Reinstate Free Speech at the University of Edinburgh

1,358 Signatures Goal: 1,000

I have written an open letter to my Student Union inviting them to reinstate and defend free speech. This letter is displayed below. I am looking for signatures to help support this message and to increase its importance on campus. Thank you!

An Open Letter to the Edinburgh University Students’ Association

To the President, Vice Presidents, Student Council, Trustees, and Senior Management of EUSA, I am writing to invite you to defend freedom. You are restricting the freedom of students to speak, to be heard, to understand, and to learn. This is unacceptable.

In a free and liberal society such as ours, it is imperative that people remain able to express their views, regardless of what others may think of them. This is currently not possible at the University of Edinburgh. By upholding the values of the NUS’s ‘No Platform’ policy – and as a result of your ‘Safe Space’ policy – you have restricted the right of students and guests to speak freely. By defining university as a ‘Safe Space’, you shelter students from dissenting views, betraying the most basic ideals of education.

Your ‘Safe Space’ policy states that “a meeting shall be deemed a safe space where no-one is disadvantaged or discouraged from contributing.” But your ‘No Platform’ policy directly contradicts this commitment, shutting out the contributions of people with whom you do not agree and depriving the rest of us from hearing their views. That is not how debate is supposed to work. It is at universities where serious discussion, criticism and debate must take place. We must not hide when faced with controversial topics: we must face them. The more ideas we challenge and discuss in public, the likelier we are to arrive at a moral and serious truth. 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 all know how these kind of policies play out on a larger scale. Censorship of the press and strict prison sentences for expressing an opinion on religion, government, and even on culture are commonplace in countries like Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Cuba. People throughout the world are paying with their lives for demanding the hard won freedoms we are so blessed to enjoy in the United Kingdom. By banning the newspaper The Sun and even a song, you are mocking those who bravely fight against the oppression of their speech, their press, and their expression.

Remove your censorious ‘No Platform’ and ‘Safe Space’ policies. In their place, adopt the policy unanimously voted in by faculty of the American University in Washington D.C., which pledges the university to “protecting and championing the right to freely communicate ideas – without censorship – and to study material as it is written, produced, or stated, even material that some members of our community may find disturbing or that provokes uncomfortable feelings… As laws and individual sensitivities may seek to restrict, label, warn, or exclude specific content, the academy must stand firm as a place that is open to diverse ideas and free expression.”

I believe an institution which upholds the principles of free speech and diversity is superior to a Students’ Association that patronises its own students by insinuating that they cannot handle opinions that differ from their own. We are adults, we do not need condescension or safeguarding. EUSA does their students a huge disservice by engaging in this malpractice.

You are shedding the most basic and precious of our liberties and you are doing so without apt consideration. How ashamed Adam Smith, the great Scottish champion of free speech, would be if he were to see Edinburgh today. Edinburgh, once the home of liberty, free speech and reason is now home to an intolerant and ban-happy Students’ Association.

Yours,

Charlie Peters

10

Highlights

December 6
As someone proud to have attended the University of Edinburgh, I'm shocked to hear such restrictive and damaging policies have been adopted. If the views of a speaker upset you don't listen, or even better engage in an academic and critical debate with them. Safe spaces just encourage ignorance, censorship, and fear of critical engagement, all of which should be fought against at university level.
December 5
Free speech and the contesting of ideas are essential in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, especially at a distinguished University.
December 5
As a former student of Edinburgh University I wholeheartedly support this petition. It is only by hearing and arguing with different opinions, especially those that come into direct conflict with our own opinions and values, that we fully develop our own ideas. University should be the place that we have the space to do this.
December 4
suppressing free speech is dangerous
December 4
Horrified that this great institution has stooped to these illiberal and intellectually dishonest policies. Time for a change. [Alumnus, class of 2007]
December 3
Down with campus censorship!
December 3
Edinburgh- you are better than this - what would the fathers of the Scottish Enlightenment think of your patronising mollycoddling?
December 3
'We are adults, we do not need condescension or safeguarding'. Quite right!
December 3
EUSA do not represent students. They represent themselves. Students are capable of thinking for themselves and don't need you telling them what they can and can't think and say. How do you expect them to survive real life when you treat them like babies who can't handle nasty words, or, shock horror, the truth? Simple - they won't. Stop encouraging people to get offended by everything, play the victim, and become pathetic special snowflakes who can moan for hours about nonsense but achieve nothing. The thought police are not welcome at university and never have been. Let students think for themselves, and get over the fact that not everyone agrees with your lunacy.
December 3
Petition has reached 100 signatures!
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Mar 11, 2017
    Mar 11, 2017
    It has become an absolute joke. The minority oppressing and censoring the majority? When did the far left become the far right? What happened to liberalism? Why shelter people from the real world only whilst at university only for them to know how to cope when something offends them or doesn't go there way.
  • Chris Deuchar
    Chris Deuchar United Kingdom, Manchester
    Feb 11, 2017
    Feb 11, 2017
    I am increasingly shocked by the way free speech, and therefore free expression, is being eroded by those who should be the guardians of it.

    Free speech is the ultimate freedom on which all other freedoms depend and to which all other freedoms, including that of possible offence, should be secondary.
  • Alexander Scott
    Alexander Scott United Kingdom, East Kilbride
    Feb 11, 2017
    Feb 11, 2017
    I'm certainly not wealthy but you can forget any possibility of future endowments until this is rectified.
  • H McLeod
    H McLeod United States, Athens
    Dec 15, 2016
    Dec 15, 2016
    Do not sway in the flighty whims of a passing wind. Hold Fast to freedom of thought and give your students the strength to handle a storm. You do them no service by sheltering them from the ways of the world.
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1358

Signatures

  • 4 months ago
    Wayne Niffen United States
    4 months ago
  • 5 months ago
    Aaran Tranter United Kingdom
    5 months ago
  • 5 months ago
    Arthur Bryan United Kingdom
    5 months ago
  • 5 months ago
    Nandini United Kingdom
    5 months ago
  • 5 months ago
    Harry Cobb United Kingdom
    5 months ago
  • 5 months ago
    Caroline Alms United Kingdom
    5 months ago
  • 5 months ago
    Tom Christie United Kingdom
    5 months ago
  • 6 months ago
    Craig Smith United Kingdom
    6 months ago
  • 6 months ago
    Ed Tulloch United Kingdom
    6 months ago
  • 6 months ago
    Chris Deuchar United Kingdom
    6 months ago
  • 6 months ago
    Alexander Scott United Kingdom
    6 months ago
  • 7 months ago
    Connor Shride United Kingdom
    7 months ago
  • 8 months ago
    H McLeod United States
    8 months ago
  • 8 months ago
    Jack McHugh United Kingdom
    8 months ago
  • 9 months ago
    Elliotte Rodriguez United States
    9 months ago
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