The National Union of Students: Everyone is Equal, Just Some are More Equal than Others.
"[The No Platform policy] is all about making sure that students feel safe on campus and that we extend their freedom of speech by not being marginalised when they’re debating,” he said, adding: “This is very different to a Safe Space policy which is based on the idea that every single person has freedom of speech and everyone has equal right to freedom of speech, however some people have more equal rights than others.”
- Richard Brooks, Vice President of the National Union of Students
I have previously been very critical of the National Union of Students No Platform policy on who can speak and who can't speak at academic institutions. However, after I stumbled upon this debate. I was stunned at the arrogance put forward by Richard Brooks, the Vice President of the NUS. He states how these No Platform and Safe Space policies are 'progressive', and 'democratically' decided. That's right fellow students. The NUS believes they should hold a democratic decision on who can and can't debate at your University. Never mind the whole point of University is to have your worldview challenged or at the very least you see it from someone else's perspective. Some then may put forward but what about organisations that border on the extreme. I think they should be challenged on their ideas. And where better for these issues or points to be challenged. If you don't want to hear what these people have to say then don't attend the event. And specifically, if you're the type of protester that soaks themselves in fake blood then you really need to rethink your approach to how you can engage speakers in these events.
The quote from Brooks above is very similar to one from George Orwell's Animal Farm, 'All Animals are equal, just some are more equal than others'. The sentence refers to the hypocrisy of governments who proclaim equality but give power and privilege to a small elite. There is irony considering how much authority the NUS has on UK campuses and in this case in a debate in which the NUS Vice President can't even be in the room of one of these so-called extreme organisations. The organisation in question being IMPACT. Fortunately, he can endure listening to three people his organisation have no-platformed, two of which I mentioned in my first post on the NUS' No Platform Policy. They are Peter Tatchell and Julie Bindel. Bindel was No-Platformed for her views that she has since apologised for on trans-people. Tatchell was No-Platformed due to claims he was a racist. Hardly, people I would consider posing a threat to any student.
The crux of this debate though is that despite his smugness, he was challenged by the people this policy claims to protect. The first to challenge his view put forward that 'I think I would rather have the opportunity to challenge that person in person and to tell them why I disagree with their opinions rather than just to assume that I'm a victim or I'm going to be made vulnerable by their presence.'
However, it's the last speaker that really drives the point home that people who may be from a marginalised community don't need to be protected by the NUS. He contests that universities are a place of learning, not a house party as stated by Brooks earlier. The idea that Brooks would refer to university as a house party is incredulous. As if he couldn't make it any clearer only people the NUS like can be permitted a platform. Otherwise, you don't get an invite and honestly with higher education in its current state. Do you really want to hold events knowing that there's a likely chance of it being disrupted by students who feel inclined to believe they know whats best for your audience. Too the extent they will do everything in their power to suppress or silence you.
Let's not forget how many unions are disaffiliating from the NUS, and at this point in time. I really can't blame them. More needs to be done at universities to encourage discourse from all sides of the spectrum. Because the current danger is that, some universities may place too much emphasis on liberal perspectives and this to some extent leads to students closing their minds from challenging other points of view or drawing conclusions that may not be entirely accurate.
Overall, the state of higher education is an interesting one, the UK is fortunate for the most part that it's not facing Orwell's Nightmare as many American institutions have already endured. With rampant student activism leading to an uncomfortable environment for any student who wants the commit the greatest thought-crime of all. Expressing an opinion someone might (god forbid) disagree with.