should consider carefully whether the views being expressed, or likely to be expressed, constitute extremist views that risk drawing people into terrorism or are shared by terrorist groups. In these circumstances the event should not be allowed to proceed except where RHEBs are entirely convinced that such risk can be fully mitigated without cancellation of the event. This includes ensuring that, where any event is being allowed to proceed, speakers with extremist views that could draw people into terrorism are challenged with opposing views as part of that same event, rather than in a separate forum. Where RHEBs are in any doubt that the risk cannot be fully mitigated they should exercise caution and not allow the event to proceed."

    So, given the timing, let's say I wanted to host an event about the Easter Rising we're about to approach the hundredth anniversary of. Perhaps an article in the student magazine, or an event involving guest speakers. In that event, it is likely that someone will declare their support for a United Ireland, or argue that the uprising was to some extent justified, or criticise the implementation of British rule in Ireland at the time. All of these views are quite patently shared by a terrorist organisation - the IRA. And they could also be interpreted as risking drawing people into support for them - if you convince them of the arguments they may make their own judgement as to whether the means are therefore legitimate. Therefore under the guidelines the event would either be heavily restricted or banned. That is quite clearly a curtailment of free academic debate and dissenting opinion, not just justified but mandated by the government.
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    (Original post by Saoirse:3)
    That it curtails free speech?
    It is better than the NUS "no-platform" policy.
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    (Original post by Saoirse:3)
    That it curtails free speech?
    My comment was directed at the statement:

    (Original post by Saoirse:3)
    "But teh Muslems are gonna blow us up!!1!"
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    (Original post by DiddyDec)
    It is better than the NUS "no-platform" policy.
    Yes, it is, and I'd be fully in favour of more student unions withdrawing their affiliations with that load of imbeciles.

    (Original post by Aceadria)
    My comment was directed at the statement:
    You want to argue that the Prevent Duty wasn't proposed as a response to perceived Islamic extremeism?
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    Can't say I've ever experienced any of this crap while I've been at uni these past 3 years.
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    (Original post by Saoirse:3)


    You want to argue that the Prevent Duty wasn't proposed as a response to perceived Islamic extremeism?
    Are you saying that Islamic extremism at British universities is "perceived" rather than real?

    If the answer is yes we have nothing more to discuss, your views are inconsequential..

    If the answer is no, how do we address/confront it as a society?

    Or don't we?
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    (Original post by JezWeCan!)
    Are you saying that Islamic extremism at British universities is "perceived" rather than real?

    If the answer is yes we have nothing more to discuss, your views are inconsequential..

    If the answer is no, how do we address/confront it as a society?

    Or don't we?
    I think it's real, but grossly exaggerated - a lot of people branded extremeists do have pretty mainstream, non-violent views. And you confront it through arguing against it and of course monitoring if there's a reasonable suspicion of planned terrorist activity, not by banning their views and allowing them to use that as a recruitment tool.
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    (Original post by Saoirse:3)
    I think it's real, but grossly exaggerated - a lot of people branded extremeists do have pretty mainstream, non-violent views. And you confront it through arguing against it and of course monitoring if there's a reasonable suspicion of planned terrorist activity, not by banning their views and allowing them to use that as a recruitment tool.
    Are there any views that Islamic extremists might express that you would ban?
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    (Original post by JezWeCan!)
    Are there any views that Islamic extremists might express that you would ban?
    As long as they stay theoretical rather than organising to committ crimes, no. I don't believe banning views works apart from anything else. You can't control what people think like that and trying to force the issue only draws them more support.
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    Peter Tatchell, AC Grayling And Richard Dawkins Support Protest Against NUS No Platform Policies

    Academics and campaigners including Peter Tatchell, AC Grayling and Richard Dawkins are supporting a protest outside the National Union of Students headquarters in London.

    The protesters want a revision of the “safe space and no-platform policies, which restrict freedom of expression”.

    The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) has organised the rally, due to take place on March 17.

    “Educational institutions must be a place for the exchange and criticism of all ideas. Bigoted ideas are most effectively defeated by open debate,” the CEMB’s letter to the NUS reads.

    “The student body is not homogenous. The NUS’s restrictive policies infringe upon the right of students to hear and challenge dissenting and opposing views,” it continues.

    High profile names like Julie Bindel and Brendan O’Neill have joined Tatchell, Grayling and Dawkins in signing the letter, as part of a rising backlash against the student left's perceived attack on free speech.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2016...n_9436996.html

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