Since I previously posted about Greer in Cardiff, it’s worth noting that Germaine Greer did speak in Cardiff, as planned. She had said earlier that she wasn’t going to, but apparently she changed her mind.
A few notes:
1) After saying that she wasn’t going to speak about trans issues, Greer did talk about trans issues during the Q&A, repeating her usual themes (trans women aren’t really women, etc). I don’t want to debate Greer’s anti-trans views (which are appalling and wrong) in this thread; if you want to get into those issues, please bring it to the Mint Garden.
2) There were about a dozen “peaceful protesters.”
Protesters outside included present and former Cardiff University students who criticised the institution for paying Greer for the lecture. Mair Macey, a former Cardiff University student who now works for HMRC, said: “I really care about transgender people. Having Greer here reflects badly on the values of the university. There is no way she should be invited to give a distinguished lecture.”
Author Elwyn Way said: “We don’t think she should be given a platform like this and go unchallenged.” Way said trans people were suffering emotional and physical violence and needed to be protected rather than vilified.
All of those seem like very reasonable views to me.
3) According to the article, Payton Quinn, who organized both the petition to disinvite Greer, and the protest, was “frustrated that the free speech issue was overshadowing what she saw as the more salient problem: Greer’s views.” Which brings up the tactical problem with trying to no-platform a speaker like Greer: The discussion inevitably becomes one about free speech, rather than one about trans rights or Greer’s views.
I think the students were absolutely right to protest Greer. But I wish they’d taken an approach other than no-platforming.
4) As a general rule, I think that campuses should encourage people with all views to speak on campus, except for views that combine being egregiously worthless with being essentially dead and settled issues (holocaust denialists, for example). This means that many people whose views I consider terrible – anti-trans bigots, people against marriage equality, pro-lifers, climate denialists, anti-fat bigots, etc – I also think are legitimate campus speakers, because those issues, sadly, are not dead and settled.
5) But not all campus speaking engagements are the same. Organizers of the anti-Greer petition have said they wouldn’t have objected to Greer being part of a debate. But bringing in a speaker like Greer to give a paid, distinguished lecture, in which there will be no opportunity for debate, is significantly different. The University wasn’t bringing in Greer to contribute to a lively discussion of a controversial issue. They were bringing her in to honor her. This strikes me as a more legitimate thing to object to, somewhat analogous to US students protesting some commencement speakers.
6) Even though I think it’s a bad idea to ask Cardiff to cancel Greer’s appearance, it’s very obvious that people have a free speech right to do so. Greer has every right to speak, but she doesn’t have a free speech guarantee of being paid to give a distinguished lecture. But students and others unquestionably have a free speech right to ask Cardiff to take particular actions – including picking a different speaker for a distinguished annual lecture.