The #Right2Debate movement is led by students from across the country and from a wide variety of backgrounds.
We are particularly proud to be supported by:
- Quilliam Student Societies based throughout the United Kingdom
- Goldsmiths College’s ‘Atheists, Secularists, and Humanists Society’
- The University of Warwick’s ‘Atheists, Secularists, and Humanists Society’
- King’s College University’s Atheists, Secularists and Humanists Society’
- Young Britons for Liberty
This movement is supported by Quilliam. The key editors of the policy include members of the student societies above.
Our Vision for Campus Debate Reform
We acknowledge and respect the safe-space policy guidelines followed by student unions (SU) from across the country. However SUs and many others are reacting to views by resorting to censorship and no-platforming. This movement calls for SU to reform their policies contesting rather than removing divisive and extremist narratives. We continue to respect the law and agree that speakers should not be allowed onto university campuses if they incite hatred and/or advocate violence.
Resorting to censorship should only be done by SUs in the extreme cases that speakers are breaking the law of inciting hatred or violence. If this is the case, these individuals must be regarded as using threatening words or behaviour to stir up hatred towards the inalienable traits of others -referring to those things that cannot be taken or given away- and not on the critique, scrutiny or satirisation of ideas or beliefs. The inalienable personal traits of the human being is defined in virtue of his or her inalienable right to one’s sexuality, gender, racial and cultural identification, and right to hold non-violent belief.
The #Right2Debate movement believes that building a more trusted relationship between SUs and students is vital. This is especially true for students who feel that their SU has failed in its duty to promote free speech or create safe spaces. The policy proposed here aims to solve this problem by creating a more effective line of communication between students. This will have a uniform, transparent, structure that helps students express their discontent with SU decision-making on extremist or divisive speakers on campus. It makes clear the requirements and expectations of all parties.
Why Debate Over Censorship?
Extremist ideologies must be challenged by an empowered civil society.
Allowing extremist and divisive speakers to lecture on university campuses without any challenge means their harmful, but sometimes persuasive, views can contribute to an atmosphere of intolerance. This leads to vulnerable individuals becoming more susceptible to radicalisation, it makes student communities feel unsafe, and it undermines a positive university experience for all.
However, banning individuals means compromising free speech and leaving these ideologies uncontested – pushing those wishing to discuss difficult issues towards other platforms and potentially falling under negative influences (for example social media and online forums). The only way to deal with these issues is to empower the campus community through civil dialogue and debate. This means supporting students to challenge extremist and divisive views with the values of mutual tolerance and respect.
Few disagree that universities should be bastions of free thought and ideas. It is clear that many views can, and do, cause offence and that this can lead to frank discussion. However, this does not, on its own, constitute grounds for censorship. Instead, students need to feel confident that they have the means to counter extremist and divisive views in a safe and civil manner.
The university environment’s greatest asset is its rich tapestry of ideas. Debating these ideas equips students with the capacity to think critically and expand their horizons. They should not be pushed towards conforming to a particular viewpoint.
What would Right2Debate values look like in practice?
Every Right2Debate campaign policy will be different and individually tailored to their Student Union and preferences. The policy is then lobbied to be adopted. It can only be a Right2Debate policy if it adheres to the 4 values:
1. Debate over censorship – by ensuring that the Right2Debate policy becomes enacted and thus contested platforms replace no-platforming when speakers are in violation of SU safe-space policies. This is caveated with the fact that Student Unions do indeed the right to ban a speaker if a speaker happens to be in breach of the law regarding the incitement of hatred and/or violence.
2. Debate over uncontested platforms for contentious speakers – by ensuring another speaker is able to effectively challenge the divisive narratives, or a minimum of 60 minutes is delegated to Q&A with a sizeable portion of that time being delegated to students who want to contest these views to ensure effective debate.
3. Clarity – by ensuring the SUs upload their justification online if they deem a speaker to be contentious and, therefore, such a speaker requires a contested platform through the medium of debate – or whether they outright ban the speaker. This is vital to ensure scrutiny.
4. Uniformity – this is achieved through the petition structure and an independent moderator during the event. This also includes ensuring that the event is safeguarded against any disruption – either from the inside or out.