Theresa May, still relatively new to her post as prime minister of Britain, slammed the pervasion of safe spaces at British universities during Prime Minister’s Questions Thursday, responding to MP Victoria Atkins’ concerns about free speech.
“Freedom of speech is a fundamental British value which is undermined by so-called ‘safe spaces’ in our universities where a sense of righteous entitlement by a minority of students means that their wish not to be offended shuts down debate,” noted Atkins of the erosion of freedom at universities.
“As students around the country return to their places of learning at the start of this new academic year,” Atkins continued, “does my right honorable friend agree that University is precisely the place for lively debate, and that fear of being offended must not trump freedom of speech?”
“I absolutely agree with my honorable friend,” responded Prime Minister Theresa May. “We want our universities not just to be places of learning but to be places where there can be open debate which is challenged and people can get involved in that.”
“I think everybody is finding this concept of safe spaces quite extraordinary, frankly,” noted May of the trend taking hold in British institutions of higher education.
“We want to see that innovation of thought taking place in our universities. That’s how we develop as a country, as a society, and as an economy. I absolutely agree with my honorable friend.”
MP Atkins and Prime Minister May are right to be concerned about the “fundamental British value” of free speech and its erosion at University due to safe spaces. Last semester, a student at Edinburgh University was thrown out of a meeting because she raised her hand, a violation of the safe space rules there. According to Edinburgh’s safe space guidelines, raising one’s hand could signal disagreement, and such disagreements “should only be evident through the normal course of debate,” reported The Telegraph.
Thanks to the hard work of conservative student activists in the United States, momentum against the safe space movement is building on this side of the Atlantic. Prime Minister May’s exchange only adds more fuel to our efforts.