Campus “Safe Spaces”= Free Speech Suppression And Intimidation: The Next Step

edinburghBad ideas take root when they are not immediately called what they are—bad—, then mocked, eviscerated, and destroyed with reason, logic and common sense. That is why fools should never be suffered gladly, and why their foolish inspirations should be dashed before they are allowed to draw a breath. Many factors, such as misplaced politeness, mistaking open-mindedness for lack of critical thought, laziness and cowardice  allow these bad ideas to spread like weeds.

Who was it that shrugged when it was first suggested that the U.S. should ignore its own immigration laws? Who was it who failed to point and laugh when someone suggested that rape accusations in colleges should be decided without due process? Who neglected to say, “Whaat?” when a legislator suggested that workers be exempted from doing the duties required of their jobs when their religions disapproved of them? Good ideas can be defended against the attacks of those without imagination or daring. Bad ideas have to slip by, undetected and unrebutted, until they get out of control.

Some, indeed many, allowed the ridiculous “safe spaces” theory to live when it should have been strangled in its crib. Now it is strangling education and open discourse on campuses all over the nation. I’m proud to say that Ethics Alarms did its part deftly when the related argument was raised on various blogs, including this one, that places of debate should be “safe,” in the sense that no commenter risk a harsh rebuttal or an insulting retort no matter what that commenter wrote. We lost a couple of hardy and substantive participants over the issue.

The “safe places” theory is especially sinister, as it also creates places safe for more bad ideas to flourish and grow beyond the stage where they can be stamped out with ease. Of course, not every idea, even good ones, are welcome to all. “Safe spaces” means guaranteed safety from  ideas that are unwelcome to the specific group constructing its safe zone, ideas like, say, “TRUMP 2016.”  It is the culmination of the position that people should be guaranteed the right not to be confronted with opposing views. Now the University of Edinburgh, “influencing the world since 1583,” is showing us what happens when the weeds of “safe spaces” are allowed to spread.

Imogen Wilson, Vice President for academic affairs at Edinburgh’s student association, was threatened with removal from a student council session under “safe space” rules when she raised her hands and shook her head in disagreement with what was being asserted by others during an argument. When someone is accused of violating the school’s (absolutely bats)  safe space policy, a vote is called to decide whether they should be removed from the room. 18 people voted to remove Wilson, and 33 voted for her to remain.

Section 6c of the Edinburgh student’s association’s safe space policy says that council members should be respectful and considerate, defined as “Refraining from hand gestures which denote disagreement or in any other way indicating disagreement with a point or points being made. Disagreements should only be evident through the normal course of debate.”

Frowns and wrinkled brows are also presumably not “safe.” Start the countdown to how long before this limitation on expression is proposed in an American university. 10…9…8…

We should have limited sympathy for Wilson, because she is partly at fault for her own speech restrictions. “I completely understand the importance of our safe space policy, and will defend it to the ground,” she said. Well, you’re an idiot, Imogen. Nobody should be “safe” from vigorous disagreement, and body language is as valid an expression of it as words. Here, let Edinburgh first-year student Charlie Peters  explain this  to you; he has started a petition against the policy, which has 1000 signatures already. He wrote:

“What sort of an education do you promote if you would make it harder for us to debate and have us avoid the views some do not agree with? We are adults, we do not need condescension or safeguarding.”


It looks like you’re in the wrong school, Charlie. Before long, if  sane, democratic and unpampered students keep allowing bad ideas to flourish unchallenged, there may not be any right schools left.


Pointer: Fred

Source: Huffington Post UK

16 thoughts on “Campus “Safe Spaces”= Free Speech Suppression And Intimidation: The Next Step

  1. Wait. A VICE PRESIDENT FOR STUDENT AFFAIRS was threatened with removal from a STUDENT council meeting? My response, had I been a Vice President of this University, would have been “How would you like to be able to keep having these meetings? Now SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP.”

        • When I was an undergraduate, the Student Government had a nifty policy, where candidates running against the incumbent could be disqualified for any reason, including talking to potential constituents (it wasn’t quite phrased like that in the bylaws, however…).

  2. I’m an academic – well, grad student – and this stuff horrifies me.

    But it also makes me think: you know, if anti-racism and anti-sexism activists have enough time and energy to worry about appropriate body language on university campuses, that surely means they’ve already solved all the more substantial problems of bigotry, yes?

    Rhetorical question, obviously. But still. _This_ is the battle they choose to fight?

  3. The use of the safe space rule was evidently a little more sinister. From the HuffPo article:

    “We were having one of the most emotionally tense councils of the year, with the vote on the BDS movement and people speaking who live in Palestine or are Israeli on both sides of the issue.

    “There was ample risk of there being an actual safe space issue taking place—an anti-semitic or islamophobic comment for instance—but the whole debate was actually remarkably civil despite how emotional it was.

    “So for someone to have abused the very legitimate purpose of safe space rules to get at someone they politically disagreed with was pretty low.

    • Saw that, and sniffed it out as a straw man. No “safe spaces” rule is needed to discourage out right racist or anti-Semitic attacks…that rule is called “decency,” or “manners.”

  4. “Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.“ ~Heinrich Heine c.1830

    ” That was a prelude only ,
    wherever they burn books,
    they will end in burning human beings.”

  5. “Bad ideas take root when they are not immediately called what they are—bad—, then mocked, eviscerated, and destroyed with reason, logic and common sense.”

    Did someone say my name?

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