Free speech in universites

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Tessa K
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Free speech in universites

Post by Tessa K » Tue Feb 16, 2021 9:51 am

I'm a little unclear about the issues around free speech and no-platforming in universities.
The government is to introduce legislation that will enable academics, students or visiting speakers who are no-platformed to sue universities for compensation where they feel they have suffered because of free speech infringements.

Under the proposals, the government wants to introduce a statutory tort for breaches of the free speech duty, which would enable academic staff or students who have been expelled, dismissed or demoted to seek redress through the courts.

Announcing the measures, the education secretary said: I am deeply worried about the chilling effect on campuses of unacceptable silencing and censoring.
https://www.theguardian.com/education/2 ... r-breaches

There are already laws against hate speech, incitement to violence etc. So what do the people claiming they are being 'cancelled' want the right to talk about?

Isn't there a big difference between invited speakers and members of staff? A speaker can go elsewhere whereas job security is a whole other issue of rights and responsibilities.

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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by bjn » Tue Feb 16, 2021 10:10 am

Tessa K wrote:
Tue Feb 16, 2021 9:51 am
I'm a little unclear about the issues around free speech and no-platforming in universities.
The government is to introduce legislation that will enable academics, students or visiting speakers who are no-platformed to sue universities for compensation where they feel they have suffered because of free speech infringements.

Under the proposals, the government wants to introduce a statutory tort for breaches of the free speech duty, which would enable academic staff or students who have been expelled, dismissed or demoted to seek redress through the courts.

Announcing the measures, the education secretary said: I am deeply worried about the chilling effect on campuses of unacceptable silencing and censoring.
https://www.theguardian.com/education/2 ... r-breaches

There are already laws against hate speech, incitement to violence etc. So what do the people claiming they are being 'cancelled' want the right to talk about?

Isn't there a big difference between invited speakers and members of staff? A speaker can go elsewhere whereas job security is a whole other issue of rights and responsibilities.
I wonder if they'll be happy to see Islamic fundamentalists using this to speak at universities, or is it only the likes of Toby Young they have in mind?

It really looks like they are trying to import US style culture wars, this lines up with Patel's recent witterings on BLM.

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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by Little waster » Tue Feb 16, 2021 10:50 am

bjn wrote:
Tue Feb 16, 2021 10:10 am

I wonder if they'll be happy to see Islamic fundamentalists using this to speak at universities, or is it only the likes of Toby Young they have in mind?

It really looks like they are trying to import US style culture wars, this lines up with Patel's recent witterings on BLM.
I'm just grateful that there is clearly nothing else going on in education at the moment which means Gavin Williamson has the bandwidth to tackle the burning issue of whether universities should be compelled to give alt-right w.nkers yet another platform for their turgid counter-factual nonsense.
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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by FlammableFlower » Tue Feb 16, 2021 3:03 pm

Very much with you all here.

There have been a very small number of people on the right who might have been considered to have been "cancelled" (and not exactly recently either) which they're blowing up into a "thing" and as bjn says - I don't think they're thinking about free speech per se, but about the "right" kind of free speech - i.e. speech they approve of.

It's been pointed out here, and there's a recent Guardian opinion piece, they seem to want to create an enemy to be seen to be fighting against.

As LW put it, considering all the things that Gavin Williamson has managed not to do (sorting out a viable alternative to not being able to sit exams, ensuring schools can function during a lockdown), it's a wonder he can find the time for this.

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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue Feb 16, 2021 3:36 pm

bjn wrote:
Tue Feb 16, 2021 10:10 am
It really looks like they are trying to import US style culture wars
It's 100% this. There is no serious problem with free speech on campuses in the UK.

There certainly are things people can say that, while probably not technically/prosecutably hate speech, are still widely considered hateful and dangerous. I don't see why any venue should be legally forced to host speakers it doesn't want to - seems like a very strange idea indeed.

Nevertheless, should this pass I look forward to going round all the university Young Conservative clubs to deliver my "Gavin Williamson is an incompetent, disingenuous c.nt who should be publicly executed along with all members of the Conservative party" lecture series. If they turn me down I'll sue them for chilling my right to free speech.
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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by warumich » Tue Feb 16, 2021 7:11 pm

Quite right. I even had a slide on academic freedom in one of my lectures last year (when this sort of thing was still possible). Note the chilling effect of cancel culture on my freedom of speech from, erm, a Tory MP and the Daily Mail. This slide was originally titled "Brexit sucks".
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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by Herainestold » Wed Feb 17, 2021 4:36 am

This isn't America, there is no right to free speech, no matter how you define it.
The Tories and their ultra right friends want to use speech to harm those they don't like. Trans people, POC and BAME people, women, migrants etc.
Universities are perfectly within their insitutional rights to no platform potential violent and hatre speech.

