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Should universities no-platform controversial speakers?
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Universities should no-platform speakers because controversy compromises student safety

The issue with inflammatory speakers is that there are often violent altercations at their events. Student safety is paramount.


The central duty of student unions and universtities should be the protection of their students from harm. Controversial events can often descend into violence, and this is happening more and more often.

The Argument

Controversial speakers attract two distinct crowds - their supporters and their detractors. The more controversial a speaker is, the more intense the beliefs on either side of that spectrum is. Crucially, it is likely that these groups might see each other as an existential threat - something so evil and awful that they might resort to violence. Putting these two groups into the same venue, listening to the same inflammatory content woud drastically increase the chance of a violent altercation that would harm not only those involved but innocent onlookers too. This sort of violence has occurred before and is likely to ocurr again, and universities lack the resources to deal with it. It is therefore irresponsible for them to invite speakers that they know have a high liklihood of causing physical harm to students.[1]

Counter arguments

Why do we grant students the right to be protected from controversial ideas? Citizens are not afforded the same protections in other public spaces. Why do university campuses need to be kept as spaces without offence and controversy? We don't remove offensive books from student libraries, or erect firewalls preventing offensive and inflammatory content reaching them online. Why should we stop controversial and inflammatory ideas reaching them through planned speaker events? [2] There are other ways of preventing violence from happening that doesn’t stifle free speech. An increased police presence and harsher punishments for those starting violence are an alternative way to keep attendees physically safe.



P1. Taking risks with students’ safety at university is wrong P2. Very controversial speakers’ events have a high probability of causing violent conflicts P3. Universities have limited capacity to protect students and prevent these conflicts C1. Very controversial speakers events are likely to cause students physical harm C2. Universities should not host very controversial speakers

Rejecting the premises

Rejection of P2 means both conclusions are invalidated. Universities do have ways of improving students’ safety.


This page was last edited on Thursday, 24 Sep 2020 at 10:19 UTC

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