Universities Must Protect Freedom Of Speech
UPDATE: (24/04/2017) Freedom of speech and expression is under increased attack as Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan launches the Online Hate Crime Hub to help tackle online “hate crime”. This initiative is made up of five specially trained Met police officers who will try to identify, prevent and investigate online abuse, and will cost £1.7m over two years.
CitizenGO have campaigned before about the dangers of “hate speech” legislation and other attempts to crack down on "hate speech". While arising from presumably good intentions – to end harassment and bully both on and offline – the concept of “hate speech” is so fluid as to mean almost anything.
This move by Sadiq Khan is deeply censorious and will inevitably see those with traditional views on sex, gender and marriage, further marginalised and subject to state intrusion.
In the state’s zeal to clamp down on nastiness, those with conservative views on social matters are likely to be caught as well.
That’s why it’s more important than ever that we support free speech at university. Please sign this petition in support of Jo Johnson as he tries to ensure free speech is protected at university.
The principle of freedom of speech has been under persistent attack at universities across the UK in recent years. Numerous examples abound (some of which, CitizenGO have campaigned on) – University of Strathclyde Students Association banning pro-life students from forming a pro-life group; the University of Sussex Student Union controlling language at the union; attempted censorship in Newcastle and Cardiff of pro-life students.
It is not only those who support our values of Life, Family and Freedom, but our political opponents – the feminist Julie Bindel and “gay rights activist” Peter Tatchel – have also been prevented from speaking at universities. The speakers were invited by some students, but then disinvited by various representative student bodies.
We can never change people’s minds if we are not able to speak about what we believe, if we are not able to share our stories, if we are not able to make arguments to defend life, family and freedom… and our opponents know it. Their arguments are so weak that the only thing they can do is silence those who disagree.
This kind of censorship must end.
Now, Minister for Higher Education Jo Johnson is standing up for academic freedom and freedom of speech at university.
Mr Johnson has written a letter to Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, for dissemination to all universities, saying that universities must include a clear commitment to free speech in their governance documents to counter the culture of censorship at universities.
In conjunction with the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 (s. 43) which imposes a “duty to ensure… [freedom of speech at universities]”, Mr Johnson said that all institutions must have a code of practice setting out free speech procedures in connection with hosting meetings.
These codes of conduct should not be allowed to “gather dust”, he said. “They are crucial in demonstrating to students that free speech should be at the heart of a higher education community.”
We should support Mr Johnson on this point. Hopefully this move signals appropriate state intervention against certain student organisations which are persistently trying to shut down debate.
These censorious students must be stopped before they enter real politics and have access to real power.
Please sign this petition in support of freedom of speech at universities.
Sign this petition now!
I Support Freedom Of Speech at University