Safety first

February 12, 2015

“I think we have at last found the ideal speaker.”

That was how our newly appointed Head of Safe Space, Gerald Bowdler, described the latest development in our university’s long search for a public speaker who did not threaten the potential emotional or political or gender or personal sensitivities of any potential member of the potential audience for the potential event.

Mr Bowdler told our reporter Keith Ponting (30) that finding a speaker who met all these criteria had not been “an easy task”. However, he readily admitted that he had been greatly assisted in his endeavours by the “safe space” initiatives taken at other universities.

He instanced the brave stand made at Goldsmiths, University of London against feminist comedian Kate Smurthwaite; the admirable exclusion of Ukip speakers from the University of Derby’s students’ union; and the Oxford Union’s courageous cancellation of a debate on abortion.

He also went out of his way to praise the “bold blasphemy ban” at the University of Manchester that had prevented the display at a refreshers’ fair of the Charlie Hebdo cover featuring an image of Muhammad; the “intrepid censorship” of an atheist poster at London South Bank University; the University College London Union’s “courageous ban” on a Nietzsche reading group; and, last but by no means least, the Dundee University Students’ Association’s “heroic ban” on a Society for the Protection of Unborn Children desk at the Freshers’ Fair.

The Poppletonian (12 February 2015)

After taking all “these excellent banning exemplars” into account, Mr Bowdler felt that the obvious choice for Poppleton’s next outside speaker was none other than Dr C. Pooter of The Laurels, Holloway.

For although Dr Pooter’s distinctive area of expertise, house decoration, had its controversial aspects and therefore by definition the “likelihood of possibly offending someone”, Dr Pooter had a well-earned reputation for balance. He did display a mild preference for contemporary decorative schemes, but he could still very much see the point of a colonial style while not in any way wishing to dismiss the claims of the Victorian and Art Deco styles.

It was, however, true that Dr Pooter had on one occasion offended the potential sensitivities of some members of his audience by displaying a picture of a Victorian piano without its traditional leg coverings, but he had quickly expressed public regret for this lapse.

All in all, said Dr Bowdler, he believed that Dr Pooter would be ideally suited to the current campus banning environment. He was, literally, “as safe as houses”.


Thought for the week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

I very much regret that this week’s intended seminar on ‘Holistic approaches to mental health’ has been cancelled following protests from Cartesian dualists.

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

Please login or register to read this article.

Register to continue

Get a month's unlimited access to THE content online. Just register and complete your career summary.

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most commented