The freedom of expression, to debate and discuss ideas, is an integral part of our democracy. It is terrifying to imagine where we might be as a society if we were to stifle our cherished notion that thought and speech ought to be freely expressed. What would the world look like if we never challenged our views, if we silenced those with whom we disagreed?
Yet we have societies affiliated with Queen Mary calling for speakers to be ‘no-platformed’ or banned from campus. This is absolutely unacceptable. Universities exist to form and to challenge, not to spoon-feed. Through our exposure to different people and ideas we learn and develop our own views. Curtailing free thought and expression and restricting debate are antithetical to the core function of universities within society. Moreover, how can one claim to champion diversity while attempting to root out ideological diversity and to silence opinions that are different?
Free speech is not selective; allowing only certain values or notions to be heard is not free speech. Free speech means allowing others to express ideas that may be unpopular, or ideas with which we may disagree. These ideas may challenge us – and we should certainly be free to debate them – but if we shut ourselves off from different opinions, how will our own opinions grow and evolve?
Diversity of opinion is important to our campus – and every university campus – but without the freedom to express those opinions, the benefit of that diversity is lost. So use your freedom of expression to challenge ideas with which you disagree, not to attempt to prohibit them.