Students at Cardiff University have begun an online petition trying to bar Germaine Greer, the Australian feminist author, from speaking there next month because of her views on transgender women.
The petition was initiated on Friday by Rachael Melhuish, women's officer at the Cardiff University Students' Union. The petition states that Ms. Greer has:
Demonstrated time and time again her misogynistic views towards trans women, including continually 'misgendering' trans women and denying the existence of transphobia altogether.
The petition had received about 880 signatures by noon on Saturday. However Cardiff University said it had no plans to cancel Ms. Greer's lecture. In a statement, the university's vice chancellor, Colin Riordan, said:
Our events include speakers with a range of views, all of which are rigorously challenged and debated.
Greer called the petition a bit of a put-up job because she was not even going to talk about the issue in her lecture on Nov. 18, titled Women & Power: The Lessons of the 20th Century. She said:
The issue is broader. I do not know why universities cannot hear unpopular views and think about what they mean.
On 17 March 2016 from 5-6pm, we will be holding a protest at the office of the NUS, Macadam House, 275 Gray's Inn Road, London, WC1X 8QB. Join Us. Also Tweet "I call on @nusuk to revise safe space and no platform
policies to facilitate not restrict free expression and thought; or email the NUS stating the same at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are deeply concerned by the increasing attempts by the National Union of Students (NUS) and its affiliated Student Unions to silence dissenters -- including feminists, apostates, LGBTI rights campaigners, anti-racists,
anti-fascists and anti-Islamists -- through its use of No-Platform and Safe Space policies.
We stand against all prejudice and discrimination. We agree that free speech does not mean giving bigots a free pass. A defence of free speech includes the right and moral imperative to challenge, oppose and protest bigoted
Educational institutions must be a place for the exchange and criticism of all ideas -- even those deemed unpalatable by some -- providing they don't incite violence against peoples or communities. Bigoted ideas are most
effectively defeated by open debate, backed up by ethics, reason and evidence.
The student body is not homogeneous; there will be differences of opinion among students. The NUS's restrictive policies infringe upon the right of students to hear and challenge dissenting and opposing views.
We, therefore, call on the NUS to revise its No-Platform and Safe Space policies to facilitate freedom of expression and thought, rather than restrict it.
Alicia McElhill, President City of Leicester NUT
Asher Fainman, President of Goldsmiths ASH society
Author, Jesus & Mo
Becky Lavelle, President, Hull University Secularist, Atheist, and Humanist Society
Benjamin David, President of Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists
Bread and Roses TV
Brendan O'Neill, editor of Spiked
Chris Moos, secularist activist
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
David Browne, LLM Student in International Human Rights Law
Durham Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Elham Manea, Academic and human Rights advocate
Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize
Fariborz Pooya, Host of Bread and Roses TV
Feminism in London
Frederick Money, Undergraduate, Merton College Oxford
Gita Sahgal, Centre for Secular Space
Gush Bhumbra, President, Leicester Secular Society
Halima Begum, ExMuslim Researcher & Blogger
Helen Chamberlain, President, Durham Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Houzan Mahmoud, Women's Rights Activist, Kurdistan
Hull University Secularist, Atheist, and Humanist Society
Ian Leaver, Secretary City of Leicester NUT
Imad Iddine Habib, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
James Burchett, Activist
Julie Bindel, Justice for Women and the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize
Justice for Women
Kate Smurthwaite, Comedian and Activist
Kenan Malik, Author
Keziah Conroy, UCLU Atheist, Secularity and Humanist society President
Kojin Mirizayi, Law student, President of the Kurdish Society at the University of Kent
Lee Jones, Queen Mary, University of London
Lisa-Marie Taylor, Chair of Feminism in London
Maajid Nawaz, Author and Counter-extremism Activist
Maggie Hall, Chair, Brighton Secular Humanists
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, One Law for All and Host of Bread and Roses TV
Matt Corden, undergraduate at Newcastle University
Nahla Mahmoud, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Nick Cohen, Author
Nira Yuval-Davis, Director of the Research Centre on Migration, Refugees and Belonging (CMRB) at the University of East London
Ollie Burton, President, Newcastle University Atheists' & Secular Humanists' Society
One Law for All
Peter Flack, Leicester Social Forum
Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Campaigner
Rayhana Sultan, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Richard Dawkins, Scientist and Author
Roy Brown, International Representative and former president of IHEU
Rumana Hashem, Founder of Community Women's Blog and Adviser at Nari Diganta
Rumy Hasan, Senior Lecturer (SPRU -- Science Policy Research Unit), University of Sussex
Salil Tripathi, Writer
Sarah Peace, Fireproof Library
Stephen Evans, Campaigns Manager, National Secular Society
Tehmina Kazi, Director of Media, Outreach and Lobbying, British Muslims for Secular Democracy
Tom Holland, Author and Historian
University of Leicester Atheist, Humanist and Secular Society
The student's union at City University in London has voted to ban the Daily Mail, Sun and Express newspapers on campus, despite there being no shops which sell them on the institution's grounds.
The decision was met with surprise and outrage from journalism students and former students, who claimed it was censorship and worrying and ignorant . A contest to the motion is now expected.
The Student Union's Annual General Meeting passed the motion Opposing Fascism and Social Divisiveness in the UK Media . The motion said that while the Mail, Sun and Express were the main focus of its policy, other media organisations were
not excluded. The motion also promoted active pressuring of the aforementioned media outlets to cease to fuel fascism, racial tension and hatred in society and advocated using the University's industry contacts to reach out to employees
and shareholders of the media outlets in question.
