Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Free Speech at Universities is still under threat

When I was a student there were a regrettable number of attempts to suppress free speech. Some were understandable, far too many were completely indefensible and just plain ridiculous.

Probably the most egregious example during my time as a student was at Sunderland, where the combination of the policy of "No Platform for Racists and Fascists and the slogan "Zionism equals Racism" led Sunderland Poly Students Union to - unbelievably - suspend the college Jewish society in the name of anti-racism!

(This led to the NUS actually taking action against one of their own member unions.)

The policy of "No Platform" should not be employed anywhere, least of all at a centre of learning. As John Stuart Mill wrote,

He also wrote that:

Let me put this very politely: anyone who goes to a University or other centre of learning and is not willing to confront ideas which he or she may strongly disagree with, or even find offensive, does not have the best mental attitude to get the maximum benefit from attending that institution.

Unfortunately even though some of those who supported the original introduction of the "No Platform" policy such as Trevor Philips, have changed their minds, the level of censorship on campus is worse than ever, and there have been some totally preposterous attempt to ban people from speaking at Universities and colleges in the past few years.

Voltaire is usually attributed, probably wrongly, with having originated the expression, "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Sadly, Generation Snowflake's response can be summarised in this cartoon:

Spiked Magazine has been running a commendable campaign to expose policies by both University and college authorities, and by student unions, which restrict free speech. You can find the details of their campaign at


The way in which some student unions have reacted to this campaign proves only too clearly how necessary it is.

For example, as you can read here, at Lincoln University the  Student Conservative society shared on social media the Red rating Spiked had given to the Student Union at the institution.

Lincoln University Stalinist Union - sorry, that should be Student Union (Freudian slip) promptly  proved the truth of Spiked's allegations that it is hostile to free speech by suspending its student Conservative society’s social-media accounts until 1 May over allegations of ‘bring[ing] the University of Lincoln Students’ Union and the University of Lincoln into disrepute’.

In my humble opinion the people who have brought Lincoln University and its' student union into disrepute are the student union themselves.

Guido Fawkes had this to say about the whole fiasco.

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