Union Affairs Officer, Toke Dahler featured on Newsnight last week, in a controversial debate against Times columnist David Aaronovitch.
Dahler was arguing in favour of the ‘No Platform Policy’ that Leeds University Union holds, stating that people with potentially harmdul views should not be invited or allowed to speak in the Union.
Speaking on the topic of Germaine Greer, recently banned from Cardiff University due to her beliefs regarding transgender women which many consider offensive, Toke said, “I would find it highly inappropriate and highly offensive to invite a person who doesn’t think transgender people are real people to transgender awareness week.”
He argued the ‘No Platform Policy’ does not simply involve banning offensive opinions, but it is concerned with protecting students who would feel unsafe if such speakers were on campus. He explained, “This is not about being safe from views you don’t like, this is about being traumatised”, before giving an example of a student who had been victim to racial hate crimes and was concerned for her safety.
Aaronovitch counter-argued that a person simply speaking on campus cannot endanger students. He asked, “What do we mean by ‘safe’? What do they feel ‘safe’ from?” Toke finished by saying the ‘No Platform Policy’ is not a form of censorship, as it involves democratic processes. “The reality is that everyone decides who they want to give platform to. We just do it openly and democratically”.
Speaking to The Gryphon about his experience on the show, Mr Dahler said “The Newsnight team approached me to debate ‘no platform’ and having controversial speakers on campus, as they had some background on Leeds’ no platform policy and information relating to some of our referendums.” “I knew beforehand that the discussion would be framed negatively against students’ unions that that have ‘begun banning things’ so I wasn’t too nervous about that.”
“Just as the Times – where David Aaronovitch is a columnist – isn’t obliged to publish every bigot with an opinion piece, we can as students decide who we want to give our megaphones to, and we make those decisions democratically – through elections and debates and consultations.”