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Universities mustn’t be places in which free speech is stifled

(32 Posts)
busyboysmum Thu 19-Oct-17 08:24:01

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/universities-ordered-to-guarantee-free-speech-wxzcr32hh?CMP=Sprkr-_-Editorial-_-TheTimesandTheSundayTimes-_-Education-_-Imageandlink-_-Statement-_-Unspecified-_-FBPAGE&linkId=43674738

busyboysmum Thu 19-Oct-17 08:24:26

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thursday october 19 2017
News

Universities told to guarantee free speech

● End ‘no-platforms’ or face blacklist, says minister ● Two-year courses aimed at squeezed students

Alice Thomson, Rachel Sylvester, Nicola Woolcock
October 19 2017, 12:01am, The Times
Jo Johnson, the universities minister, said any university that failed to protect freedom of speech could be fined
Jo Johnson, the universities minister, said any university that failed to protect freedom of speech could be fined
TIMES PHOTOGRAPHER RICHARD POHLE
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Universities must pledge to uphold free speech on campus or face being blacklisted by the new higher education regulator, the government will announce today.

It will force universities to challenge the culture of so-called safe spaces and to answer for the behaviour of student unions that “no platform” controversial speakers.

Jo Johnson, the universities minister, said any that failed to protect freedom of speech could be fined, suspended or ultimately deregistered by the new Office for Students (OfS) in an extensive reorganisation of the sector.

He told The Times that all universities would have a statutory duty to make the commitment in their governance documents as a condition of registration with the OfS.

In a hard-hitting interview Mr Johnson said that he would also push for:

● More two-year degrees to save students money. Leading universities are reluctant to embrace two-year courses, which at present are offered by only a few and cost the same as three-year courses.

● A brake on degree grade inflation, which has led to fears that standards of excellence are dropping.

● Curbs on cheating and plagiarism.

Mr Johnson’s comments expand on a letter he wrote to universities in March, seen by The Times, which set out his ambitions. He said: “Freedom of speech is a fundamentally British value which is undermined by a reluctance of institutions to embrace healthy vigorous debate. Our universities must open minds not close them.”

Speakers including Germaine Greer and Peter Tatchell have been targeted by student protests over their views on transgender issues. Greer eventually spoke at Cardiff University under tight security. Mr Johnson said it was “preposterous” for the feminist to be banned from speaking in campuses.

“She has every right, if invited, to give views on difficult and awkward subjects,” he said. “No-platforming and safe spaces shouldn’t be used to shut down legitimate free speech.

ErrolTheDragon Thu 19-Oct-17 08:54:31

Good news!

Here's the shareable link to the full piece:

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/universities-ordered-to-guarantee-free-speech-wxzcr32hh?shareToken=2e12b14c846e9999dc280838fb947049

And comment on it:

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/universities-challenged-cmhl3bmkq?shareToken=c5bc27f47b3d4a09111fb3522992c482

Blanchefleur Thu 19-Oct-17 09:24:28

Sir Michael Barber, chair of the OfS, said: “Ensuring freedom of speech and learning how to disagree with diverse opinions and differing views of the world is a fundamental aspect of learning at university. The OfS will promote it vigorously.”

Great to hear this!

DJBaggySmalls Thu 19-Oct-17 10:05:00

''Speakers including Germaine Greer and Peter Tatchell have been targeted by student protests over their views on transgender issues. Greer eventually spoke at Cardiff University under tight security. Mr Johnson said it was “preposterous” for the feminist to be banned from speaking in campuses.

“She has every right, if invited, to give views on difficult and awkward subjects,” he said. “No-platforming and safe spaces shouldn’t be used to shut down legitimate free speech.

Legitimate free speech, I like that phrase.

Droogan Thu 19-Oct-17 10:29:45

That's good. The way that students insist on being mollycoddled is really worrying. Like refusing to accept that they are now adults. A very bad preparation for the rest of their adult life. And of course this is taken advantage of by groups such as the transgender movement, Zionists, etc, to close down free speech which challenges their positions.

whoputthecatout Thu 19-Oct-17 12:05:30

I do wonder how these snowflakes will cope when they actually grow up and meet the real world. It's going to be a bit of a shock when they learn that the world does not revolve around them and their sensitive feelings.

