This Friday, 7 March, spiked is kicking off its Down With Campus Censorship! campaign with a debate at the University of Nottingham. Here, the debate’s organiser, Nottingham student Robert Smith, reports on the perils of getting feminists to participate.
Any student who has ever organised an event on campus, particularly of the political variety, will know it is a task that requires time, effort, and a little careful diplomacy. Dealing with complaints from a local UKIP or Green Party activist, upset they weren’t invited to speak, is but one example.
However, in the course of organising a debate on campus censorship at the University of Nottingham, in partnership with spiked, I have come across three distinct obstacles: the very use of the word ‘censorship’, the association of the debate with spiked, and the lack of female representation on the panel.
The proposed title, ‘Time to end campus censorship?’, has understandably ruffled the feathers of those who don’t think censorship is taking place on campus. What they fail to realise is that – like a motion used by the Nottingham Debating Union last year, ‘This house regrets Thatcherism’ – the title is a starting point, a position which is put up on a pedestal so it can be agreed with, disagreed with, challenged, and criticised in equal measure.
From the start, my intention has been to promote an open, varied and nuanced discussion. Yes, the association of the debate with a magazine that touts a ‘no ifs, no buts’ approach to free speech may influence how the debate is framed, but numerous debates have taken place at Nottingham with less-than-neutral backing before: the Labour society hold a regular ‘Drink and Debate’ event, the Conservatives hold ‘Port and Policy’, and UoN Feminists run regular discussions on student radio.