Free speech is a right for all

Another term, another UGM and one of the motions particularly caught my eye. As I’m sure most of you are aware, a motion was tabled to force YUSU to have a clear stance on invited speakers, and more specifically on controversial speakers.

Having looked at the motion itself, it appears to me that those tabling it had clear and well-founded concerns about some speakers that have been invited to the university in past years. Notably, they point to the Islamic society’s invitation to Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al‐Kawthari to speak on “Misconceptions of Islam.”

Because Mr al-Kawthari had advocated a “threat to the freedoms and well-being of our student body,” it was felt by some that a clear stance from YUSU was needed in order to combat such threats.

comes down to a paternalistic concern

Interestingly, the motion was rejected by only a single vote with over 210 choosing to abstain. It shows that amongst those who voted, opinion was very much divided.

However, I, for one am relieved that the motion did not pass. It is quite frankly ridiculous to stop someone from speaking just because they have an alternative view of society. Indeed, that would send York into a sort of purgatory in terms of obtaining good speakers. The University has always aimed to get speakers akin to that of Oxbridge. I feel that a consequence of this act would send York further down the pecking order in terms of attracting the best speakers.

What annoyed me most about this motion, however, is that it was an attempt to force the university into being a touchy-feely organisation, one which doesn’t want to offend anyone. If you think you are going to be offended by someone’s argument, then don’t go to the talk. It is that simple.

What this idea comes down to is a paternalistic concern that there is a slight possibility that someone, be they in a minority group or part of a larger collective, will be offended by what a speaker has to say. If said person is offended then let them argue against the speaker in their own way, do not preempt offence when none may occur. York’s students are intelligent and capable of independent thought. The act would have diminished the right of free thinking. Fortunately, it remains on the sidelines, where it should stay.

I’m sure with these words I’ve offended someone. But it is a free university, and that is how it should remain.

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