Oxford University has banned a free speech magazine named “No Offence” from being distributed at a freshman fair because some people might find the content offensive.
“No Offence” is described as being a “new political magazine based in Oxford, devoted to controversy and free speech.” In a call for submissions, “No Offence” wrote, “We aim to broaden the spectrum of opinion at Oxford, and create a climate where people are more comfortable expressing ideas some see as offensive. Our purpose is to publicise ideas and arguments that people otherwise may never encounter.”
The creators of “No Offence,” Jacob Williams and Lulie Tanett, sought to distribute issues of their newly released magazine to freshmen during Oxford’s Freshers’ Fair.
After the Oxford Student Union reviewed an issue of “No Offence,” however, it allegedly told Williams the material would “not be suitable” for distribution.
According to the OUSU vice president, the decision to ban the magazine from being distributed was based off “regulation thirteen of the Student Stallholders Regulations.”
Regulation thirteen reads, “OUSU reserves the right to remove any materials, or to prevent any activity, which in the view of OUSU Officers is likely to cause offence. This decision will be taken at the discretion of OUSU and will be final. This applies for the duration of the Fair.”
The vice president of welfare and equal opportunities at Oxford told VERSA the university doesn't want its freshmen exposed to satire:
“We at OUSU do not wish to have an event which is intended to welcome new students to Oxford associated with a publication making light of racism, sexual violence, and homophobia in an attempt at satire. The Freshers’ Fair is one of OUSU’s most widely attended events and while Open Oxford are entitled to book a stall and distribute their publication elsewhere, we chose to withdraw their permission to distribute the publication. OUSU exists to represent and enhance the lives of all Oxford students and given that Freshers’ Fair is for new students, we do not wish to subject them to the offensive views of a minority which are present in this publication. Such views are in no way representative of Oxford students as whole.”
Williams told the Oxford Student, “There’s clearly room for disagreement about where to draw the line between satire and needless offence. We twice gave OUSU the chance to take issue with specific parts of the magazine. They declined to do so and simply claimed the whole magazine was offensive. By banning the magazine outright all they have done is prevent the airing of controversial views and confirm everything the ‘free speech’ movement has been saying.”
He added, “The irony of banning a magazine called ‘No Offence’ for being offensive is clearly lost on them.”