There was a violent protest at Kings College London recently because controversial YouTube star, Carl Benjamin, was speaking. This violent protest has now brought into question the effectiveness of the university’s initiatives, such as the safe space marshals who were on duty that night.
The masked protestors did not agree with Carl Benjamin’s views and so, decided that violence was necessary to enforce the groups point. This should show that universities should instead be promoting safe debating spaces where every opinion is able to be expressed without fear of reprisal, not safe spaces that promote nothing but intolerance of other people’s opinions.
Regardless of what your opinion is, you should be able to express them without fear of these sort of protests happening; guards were attacked, smoke bombs were let off and windows were smashed, and this is not acceptable just because someone has a different opinion to you.
Unfortunately, it seems as though Kings College London has been concentrating on safe space initiatives, which has created the wrong sentiment – that if you disagree with someone, you have to shut them down, no platform them, to ensure that you only have an echo chamber for your own views.
These ‘safe spaces’ are now breeding intolerance because people aren’t talking to each other anymore, just echoing views and anyone that saying something remotely different to the norm gets vilified and ‘no platformed’, rather than debated against. It seems that if they are unable to debate and discuss an issue properly, then out of frustration they will resort to protests similar to this.
To demonstrate how stifling these safe spaces are, there were safe space marshals employed by the students’ union to patrol speaker events on campus where there is a potential for audience members to be offended…
The officials hand out leaflets detailing the union’s safe space policy and are ready to take immediate action if anyone expresses opinions that breach the policy. This could include derogatory comments about age, disability, race, religious faith, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic status.
I’m not supporting people being offensive to each other, but to have people literally guarding what others say is absolutely ludicrous – this is suppressing free speech, not enabling it, and it’s unbelievable that the university allows this to happen. Universities should be a place that challenges views, if you disagree with someone debate with them…
I run Shout Out UK, a youth political news site for people aged 15-25 to freely express what they think of issues in the world. Obviously, we monitor every post that goes up on our site to ensure it’s factual and not defamatory, but other than that, we allow young people to write about any issue they feel strongly about because it’s important we encourage young people to be passionate and share their views in a coherent way.
This is what the university should be doing; allowing young people to talk and debate without worry that someone will shut them down – having a ‘protected’ debate will only foster these violent protests more.