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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by jimbob » Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:33 am

FlammableFlower wrote:
Tue Feb 16, 2021 3:03 pm
Very much with you all here.

There have been a very small number of people on the right who might have been considered to have been "cancelled" (and not exactly recently either) which they're blowing up into a "thing" and as bjn says - I don't think they're thinking about free speech per se, but about the "right" kind of free speech - i.e. speech they approve of.

It's been pointed out here, and there's a recent Guardian opinion piece, they seem to want to create an enemy to be seen to be fighting against.

As LW put it, considering all the things that Gavin Williamson has managed not to do (sorting out a viable alternative to not being able to sit exams, ensuring schools can function during a lockdown), it's a wonder he can find the time for this.
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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by Tessa K » Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:45 am

Herainestold wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 4:36 am
This isn't America, there is no right to free speech, no matter how you define it.
The Tories and their ultra right friends want to use speech to harm those they don't like. Trans people, POC and BAME people, women, migrants etc.
Universities are perfectly within their insitutional rights to no platform potential violent and hatre speech.
There is this though
Article 10 of the Human Rights Act: Freedom of expression
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
How would someone know they'd been no-platformed if they weren't invited in the first place? It appears that the fuss is about a very small number of people who were invited and then uninvited.

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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by discovolante » Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:43 am

I really don't like where this is heading. I'm going to go out on a limb and say there may be *some* debate to be had about the practice of no-platforming in universities specifically (I'm saying this timidly, I can quite understand why people would not be keen to have bigots on campus when other academics who make fairly reasonable statements on social media, which they then take the time to explain further, are subjected to death threats and harassment, practically egged on by mainstream journalists, and the unis that support them are then mocked and criticized, again by the mainstream, for doing so). But I think we can all see the overall trajectory which a lot of people have been warning about for years. Even if this proposal doesn't get off the ground it's a pretty clear indication of what the government's priorities are.
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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by bob sterman » Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:46 am

Well - this being the UK - there is one certain outcome of this - more bureaucracy.

Apparently...

"Under the plans, universities would be legally required to actively promote free speech and the OfS would have the power to impose fines on institutions if they breach this condition." (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-55995979)

This inevitably means more forms, more auditing etc - stuff that universities will decide they need to do in order to show they are "actively promote free speech."

Here's a fairly typical current example from Birmingham...

https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/campu ... index.aspx

To ensure "Freedom of Speech" for some events there are already forms to fill in to gain approval for speakers. To be submitted 15 working days in advance of the event (28 calendar days for outdoor events) to be counter-signed by a senior University officer, who may refer it to the Director of Conferences & Marketing (Campus Services).

Any new legal obligation will spawn more forms, more auditing, workshops, online training modules, "Freedom of Speech Champions" - and then probably a need to write case studies for a new FOSEF (Freedom of Speech Excellence Framework).

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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by Martin Y » Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:57 am

Tessa K wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:45 am
Herainestold wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 4:36 am
This isn't America, there is no right to free speech, no matter how you define it.
The Tories and their ultra right friends want to use speech to harm those they don't like. Trans people, POC and BAME people, women, migrants etc.
Universities are perfectly within their insitutional rights to no platform potential violent and hatre speech.
There is this though
Article 10 of the Human Rights Act: Freedom of expression
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
How would someone know they'd been no-platformed if they weren't invited in the first place? It appears that the fuss is about a very small number of people who were invited and then uninvited.
By striking coincidence, just yesterday on the Brexit thread over on ISF we were informed that Farage had tweeted "Scrap the EU Human Rights Act" (sic).

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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by bob sterman » Wed Feb 17, 2021 10:04 am

Tessa K wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:45 am
Herainestold wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 4:36 am
This isn't America, there is no right to free speech, no matter how you define it.
The Tories and their ultra right friends want to use speech to harm those they don't like. Trans people, POC and BAME people, women, migrants etc.
Universities are perfectly within their insitutional rights to no platform potential violent and hatre speech.
There is this though
Article 10 of the Human Rights Act: Freedom of expression
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
How would someone know they'd been no-platformed if they weren't invited in the first place? It appears that the fuss is about a very small number of people who were invited and then uninvited.
You didn't include the rest of Article 10 - which means the government can restrict all sorts of things - e.g. to protect public "morals".
The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by Fishnut » Wed Feb 17, 2021 12:11 pm

