Brave Spaces’: the Solution to Free Speech?

Universities should provide special ‘brave spaces’ on Campus, where students and outside speakers are free to voice unpopular or controversial views.

John Palfrey, a former professor and vice-dean at Harvard Law School, made the proposal in his recent book ‘safe space, brave spaces’. He argues that every campus should have a designated space where nothing is off limits.

He claims that ‘brave spaces’ would satisfy demands for greater diversity of opinion at Universities while simultaneously ensuring the wellbeing of students by confining controversial topics to designated spaces.

Palfrey told The Times: “People sit in one or other camp but it’s unproductive for our children and for democracy. Both diversity and freedom of speech are important.”

He added: “Diversity and free expression ought to co-exist. And yet, in recent years, a false choice has been served up: you are either for diversity, equity, and inclusion in our communities, or you are for free expression”

The proposals were welcomed by some university leaders. Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, said: “Brave spaces could be the solution that brings together sensible people of goodwill from both sides.

“The whole debate has become very polarised and damaging to the perception of higher education. This is a clear way forward that should detoxify and take the steam out of the situation.”

Ian White