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Edinburgh University receives ‘Red’ free speech ranking

ByGavin Dewar

Feb 10, 2015

The online magazine Spiked! has given the University of Edinburgh, and 47 other universities, a ‘Red’ rating in their first ever “Free Speech University Rankings”.

The university’s Dignity and Respect Policy, and EUSA’s campaigns to end rape culture and lad banter, are two of the reasons cited by Spiked! writer Tom Slater as reasons for the ‘Red’ rating.

The ranking describes the university and its union as having “banned and actively censored ideas on campus.”

Spiked!’s evaluation states that “Edinburgh University and Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) collectively create a hostile environment for free speech.

“The university, which has received an Amber ranking, places restrictions on ‘inappropriate speech’ and requires students to recognise the sexual identity of transgender students.

The students’ union, which has received a Red ranking, has a No Platform policy against rape apologists and mandates the heavy regulation of union meetings under its Safe Space policy.

It has also banned ‘Blurred Lines’ and The Sun.

“Due to the severity of EUSA’s policies and actions, the institution as a whole has received a Red ranking.”

Vice-President of Societies and Activities Eve Livingston spoke to The Student on behalf of EUSA. “We entirely disagree with any survey which ranks a union lower for recognising the basic rights of its members through things like Trans Equality policies and Safe Space.

“We make no apologies for No Platform policies and decisions which serve to protect our most vulnerable students, and are proud of having taken these steps to ensure that all voices are heard within our union, even those of the most marginalised who are easily silenced in wider society.”

In her more strongly-worded personal blog, Livingston writes: “Fundamentally, the right to your own free speech does not mean the right to limit the free speech of others, which is what oppressive language and behaviour does; further marginalising those already underrepresented, scaring them out of speaking, muffling their voices down to a faint hum in the background while you continue to shout.

“This is precisely the power imbalance which we seek to redress when we enact No Platform policies or influence the control we have over our limited resources.”

Urte Macikenaite, Treasurer at the Edinburgh University Feminist Society, told The Student: “If anti-sexist and anti-racist policies count as ‘bad’, I’m thrilled that Edinburgh has gained a ‘Red’ rating.

“The power structures of our society dictate free speech is never doled out equally, and EUSA is simply taking one step to level the platform by limiting hateful, discriminatory expression.”

Similar criticism has been aimed at Spiked! from universities and student unions across the UK.

Only 23 of the of the 115 universities included in the study were given a ‘Green’ rating, which suggests a “hands-off approach to free speech.”

Four of these universities were in Scotland – St Andrews, Glasgow Caledonian, Robert Gordon and the University of the West of Scotland (UWS).

Edinburgh and Stirling were the only Scottish universities to receive a ‘Red’ ranking, while the seven other universities were all ‘Amber’.

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