The New Intolerance on Campus
When speakers are banned on campus today, they are often accused of being intolerant, or bigoted. Whether it’s a far-right firebrand or an Islamist preacher who’s being silenced, the charge that someone is being intolerant – of other religions, of women, of homosexuals – is the go-to justification for No Platforming him or her. But who are the real intolerant ones? Those who wish to air their views – as hateful or batty as they may be – or those who can’t tolerate hearing them?
At this unique, one-off conference – the first of its kind in the UK – spiked brought together world-renowned writers, academics and activists to interrogate these questions. With sessions on Safe Spaces, the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, No Platforming and hate speech, we explored the rise of a new intellectual bigotry on campus, which is producing young minds that would rather censor or boycott their opponents than argue with them.
Safe Spaces: education or therapy?
Universities have always been conceived of as places of unfettered debate and inquiry. But, today, student politicos see it differently. Safe Space policies, which restrict offensive or upsetting speech, are the hottest thing in student politics. Proponents of Safe Spaces argue that they create an atmosphere of civility and sensitivity that helps marginalised individuals engage in university life. But is university really made better for anyone if certain ideas are off the table? Should we sanitise student life for the sake of protecting the so-called vulnerable from offence? Should university ever be a Safe Space, or should we accept that academia is always a risky business?
Siobhan Fenton Freelance journalist
Naomi Firsht reporter, Jewish Chronicle
Ella Whelan staff writer, spiked
Abi Wilkinson Freelance writer
BDS, bigotry and academic justice
The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel is finding favour among UK academics, with hundreds endorsing a boycott of Israeli universities. While critics say this is an affront to academic freedom, BDS activists argue that allowing Israeli academics to speak only shores up the state’s power and legitimacy. Such activists claim that a model of academic justice, which censors academics who are seen to harm social-justice causes, is a more progressive alternative. But will silencing academic debate do anything to resolve the Israel-Palestine crisis? And, while academic justice presents itself as an egalitarian force, isn’t punishing Israeli academics for the actions of the Israeli state a form of bigotry itself?
Sai Englert Lecturer, SOAS
Barnaby Raine member, NUS executive council
Joanna Williams education editor, spiked
No Platform: is hate speech free speech?
In recent years, campus censorship has moved to the top of the political agenda. But while No Platforming and the Safe Spaces have been criticised by commentators across the political spectrum, the existing, legal restrictions on speech have received little scrutiny. UK law maintains stringent restrictions on incitement to racial and religious hatred, and even liberal-minded students feel that so-called hate speech is a line that shouldn’t be crossed. Can we blame student campaigners for No Platforming extremist speakers in a country where bigotry is effectively illegal? And, more profoundly, does free speech mean anything without the right to express hateful views?
Dan Hodges Commentator, Telegraph and Spectator
Maryam Namazie human-rights activist
Brendan O'Neill Editor, spiked
Comment and analysis from spiked and our speakers
Time and Location
17 February 2016
25 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4RL
For more information on future events email Viv Regan.