After a really idiotic decision to prevent atheist and critic of Islamic extremism Maryam Namazie from speaking at Warwick University (England), the school’s Students’ Union has quickly changed course.
They had denied the speaking request made by the Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists’ Society, saying that Namazie was “highly inflammatory” and might “incite hatred on campus.”
But if the school is worried about someone criticizing bad ideas because it might upset people who hold those bad ideas, you have to ask yourself what the point of a university is at all.
In an about-face today, the Students’ Union explained that Namazie would indeed be invited to speak and apologized for all the mistakes they made over the past few days:
Warwick SU has a process for assessing any potential risks or legal issues associated with any external speaker, and it is now very clear to us that in this case that process has not been followed. Speaker invitations that may involve such issues are routinely considered by the SU President, who will also take advice from senior SU staff. This did not happen on this occasion. Neither the SU President, nor senior SU staff, were consulted as they should have been. This is a significant error for which there can be no excuse. There is a great deal that we now must put right, and these are the first steps that we are putting into place:
1) The proper process has now been followed, as it should have been in the first place. The application by the Warwick Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society for Warwick Students’ Union to host Maryam Namazie as an external speaker has now been considered and approved.
2) The SU is now seeking to meet promptly with the leadership of the Warwick Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society to make the necessary arrangements for the event to take place in the format they have requested.
3) Warwick SU will issue an unequivocal apology to Maryam Namazie for this egregious and highly regrettable error.
4) Our process as to how we assess requests to host external speakers is very clear. However, it is also equally clear that how this process is communicated and understood by everyone in the SU who needs to be aware of it has failed, and failed badly in this case. We need to act immediately to examine how that happened, and to it put it right, and we will.
We want to assure everyone of Warwick Students’ Union’s continued commitment to free speech. We also want to take this opportunity to apologise to everyone who has expressed concern, or disappointment, or who has been hurt by this significant error and, as we said above, we will be issuing a full and unequivocal apology to Maryam Namazie.
It’s the right move, and the leaders of the Students’ Union are (finally) handling this very well, taking full responsibility for their mistakes. You really can’t ask for more at this point.
This wouldn’t have happened, though, without all the people who put pressure on the Students’ Union to reverse course on this issue. They risked being called “Islamophobic” in order to defend free speech and open discussion of controversial ideas.
Maybe now the students in Warwick can hear Namazie’s ideas and judge them on their merits.