Most freshers this year will have been born in the year 2000: complete and utter millennials. Yet this seemingly harmless, edgy label has often been synonymous with being perceived as “snowflakes” – for being too thin-skinned and taking offence over everything. But does this have an element of truth, or is this really just another issue to be offended by?
Over the past couple of years, university campuses have been generating a “safe space” culture and encouraging students to participate in shutting down anything that they deem to be offensive. This was prevalent in 2016 when students at the University of Oxford called for a statue of colonialist, Cecil Rhodes, to be removed because of his racist and white-supremacist views. The second-wave feminist, Germaine Greer, was no-platformed by Cardiff University for her apparent transphobic views. And, we cannot ignore the fact that UEA were among several universities to ban The Sun newspaper on our campus back in 2013 as part of the “No more page 3” campaign, after the Students’ Union claimed it had violated our union policies and undermined gender equality.
This is an example of a generation of people who are raised to believe that their feelings are all that matters in the world. Just because someone is offended over something, does not necessarily mean that they are correct in their views. It is everyone’s democratic right to be offensive, and offensiveness cannot logistically be legislated against.
Universities are meant to be the places where students can have political debates and listen to each other and learn from each other’s differences, without having their free speech curtailed.
Throughout everyone’s life we all come across people who have views we find reprehensible; however, you must be able to listen to them and prove them wrong with your rebuttal. By no-platforming certain speakers with misogynistic views, for example, that is just going to drive those people underground and you won’t be able to challenge their problematic views. Furthermore, this will make your argument stronger and overall more impassioned about your viewpoint due to engaging in the diversity of thought.
Exposing people with disgusting views can prove detrimental to their careers because people get to see how ridiculous they are. A key example of this is when former British National Party leader, Nick Griffin, appeared on BBC One’s Question Time in 2009. He made many inflammatory remarks, and his career suffered immensely as a result. Therefore, this shows that curtailing free speech in order not to offend the “snowflakes” of this generation is pointless. Just because you’re offended, it doesn’t mean you’re right.