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Censorship debate remains high on student agenda

A debate occurred last Monday regarding Cardiff University’s stance on censorship and ‘no platforming’.

The debate also broached the subject of ‘safe spaces’ at Cardiff University, following the University’s recent history of criticism over its decisions not to grant platforms to particular entertainers and speakers.

In 2014, comedian Dapper Laughs was told he would not be allowed to perform in the Student’s Union after a petition accused his material of being ‘sexist’ and ‘condoning rape’.

Then, in 2015, feminist and academic Germaine Greer delivered a lecture in the Julian Hodge building, despite facing a petition and extensive protesting that lobbied against her being allowed to speak. This backlash was due to comments Greer made about transgender people, in which she argued that transgenders do not know what it is like to be a woman, stating: “Just because you get your dick lopped off and wear a dress, doesn’t make you a fucking woman”.

The debate involved four speakers, two of which argued for Cardiff University being a safe space – that is, “a place where anyone can relax and be able to fully express, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe” – and two of which argued against it.

Speaking to Gair Rhydd, the organiser of the debate, Izzy Lyons, said:

“The audience took a lot from it and many students were really glad that the topic was finally being made into a conversation at Cardiff Uni seeing as we have accumulated quite a bad reputation regarding the issue of no platforming”.

Lyons went on to add: “All in all it was very successful, and we hope the issue will become widely spoken about at Cardiff Uni in the future”.

Cardiff University received a red rating for freedom of speech following spiked.com’s investigation into freedom of speech at higher education institutions across the UK, further fuelling the discussion on the University’s ‘no platform’ policies.

However, Cardiff University’s future LGBT+ Officer, Marcus Connolly, was one of the speakers at the debate, on the ‘against’ side. He condemned spiked.com, calling their campaign ‘biased’, saying:

“Well it was an interesting and biased campaign by spiked. Where the opening remarks trivialise cultural appropriation.

“One remark, from the spiked side, if trans students aren’t strong enough to cope with transphobia, they should seek medical attention, an ‘interesting’ viewpoint”.

Speaking about the events of Monday’s debate, Connolly said: “My mention of how utterly ridiculous the spiked rating are and how they’re decided, was ignored which I found funny. Especially when the SU drags it’s feet giving policy documents to students, let alone terrible online resources”.

Connolly went on to say: “We rarely focused on what actual Censorship is and countries where people are killed for challenging the state, just disagreeing on how far hate speech should be allowed on campuses/society”.

However, Lyons later confirmed that Connolly and fellow guest speakers were aware that the event was collaborated with Spiked.

She also stressed that the event was created with “complete impartiality”, stating that “we are wholly aware that there are many students who don’t know where they fall on the issue.”

Speaking of Connolly’s fellow speaker in favor of safe spaces Payton Quinn, Lyons concluded: “Payton Quinn seemed to really appreciate the healthy debate that the event caused (she took to twitter after to let it be known) despite being completely against spiked’s general aim.”

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