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On Wednesday May 3rd, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) were the first universities to institutionally endorse the No Hate campaign in the presence of Flemish Minister for Youth and Media Sven Gatz. On Difference Day, when VUB and ULB celebrate World Press Freedom Day at Bozar, they wanted to show that hate and discrimination stand in the way of both the academic debate and qualitative freedom of press.
No Hate is a campagne set up by the European Council against online and offline hate speech that runs in 45 member states. Through awareness-raising and education, No Hate wants to create resilience and action against hate speech. In Flanders, 107 organisations have already endorsed the campagin since its launch on December 10th, 2016.
Rector Caroline Pauwels: “Hate is a step towards darkness. It leads to intolerance and discrimination, yes even violence. It also leads to not listening and blocks the exchange of thoughts. It endangers freedom of expression, so essential to democracy. It doesn’t take a lot of courage to only hate and listen to extreme standpoints. Listening to each other, being prepared to empathise with the other and be nuanced, that takes true courage these days.”
Overcoming darkness through science
Universities are pre-eminent places where you learn how to shape opinions, express them and argue them. Through research and critical thinking they uncover the truth and draw the line between facts and noise. The fact that VUB and ULB are the first universities in Europe to endorse the No Hate campaign strongly symbolises the role universities should play today: conduct yhe debate rather than censor and berate; provide facts and argumentation rather than dogmas and alternative facts.