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Reinstate Free Speech at the University of Edinburgh

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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.


Charlie Peters

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