Universities Are Supposed To Be Safe Spaces

The idea that universities should allow those who preach hate is absurd – the government won’t back down on terrorism, so why support bigotry?

Recently, a new crack down on universities was announced by the government, who seem to have made it their mission to abolish any and all so called safe spaces. The government though have completely overstepped the mark.

Students are now faced with a system where universities are essentially capitalist entities. Students have to pay thousands for the right to attend university, and yet the government is still trying to interfere in the structure and social elements of it. Their staunch support of free markets and freedom of choice doesn’t actually hold up under scrutiny then. The Tories are trying to silence the student union, and take even greater rights away from students. It is fundamental that students must be allowed to protest those who spread hate and deny platforms to bigots. In an era where neo-Nazis are flourishing, it is young people who are the ones taking the fight to the self styled “alt right”, transphobes and bigots, while older generations complain about safe spaces.

Students are supposed to be able to access the university they pay for. Inviting transphobic speakers into universities immediately means that trans people aren’t safe. Trans people are already at huge risk of experiencing hate during the course of their lifetimes without universities making it worse. The institutions have a duty of care to all students. They must be accessible, and that means providing a safe and supportive learning environment. Given the fees they charge, it’s the least they could do.

“The institutions have a duty of care to all students”

The government though isn’t even being transparent. It will not be allowing free speech at universities. They can’t. Under their own rules, Islamic hate preachers won’t be allowed to speak at universities as they are viewed as inciting terrorism and hatred. Trans people every day are in overwhelming dangers from the cis community. They face violence, intimidation and hate speech. If universities are to be consistent then transphobic speakers cannot be allowed.

Universities are spaces where students come to hear open debate – that is true. But let’s be clear; those being denied platforms offer no expertise. They are completely ignorant on the subjects they try to interfere with. Greer, Bindel and co. don’t have any experience of what it means to be transgender. They have no lived experience. They also regularly speak against science, and show no understanding for biology (which supports trans people). They are in the same mould as trouble. Transphobes routinely make up facts, dismiss everything else as fake news and then try to wage a campaign of hatred on the basis of their lives. They have no right to speak at universities as though they are informed on the matters. That would be like offering a platform to Joey Essex to speak on astrophysics.

The UK government is trying to control a realm it gave up to capitalism. They trebled university fees and now they want to interfere on how students organise. This is a suppression of the rights of students, as well as trans people. It is also nonsense. Students are trying to ensure that universities are safe for all to attend and that we do get rigorous debate – but around facts, and lived experience and not hysteria and bigotry. It was scaremongering and lies that brought us the mess of Brexit. It was scaremongering and lies that brought Trump. Students will organise against us, but for how much longer are younger people going to have to clear up the mess that older generations make?

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