Prime Minister Theresa May has said that British universities should not be ‘safe spaces’.
In a number of universities, ‘safe space’ and ‘no platforming’ policies are used to describe a zero-tolerance policy towards speakers with bigoted or anti-LGBT views, intended to create an environment of tolerance towards minority groups.
However, opponents claim that the practise can “silence” critical voices, with outspoken feminist Germaine Greer claiming to have been censored under such policies after a number of obscene anti-transgender rants.
Tory MP Victoria Atkins raised the issue in Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday.
She asked: “Freedom of speech is a fundamental British value, which is undermined by so-called safe spaces in our universities, where a sense of righteous entitlement among a minority of students means that their wish not to be offended shuts down debate.
“As students around the country return to their places of learning at the start of this new academic year, does my right hon. Friend agree that university is precisely the place for lively debate, and that fear of being offended must not trump freedom of speech?”
Prime Minister Theresa May responded: “I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend.
“We want our universities not just to be places of learning, but to be places where there can be open debate which is challenged and people can get involved in that.
“I think everybody is finding this concept of safe spaces quite extraordinary.
“We want to see that innovation of thought taking place in our universities; that is how we develop as a country, as a society and as an economy, and I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend.”