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Should universities no-platform controversial speakers?
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Universities have rights too and so should be able to no-platform speakers

No-platforming is not really censorship. It is just individual universities choosing speakers who align with their values.


One of the main accusations lobbed against universities is that they censor views they dissaprove of. Do they have a right to do so, and is that right somehow circumscribed?

The Argument

Student unions are private bodies who represent the interest of their students. As such, they should have complete control over who they choose to invite to their stages. No-platforming is no different to any traditional speaker selection process. When unions create the agenda of who they wish to invite, they say things about their values, their priorities and their concerns. Whenever you create a speaker list, the people you choose to invite is already putting forward a particular agenda. If you invite exclusively black feminist poets, this is the group of people whose voices you think are valuable and should be listened to. Unions are allowed to express positions on issues that they think are relevant to them. They’ve been historically vocal and active in leading progressive movements, and no-platforming is just an extension of that. Telling unions they can’t no-platform violates their right of academic freedom and freedom of association. More importantly, denying speakers access to student events is not paramount to censorship. There are many different avenues through which no-platformed speakers can still make their voices heard. The debate would be very different if universities were the only method of communicating ideas, but this simply isnt the case. Controversial speakers are still people in positions of power who can write articles, go on television, or hold their own events at different venues and with different organisations. Nor does no-platforming prevent students from accessing these ideas. Reading the books or watching the interviews of no-platformed individuals will never be something that universities ban or discourage. These alternative ways of engaging with the no-platformed ideas are always there. No-platforming is not the ultimate form of censorship and merely allows universities to openly express the preferences and opinions of their student bodies.

Counter arguments

Unions are different to other private bodies. They represent a university - places where the exchange of ideas should be most free and unencumbered by censorship. Universities are the melting pots of ideas and the moulders of young minds. Limiting the exposure that these young people have to ideas that challenge them coerces them into following the university line. University unions therefore, have a special duty to represent all views, and don’t have the privilege of choosing their agendas.



P1. Private bodies have the right to choose what ideas and people they endorse as long as that does not censor those ideas or people entirely. P2. Unions are private bodies that have a right to express preferences and opinions C1. University unions have a right to no-platform speakers

Rejecting the premises

Rejecting P2. Universities are a special kind of institution that has a special kind of duty.


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

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