This is an excellent thread. The tl:dr is that the UK government has a long an consistent history of silencing people they don't like. From video nasties to Section 28 the government has censored speech it doesn't like. They're is continuing this tradition of silencing voices they don't like, the only difference is this time they're trying to hide their motivations (poorly).
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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by Tessa K » Wed Feb 17, 2021 1:51 pm

bob sterman wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 10:04 am
Tessa K wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:45 am
Herainestold wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 4:36 am
This isn't America, there is no right to free speech, no matter how you define it.
The Tories and their ultra right friends want to use speech to harm those they don't like. Trans people, POC and BAME people, women, migrants etc.
Universities are perfectly within their insitutional rights to no platform potential violent and hatre speech.
There is this though
Article 10 of the Human Rights Act: Freedom of expression
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
How would someone know they'd been no-platformed if they weren't invited in the first place? It appears that the fuss is about a very small number of people who were invited and then uninvited.
You didn't include the rest of Article 10 - which means the government can restrict all sorts of things - e.g. to protect public "morals".
The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
Yes, that 'morals' clause is a tricky one. It wouldn't cover racism but could possibly be dredged up for matters of sex/sexuality/gender.

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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by Turdly » Wed Feb 17, 2021 6:44 pm

Presumably it'll mean I can call the university executive board a bunch of c.nts without fear of retribution?
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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by shpalman » Wed Feb 17, 2021 6:59 pm

Turdly wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 6:44 pm
Presumably it'll mean I can call the university executive board a bunch of c.nts without fear of retribution?
Depends if there's anything about "bringing into disrepute" (or similar) in the code of conduct you signed up to.
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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by Tessa K » Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:24 pm

shpalman wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 6:59 pm
Turdly wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 6:44 pm
Presumably it'll mean I can call the university executive board a bunch of c.nts without fear of retribution?
Depends if there's anything about "bringing into disrepute" (or similar) in the code of conduct you signed up to.
So it would be fine if you say it to their faces and no one else hears?

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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by shpalman » Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:28 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:24 pm
shpalman wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 6:59 pm
Turdly wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 6:44 pm
Presumably it'll mean I can call the university executive board a bunch of c.nts without fear of retribution?
Depends if there's anything about "bringing into disrepute" (or similar) in the code of conduct you signed up to.
So it would be fine if you say it to their faces and no one else hears?
Define "fine".
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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by dyqik » Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:31 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 1:51 pm

Yes, that 'morals' clause is a tricky one. It wouldn't cover racism but could possibly be dredged up for matters of sex/sexuality/gender.
It'd absolutely cover racism if they wanted it to. Loving vs Virginia was only ~50 years ago, and miscegenation was considered immoral in a chunk of the US at that point.

And the Tories are importing the culture war wholesale from the US - hence their attempt to kick off a pro-life thing a couple of years back.

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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by Turdly » Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:46 pm

shpalman wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 6:59 pm
Turdly wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 6:44 pm
Presumably it'll mean I can call the university executive board a bunch of c.nts without fear of retribution?
Depends if there's anything about "bringing into disrepute" (or similar) in the code of conduct you signed up to.
So a university could be required to host an external person who says that the university executive board are a bunch of c.nts, but that freedom of speech/expression is not extended to employees of the university?

Considering that some major players in the anti-trans lobby are academics, you'd expect this legislation to protect them as well. A greater protection of "academic freedom" if you will. That academic freedom should also allow me to call the UEB a bunch of c.nts otherwise it restricts my freedom of expression.
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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by nekomatic » Wed Feb 17, 2021 11:46 pm

You just need to pair up with someone in another university. You invite them to speak at yours and call your executive board a bunch of c.nts as is their government-guaranteed free speech right, the week after that the arrangement is reciprocated.

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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by Millennie Al » Thu Feb 18, 2021 4:47 am

That's pretty bad. From that page:
However, speech can and should be limited if it is thought to:
...
Cause a person harassment, alarm, or distress
Firstly, note the speech does not have to cause any of those things, merely be thought to (by whom?). But more importantly, there is no shortage of people who are distressed at speech which they should be relentlessly exposed to because they are bigots and they need to learn that their views are not reasonable. For example, the people who complained about a same-sex couple on Strictly Come Dancing. And the people who complained about material on the BBC relating to BLM.
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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by Millennie Al » Thu Feb 18, 2021 4:49 am

Fishnut wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 12:11 pm
This is an excellent thread. The tl:dr is that the UK government has a long an consistent history of silencing people they don't like. From video nasties to Section 28 the government has censored speech it doesn't like. They're is continuing this tradition of silencing voices they don't like, the only difference is this time they're trying to hide their motivations (poorly).
Indeed. And there's nothing unique about the UK government. All the more reason why any government support for free speech should be seized upon with enthusiasm, advancing it far beyone what the governement thought they were letting themselves in for.
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Re: Free speech in universites

Post by warumich » Sat Feb 20, 2021 11:27 am

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