A student at the University of Edinburgh was threatened with removal from the student council after she was accused of violating one of the “safe space” rules on campus.
Imogen Wilson, vice president of academic affairs at the Students’ Association, raised her hand in objection after she was accused of failing to respond to a disabled student’s open letter. Disagreeable hand gestures are forbidden on the student council.
“At that point, I raised my arms in disagreement, as we had contacted the writers of the letter and tried hard to organize a meeting,” Wilson told The Huffington Post UK. “It was for that reason that a safe space complaint was made.”
Ultimately Wilson stayed on the council, although 18 out of 51 members had voted to remove her.
“Refraining from hand gestures which denote disagreement or in any other way indicating disagreement with a point or points being made,” states the student council’s “safe space” rules. “Disagreements should only be evident through the normal course of debate.”
“Gestures indicating agreement are permissible, if these gestures are generally understood and not used in an intimidating manner,” the rules continue.
“I completely understand the importance of our safe space policy, and will defend it to the ground, but I did not think that was fair, and had it gone further I would have either left or argued against it,” Wilson said.
One anonymous student said that the procedural charge against Wilson was politically motivated.
“[F]or someone to have abused the very legitimate purpose of safe space rules to get at someone they politically disagreed with was pretty low,” the student said.
The incident triggered a backlash against the safe space policy, and first year student Charlie Peters launched an online petition against the rules, which quickly reached 1,000 signatories.
“In a free and liberal society such as ours, it is imperative that people remain able to express their views, regardless of what others may think of them,” Peters wrote in the petition. “By defining university as a ‘Safe Space’, you shelter students from dissenting views, betraying the most basic ideals of education.”
Responding to the uproar, the Students’ Association’s president told the Independent that “A student made a complaint about Imogen during a debate. The majority of students in the room duly dismissed the complaint and the meeting carried on as normal.”