Oxford University Chancellor Chris Patten has condemned safe spaces and the practice of “noplatforming” at universities as “fundamentally offensive”.
In a speech to the Oxford Union last week, Lord Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong and a former Conservative party chairman, said he felt “more strongly about this issue than almost any other at the moment”.
He added: “I was in Hong Kong three or four weeks ago, talking to young men and women who face going to prison because they argue for free speech, and I come back to Britain and I find that people want universities to be full of safe spaces where you can’t speak your mind.
“There is a huge difference between having an argument with someone and having a quarrel with them.
“It’s one of the reasons that I find safe spaces at universities or no-platforming so fundamentally offensive.
“It’s nothing to do with my view of what university should be like. The University should be regarded as liberal, with liberal values of free speech.”
His comments come after a string of student campaigns to encourage safe spaces. Sussex University’s free speech society was recently told by the student union that its inaugural guest must submit his speech in advance for vetting, in case it violates their safe space policy.
In his recent speech he described those who campaign for noplatforming, as engaging in “fascistic behaviour” and “denying one of the most important roles of a university in a free society”.
A first-year PPE student who attended the speaker event added: “If people want small safe spaces within the University, I think that’s fine, but the University as a whole should be kept free.”
The National Union of Students has a no-platforming policy to prevent “fascists and racists” from speaking and an official no platforming list which contains six groups, including the BNP and Al- Muhajiroun