A growing “crisis” over campus censorship at Edinburgh University is driving the success of a new free speech platform where nothing is off-limits, according to the two students who founded it.
The Broad website has been launched to counter the emergence of “no platforming” and “safe space” initiatives which have hit university societies and speakers which are deemed unpalatable in controversial areas such as abortion or immigration.
It was founded by politics student Joe Kleeman, 19, and Oliver Kraftman, 20, who studies politics and economics.
In the space of a few months the pair have recruited a team of eight editorial staff as articles flooded in, mainly from fellow Edinburgh students, but also elsewhere around the UK, reflecting widespread frustration over what is perceived as the growing climate of “campus censorship”.
Mr Kleeman said: “There isn’t really a space for students to express their opinions and we want to make a positive difference to that.”
The use of policies like “no-platforming”, “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” stemmed from a desire to deny exposure to extremist figures, but there are widespread concerns it is now being used to choke off debate on campuses.
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg was caught up in a fracas when he was targeted by a no platforming protest at the University of the West of England earlier this year as he gave a speech to the international relations society.
Edinburgh has been ranked as one of the worst universities in the UK for free speech by the online magazine Spiked. The university was also at the centre of controversy two years ago when students were banned from dressing as Pocahontas and Caitlyn Jenner, amid fears it could be see as racist or transphobic.
A row broke out last week after it emerged that male students were to be banned from a debate on feminism promoted by the university’s philosophy society. It later distanced itself from the event.
The Broad has already faced its own brush with such campus attitudes when a proposed debate on “political correctness” which it was proposing to jointly stage fell by wayside amid concerns it would be too controversial.
Mr Kleeman said: “You do see events getting cancelled, people getting `no platformed’. I think a lot of students at Edinburgh feel very entitled – entitled not to be exposed to a certain opinion. Maybe that came with students having to pay fees now of £9,250 a year and they feel like consumers.”
Edinburgh University Students Association has previously insisted it “wholeheartedly” supports free speech, pointing to a broad range of debates on campus covering areas including the Middle East and Brexit.