Campus Free Speech

British PM Theresa May: Safe Spaces Threaten Open Debate on Campus

'We want to see that innovation of thought taking place in our universities.'



British Prime Minister Theresa May said Wednesday that safe spaces were an "extraordinary" new trend and a threat to open dialogue on university campuses.

"We want our universities not just to be places of learning but places where there is open debate. which is challenged and people can get involved in that," said May, according to The Guardian. "I think everybody is finding this concept of safe spaces quite extraordinary, frankly. We want to see that innovation of thought taking place in our universities. That's how we develop as a country, as a society, and as an economy, and I absolutely agree with my honorable friend."

May was referring to statements made by Victoria Atkins, who expressed concern that entitled students were using safe spaces to undermine free speech.

Lest anyone show too much admiration for May's position, Spiked editor and Reason contributor Brendan O'Neill writes that May's support for free speech is disingenuous.

"Theresa May wouldn't recognise freedom of speech if it got up on to her despatch box and showed her its arse," he wrote.

O'Neill continues:

As home secretary she zealously 'No Platformed' – to use student parlance – various so-called extremists, preventing them from setting foot in Britain lest they warp our tiny minds. She forcefielded Britain against right-wing American bloggers who are stingingly critical of Islam. Against a white nationalist from the American South. Against the Florida pastor Terry Jones, who likes burning Korans. Against the American rapper Tyler, the Creator, for the crime of having once rapped some sexist lyrics. Against the doofus pick-up artist Julien Blanc, for being disrespectful of women.

If these targets sound familiar, that's because they're the same people student officials ban. Islamophobes, sexists, rappers or singers who aren't sufficiently PC: May and the student Safe Spacers she's railing against are one and the same in their belief that bad or eccentric ideas are best dealt with by censorship. May bans a pastor who has a problem with the Koran; students ban secularist critic of Islam Maryam Namazie. May bans Tyler, the Creator for being sexist; 30 students' unions ban Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' for being sexist.

For more on students' demands for safe spaces, read my latest: "Crazed Yale Students Attack Staffer for "Creating Space for Violence."