The King’s College London Libertarian society has launched the ‘Abolish KCLSU’s Safe Space Policy’ campaign, in response to what they deem as an attempt to “police speech.”
The campaign is concerned with the issue of ‘Safe Space Marshals’, a salaried position (£11.89 with £13.32 holiday pay) created by the Student Union, with the intention of protecting both “students and the speakers they invite” according to Momin Saqib, the SU president.
The safe space marshals caught national attention when three marshals oversaw a speech delivered by Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP for North East Somerset, who was invited by the Conservative Association to speak on the 18th of October. Leaflets outlining the Safe Space policies and the Student Union’s role in influencing the organisation of the event were also distributed.
According to the job application form released by the KCLSU, Safe Space Marshals are obligated to inform the society that is organising an event of their presence. They must respond with “immediate appropriate action” if someone “wants to report a Safe Space breach”. Society events are “risk assessed … for a Safe Space breach”, and the Marshal’s main role is to uphold the Safe Space policy.
According to the Libertarian Society, this has been seen as creating a “culture contrary to free speech”. The society’s Head of Communications says that their campaign – which has full support from the Conservative Association – aims to highlight the apparent failure of the safe space policy to “be conducive to protecting freedom of speech”.
The lack of response from Marshals last year when protesters against a KCL Israeli society event broke a window and set off fire alarms has fueled the view that the policy is inconsistent. Even though marshals have never prevented events from occurring, the campaign argues that the Safe Space policy “infringes” on the “autonomy” of student societies, in an effort to police “emotions and speech”. The KCL Libertarian society has told The Beaver that the end-goal of the campaign is to “remove Safe Spaces from Student Union Society events”, and student safety is a security issue rather than an issue of freedom of speech.
Requests for comments have been made to the KCLSU President, but the Beaver has not received any at the time of printing.