Protect Free Speech at Universities
A lot of media debate and reportage has recently focused on the threats to gender-critical students and members of staff at universities as well as the silencing of speakers who propose similar views. The same issues have been faced by pro-life students for years. University campuses have also always been one of the front lines of the pro-life movement. It is where some of the fiercest debates on life issues take place, and it can be one of the most difficult environments for people to stick their heads above the parapet and witness to the pro-life position.
Brave pro-life students continue to do just that. And while student pro-life societies have always faced opposition, social media and the internet means it can quickly spread in new and sinister ways. In September, pro-life students in Exeter posted introductions to their committee on their social media accounts. They were quickly flooded with hundreds of abusive messages, including death threats. Student media fanned outrage at the very existence of student pro-life societies, and a few weeks later, protesters tore down Oxford Students for Life’s stall.
These incidents are not isolated. A poll by the Alliance of Pro-life Students released earlier this year found:
- More than 70% of pro-life students face situations in lectures or seminars where they feel “unable to speak” about their views
- Nearly a quarter have felt “threatened, abused, alarmed or distressed – by actions or words – by another student or academic” because of their membership with a pro-life society
- One in three have seen events cancelled due to the “de-platforming” of pro-life speakers • 65% have witnessed another student being discriminated against or harassed for holding pro-life views
It is vital that students are able to put across the pro-life viewpoint at universities. In a positive move, the Government has introduced The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, which aims to strengthen existing legislation to better protect freedom of speech at universities. We welcome this Bill, but we need to make sure that it is enforced, and pro-life students are given an equal voice.
Sign the petition asking MPs to vote in favour of the Higher Education Bill when it reaches its third reading in Parliament on Monday 13 June.