I’m a university student, an annoyingly liberal and nicely middle class university student. I do a liberal arts degree, my preferred newspaper to read is The Guardian, I’m not however emotionally insecure over my political views, nor my more philosophical views or my views on socio-political affairs, I don’t need to be pandered to. There is a growing trend throughout the UK of this tactic of “no platforming” individuals from speaking at the countries universities, if someone is not absolutely palatable by all members of the university and challenges any beliefs or ideologies then they’re unlikely to make the cut. Be it people like Nigel Farage every-bodies favourite racist toff (sorry Boris, you just aren’t racist enough) or Julie Bindel, the feminist who says what people don’t always want to hear, excuses are made and the shutters are closed. These are not people who pose a direct risk to community members, they are simply people with ideologies that fit not exactly with those of the university and more often than not their “Safe Spaces” policies. Personally I’d love to hear Farage speak, what better way to reinforce how much of an arse he is than to watch him speak enthusiastically and his eyes light up at the thought of evicting migrants, heck I could even get a glitter-bomb or egg him on the way out if I felt so inclined.
I feel pandered to, I feel like I’m viewed as incapable of having my political and socio-political views challenged, that I’m somewhat in need of coddling in cotton wool and protected from the reality of the shit that exists in the outside world. It’s not helpful, it creates a stagnant culture on campus, prevents progress, prevents outside influences from rallying up students and damages our ability to deal with people we disagree with. It’s easy to sit in an echo-chamber with people you, 9 out of 10, agree with, discussing politics or the situation in Gaza, what’s not easy is to be spoken to by people who’ve been there, who disagree with your ideas and challenge you to the core. It’s terrifying, it’s horrible and it hurts, I’ve done it hundreds of times with various issues, opinions are rarely meant to be concrete, by being exposed to challenging beliefs it inspires us to be better humans, it inspires us to remain fresh and open to new ideas, by cutting off and stemming any outside influence from getting to us we get stuck, we stagnate and end up in an environment where what we say is policed and where we are told what is right to believe.
I’m not in need of coddling, I’m a grown human being, nearly 20 years old, there has never been a better time for me to be exposed to opinions I disagree with, if not now than when? When is it acceptable for me to be exposed to these beliefs that are apparently so challenging to my beliefs? Universities are supposed to be places of progress, places where we can discuss difficult topics, where we’re stretched and challenged, where nothing is the accepted view and where we are shaped and formed into seasoned debaters. Instead we are increasingly moving to a society where stating “sex work is wrong” is enough to have your comedy show cancelled from student unions, where feminists are refused space to speak on their specialist subjects because of beliefs that do not fit 100% with the universities preconceived idea of what’s acceptable. I believe this is wholly unacceptable, I want to egg racists, I want to shout obscenities from the back of a room at people I disagree with, I want to hear emotive speeches on topics that cut through my heart. I ask all universities who no-platform speakers, why am I viewed as so incapable of handling myself when in the same breath you tell me to expect an intellectual experience at university?