A university has pledged to end its culture of censorship and no-platforming, and has instead pledged to defend free speech.
Cardiff University in Wales has said it will no longer ban events by controversial speakers, declaring “censorship is not the answer.”
The decision was made by the Cardiff University Students’ Union at their annual conference last week, where they passed a motion called “Challenge, Don’t Censor.”
'It is not our responsibility to prevent other people from speaking, it is our responsibility to come up with a better argument' #CardiffAGM
— Gair Rhydd (@gairrhydd) November 24, 2016
The move pushes back against the tide of safe space culture which seeks to insulate students from opinions they might find challenging.
Cardiff itself was the scene of one such incident last year, playing host to a virulent campaign to shut down a speech by feminist Germaine Greer over her views on transgender surgery.
Cardiff students passed their free speech motion – the full text of which can be found on page 25 of this document – on Thursday.
— Cardiff SU (@cardiffstudents) November 24, 2016
The motion committed the union to the observation that “students are capable of challenging intolerable views through rigorous debate; censorship is not the answer.”
It added: “All students should be allowed a voice on campus regardless of age, sex, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, religion, political views and disability within the remits of national and devolved law.”
In pursuit of these principles, it said that “All students, no matter their views, will not be censored in so far as their actions are performed inside the law.
“Events, societies and sports clubs at the SU will not be banned as long as their actions are within the law and subject to the Union’s bylaws.”
Speaking to Heat Street about his decision to propose the motion, Cardiff student James Daly said the “negative perception” of the student body’s approach to free speech after the Greer debacle helped spur him on.
He added that few people opposed the motion at the crucial moment, though some have criticised it on social media since.
The stand against being told what they can hear and think echoes the response of a group of sixth-form students, who were due to hear from Milo Yiannopoulos before his speech was shut down by the UK Government.
In an open letter to censorious authorities, pupils from Simon Langton Grammar School expressed their dismay, saying “we do not need to be protected” from controversial speakers.