‘Students Should Have the Right to Avoid Offensive Talks’ – SOAS Director

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Students should have the right to avoid any talks which might offend them, says Baroness Amos – the Director of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Amos was speaking at a conference, and tackled a number of issues such as radicalisation. She also spoke about freedom of speech on campuses – saying that while it is important to uphold, Universities should use it in a way that is ‘sensitive’ to students who have had ‘painful and difficult’ experiences. Read on for the full story.

 

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Amos tackled many University-based topics at the conference

 

Amos was speaking at a conference for the Higher Education Funding Council for England. She said that Universities have a ‘responsibility’ towards free speech. But she also said that this responsibility extends to being supportive for students who have been through ‘painful and difficult’ experiences as a result of a commitment to freedom of speech. As noted in the headline, Amos went on to say that Universities should respect the rights of students not to attend certain talks if they wish.

 

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Also on Amos’ agenda was to discuss the Government’s much-publicised ‘Prevent’ campaign – which is a measure to try and stop radicalisation on campuses in the United Kingdom. She suggested that the Prevent campaign was actually having a negative impact on students, who feel they are under ‘intense scrutiny’. Amos went on to say that those from a BAME background are especially wary of the campaign. Many University Student Union’s have disagreed with the campaign, which has caused controversy in the past.

 

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An example of an environmental-based protest at a University lecture

 

SOAS clarified in a statement that when Amos was discussing student’s right to not attend certain talks – that she was referring to guest lectures – which are often arranged by societies. This is in contrast to lectures and seminars that are a part of a course. There have been several polarising guest lectures in recent weeks which have made news headlines – including political-based protests taking place at the University of the West of England, and other cases reported at King’s College London and University College London. All of these cases were guest lectures.

 


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Amos tackled many issues, and for students at SOAS, they may well agree with her policies and beliefs. The University is well-renowned for studying an African and Asian-based curriculum – instead of the mainstream topics. Amos said it was important for Universities to create a ‘safe space’, which is an important point to make. After all, students are at University to learn, challenge and debate, something that is an important part of life. They need to feel welcome at University, and part of the community.

 

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