Vice-chancellor questions safe spaces

first_imgRecently appointed University Vice-Chancellor Louise Richardson has voiced her concern over the rise of ‘safe space’ ideology which has recently become increasingly prominent across UK and US universities.Her installation speech earlier this month led her to stress that “an Oxford education is not meant to be a comfortable experience.” In an interview with The Telegraph shortly afterwards, she described her preferred approach to free speech as “quite the opposite of the tendency towards safe spaces.”When asked how Richardson understands the term ‘safe space,’ she told Cherwell, “My understanding of the term as it has evolved in American campuses is as a space where people do not have to confront ideas they find disturbing or upsetting and that’s what I think is inconsistent with university life.”When pressed further about what students should do when they need an escape from difficult ideas, she responded, “Isn’t that what your private life is about, that you have your friends, that you create a social group around you of people with whom you feel comfortable? Why would that need to be an institutional space?”This follows her denouncement of new legislation, entitled Prevent, designed to curb the spread of radicalism across the UK with which the University will have to be compliant in August. Richardson said, “I understand the intentions of the government but I think this legislation is unwise. I’m worried that a particular group of students – Muslim students – might feel like they’re suspect and I really worry about the threat to free speech.”In reference to OUSU’s response to Prevent, Richardson said, “I’ll be honest, I think it’s a shame that the students have decided not to engage on this. OUSU has a policy of not engaging with this… Personally, I would prefer to see us work together to express our shared reservations about the legislation.”She continues, “Within the confines of the law I think universities are the best place to hear objectionable speech – radical speech if you like – because it can be countered openly. I think that’s what a university’s about. I think it’s an unfortunate piece of legislation; we will of course have to comply with it, and we’ll do so, but I’d much prefer we didn’t have to.”Richardson also indicated that she thinks CAGE, which aims to “highlight and campaign against state policies developed as part of the War on Terror”, should be allowed to present on university campuses.In a council meeting in October, OUSU publicly condemned the 2015 Counter-Terrorism and Security Act.last_img read more