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Should universities no-platform speakers? Show more Show less

Universities are meant to be the burgeoning hubs of idea exchange, yet denying controversial speakers a platform on campuses has become increasingly acceptable? Are there good reasons to no-platform inflammatory speakers?
No-platforming is harmful and shouldn’t be done
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Universities are there to progress human comprehension

"Everything we know about the world...the age of our civilization, species, planet, and universe... came as insults to the sacred dogma of the day."

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Context

Some ideas and texts that have become pillars of the scientific and literary community were once censored and confiscated, including Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and James Joyce’s Ulysses.

The Argument

To allow universities to no-platform speakers is to prevent them furthering human comprehension through the exploration of ideas that, at one point in time, are deemed offensive. In 1911, Harvard denied the request of its Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage to host Emmeline Pankhurst as a speaker. Seen through the context of a modern lens, this is undoubtedly a travesty, which prevented many Harvard students further exploring, and perhaps advancing, the idea of women’s suffrage. Malcolm X was also barred from speaking at Queens College and the University of California, and Arthur Miller was banned from speaking at the University of South Carolina. There is no way of knowing what ideas will be pivotal for the further development of human comprehension and progress, therefore Universities should not be permitted to no platform speakers.[1]

Counter arguments

At what point do we put the promotion of human understanding above student safety? If an idea puts students at risk of physical or emotional violence or harm, then it compromises Universities role as a safe space. First and foremost, universities should be a safe space where students can exchange ideas. If an idea compromises that safety, it should not be permitted on the platform.

Premises

P1: Universities are places designed to further human comprehension and understanding. P2: We do not know what ideas will further human comprehension and understanding. P3: Therefore, universities should be a platform for the discussion of all ideas. P4: Therefore, they should not be allowed to no-platform speakers

Rejecting the premises

P1: Universities are safe spaces where students can further human comprehension and understanding. P3: If an idea makes a university unsafe, it should not be allowed a platform for discussion. P4: Therefore, in the preservation of universities as a safe space, they should be permitted to exclude speakers.

References

  1. https://debates.economist.com/debate/campus-free-speech?state=opening

Proponents

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This page was last edited on Monday, 17 Dec 2018 at 18:42 UTC