‘Down With Campus Censorship!’ Campaign Launched in Britain

March 5, 2014

This week, Britain’s spiked online magazine launched its “Down With Campus Censorship!” campaign:

This week, spiked is launching a campaign against campus censorship in all its forms. At a time when there appears to be a great deal of confusion over what free speech means and why it is important, spiked will be uncompromising in calling out bans and challenging censorship.

One facet of this effort is the “Just Say No to No Platform” campaign (PDF), which urges free speech supporters to challenge a National Union of Students policy (PDF)—adopted by many constituent student unions in the U.K.—barring any organizations or groups identified as holding “racist or fascist views” from speaking at union events or sharing a platform with union officers (in other words, these speakers get “no platform” from which to speak).

In explaining their opposition to No Platform, the writers at spiked offer a powerful and elegant account of the importance of free speech on campus:

Robust and open debate, a willingness to take on difficult, even offensive, ideas, has traditionally been at the heart of university life. By banning those with distasteful views from speaking on campus, No Platform shuts down debate and displays intellectual cowardice.

The rationale behind No Platform policies is an insult to students’ intelligence. It assumes that students are so weak-minded that they will not be able to hear racist or anti-gay speech without either being won over or traumatised by it. To stand against No Platform, therefore, is to stand up for students; it is to have faith in students’ capacity to respond to, and challenge, arguments they disagree with.

FIRE hopes the spiked campaign will be a great success, and we are happy to see a group so eloquently take up the defense of free speech across the pond!