This madness is not doing students any favours.

brasty Thu 19-Oct-17 14:20:30

That is good news

OneFlewOverTheDodosNest Thu 19-Oct-17 16:13:20

That's really good news - I think universities are about trying to challenge your world view, both to help you grow and reinforce what you believe. If you never have to engage with ideologies you disagree with, you can never be sure exactly where you draw the line or really think through your position beyond "just because" which is pretty much faith based reasoning.

ErrolTheDragon Thu 19-Oct-17 17:54:17

I suppose it would be too much to hope that the term 'safe space' reverts to what it should be (e.g. a women's refuge or rape crisis centre should be a 'safe space' for women) ?

OlennasWimple Thu 19-Oct-17 17:56:49

Good. Very good (Can't we have the more sensible Johnson as Foreign Sec?)

bengalcat Thu 19-Oct-17 20:01:03

Excellent

PencilsInSpace Thu 19-Oct-17 20:17:50

This is brilliant news. I hope he follows through with this and wasn't just sounding off.

There are a few comments under the article worrying that Islamic hate preachers will be allowed platforms. Some people don't seem to realise that they already are, while people like Maryam Namazie are no platformed for speaking against them.

BlackForestCake Thu 19-Oct-17 20:26:02

I can remember the Conservatives being quite passionate about no-platforming Sinn Fein and others back in the 1980s.

pisacake Thu 19-Oct-17 20:38:55

Surely you are not comparing people who happen to have an opinion that differs from student orthodoxy with murderous terrorists?

HolyShmoly Thu 19-Oct-17 20:46:52

Hmm, in theory it's very good. In practice, SU's (which are separate from Uni's but will probably be expected to follow the same guidelines) tend to have anti-extremist policies for a reason.

Having the EDL or Islamic hate preachers hold events on site, that often are aimed towards externals, not students, would make me uncomfortable and could create massive backlash for the elected or employed officials that signed off on them.

Sinn Fein are not the IRA pisacake, they're a legitimate political party. But your reaction is a fairly good example of how context is key.

TheLuminaries Thu 19-Oct-17 22:27:21

I was shocked to learn the NUS singled out Julie Bindel to no platform. Julie Bindel - how very dare they! I am far from agreeing with her on everything but she a tireless campaigner for women and a definite force for good in the world. I am so annoyed that young people are not prepared to listen and learn from seasoned campaigners like Bindel and Greer. What are they scared of - that they may learn something?

pisacake Fri 20-Oct-17 01:34:52

"Sinn Fein are not the IRA pisacake, they're a legitimate political party. "

Well that's all a matter of opinion really isn't it. Senior figures in Sinn Fein were involved with terrorism. There are lots of 'legitimate political parties' in different countries which we wouldn't permit into the UK.

Ktown Fri 20-Oct-17 07:07:06

Julie bindel was no- platformed ?
For what?

She is eminently sensible.

Students who are no sensitive really shouldn't be at university at all.

larrygrylls Fri 20-Oct-17 07:19:08

Spot on,

But free speech means free speech for everyone, not just those who agree with you.....

ErrolTheDragon Fri 20-Oct-17 08:30:34

Comment piece from The Times today:

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/snowflake-students-must-learn-how-to-argue-gnzm83stb?shareToken=c029de320bd2d16ce70cf3b80b9377ae

ErrolTheDragon Fri 20-Oct-17 08:33:20

But free speech means free speech for everyone, not just those who agree with you.....

No 'but' about it. Free speech should lead to debate, not an echo chamber.

PencilsInSpace Fri 20-Oct-17 08:39:07

HolyShmoly - Having the EDL or Islamic hate preachers hold events on site, that often are aimed towards externals, not students, would make me uncomfortable

Well then you should be uncomfortable right now because that's already happening, at least as far as the Islamists are concerned.

'No platforming' is highly selective, in line with the weird identity politics of the neo-liberal left.

geekaMaxima Fri 20-Oct-17 12:53:36

Senior figures in Sinn Fein were involved with terrorism. There are lots of 'legitimate political parties' in different countries which we wouldn't permit into the UK.

Ummmm Sinn Fein is already "permitted" as a legitimate political party in the UK. Northern Ireland is in the UK which is kinda the whole reason SF exists.

But anyway. A democracy requires free speech. We already have laws to distinguish free speech from hate speech, so if students disagree with a speaker's views they should either speak up or go home, not demand the speaker is barred from campus.

brasty Fri 20-Oct-17 12:57:17

We do have laws in place to stop people saying exactly what they want. But if it is not illegal, of course speakers at universities should be allowed to say it.

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