The union took issue with subjects of both recent and long term controversy. In addition to criticism of high court judges by the Mail and Express, they also rebuked the Sun for its coverage of the Hillsborough disaster. Other criticisms included
approaching Nigel Farage for comment, criticising Islam, and giving Katie Hopkins a column.
Students at Plymouth university have followed students at City, University of London by deciding to ban three newspapers from their campus.
It means that the campus shop run by Plymouth's students will not sell copies of the Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Express and their Sunday equivalents from the new year.
According to a report in the Plymouth Herald , the decision was taken by the executive council of the University of Plymouth Students' Union (UPSU). The motion was passed, says a UPSU Facebook statement, by a large majority . However
students themselves were not consulted. The Student's Union said:
Whilst we believe that freedom of expression and speech are inalienable human rights, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a number of British tabloids are known to express hateful views. [...BUT...]
They aim at belittling and demonising certain groups in society, such as immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, disabled people, the LGBTIQA+ community, Muslims, Black and Asian communities...
It is our duty to protect and empower and represent marginalised and discriminated against groups... UPSU opposes hatred, discrimination and demonisation of any individual..
Because of these very values that we hold and we are proud of, we believe that it is unethical for us to profit out of the sale of hateful, non-factual and anti-scientific media platforms.
Higher education minister Jo Johnson says institutions that fail to protect freedom of speech could be fined. He explained in a speech:
A university is the quintessential liberal institution. Not liberal in a narrow party political sense, but in the true liberal of free and rigorous inquiry, of liberty and of tolerance.
The liberal tradition is a noble and important one; but today it finds itself under threat. Liberal politics are under threat from national and populist parties around the world. Economic liberalism is under threat from those who turn to
protectionism for quick-fix solutions to complex problems.
Our universities, rather like the Festival we are today, should be places that open minds not close them, where ideas can be freely challenged and prejudices exposed.
But in universities in America and increasingly in the United Kingdom, there are countervailing forces of censorship, where groups have sought to stifle those who do not agree with them in every way under the banner of safe spaces or
However well-intentioned, the proliferation of such safe spaces, the rise of no-platforming, the removal of offensive books from libraries and the drawing up of ever more extensive lists of banned trigger words are undermining the principle of
free speech in our universities.
Without that basic liberal principle, our universities will be compromised.
Shield young people from controversial opinions, views that challenge their most profoundly held beliefs or simply make them uncomfortable, and you are on the slippery slope that ends up with a society less able to make scientific breakthroughs,
to be innovative and to resist injustice.
That's why the government is taking action now.
As part of our reforms to higher education, we have set up a new regulator, the Office for Students (OfS), which, as its name suggests, will regulate the university sector in a way that puts the interests of students first.
Created by the Higher Education & Research Act 2017, the OfS will come into being next week.
Promoting freedom of speech within the law will be at the heart of its approach to the regulation of our higher education system.
The OfS will go further than its predecessor in promoting freedom of speech.
In the Act, we extended the existing statutory duty on universities to secure free speech in the Education (No.2) Act 1986 so that it will apply to all providers of higher education registered with the OfS.
Furthermore, as a condition of registration with the new regulator, we are proposing that all universities benefitting from public money must demonstrate a clear commitment to free speech in their governance documents.
And the OfS will in turn use its regulatory powers to hold them to account for ensuring that lawful freedom of speech is upheld by their staff and students.
And I want to be clear about this: attempts to silence opinions that one disagrees with have no place in the English university system. Academics and students alike must not allow a culture to take hold where silence is preferable to a dissenting
If we want our universities to thrive, we must defend the liberal values of freedom of speech and diversity of opinion on which they depend.
Freedom of speech within the law must prevail in our society, with only the narrowest necessary exceptions justified by specific countervailing public policies.
Hooded thugs have stormed a free speech event King's College London, throwing smoke bombs and attacking security guards.
Believed to be part of the anti-facist movement, violent protesters forced their way into a lecture hall before setting off smoke bombs and smashing windows. Thugs grabbed the speaker's microphone, while several security guards were punched
during the melee.
A threatening note was also left for the compere.
Ten to 15 people dressed all in black, with black hoods and black face masks, leapt over the barriers and instantly engaged in a fight with two or three security guards, said witness Tristan Teller:
They tried to stop them but they just started punching them in the face. One guard, a grey-haired gentleman who looked to be in around 60, received several punches.
The event, which was organised by KCL Libertarian Society, saw YouTube personality Sargon of Akkad, real name Carl Benjamin, invited to speak alongside Ayn Rand Institute director Dr Yaron Brook.
The group were had dispersed by the time police arrived. There have been no reported injuries. No arrests. Enquiries continue.
Update: Antifa: the militant wing of authoritarianism
The UK Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights publishes report into free speech in universities, highlighting serious concerns over barriers to free speech. The Committee has also published its own guidance for
universities and students organising events to empower them to protect and promote this vital human right.
Factors limiting free speech in universities
The Committee say that there are a number of factors which actively limit free speech in universities, including:
Intolerant attitudes, often incorrectly using the banner of "no-platforming" and "safe-space" policies
Incidents of unacceptable intimidating behaviour by protestors intent on preventing free speech and debate
Student Unions being overly cautious for fear of breaking the rules
Unnecessary bureaucracy imposed on those organising events
Fear and confusion over what the Prevent Duty entails
Unduly complicated and cautious guidance from the Charity Commission.
However, as solutions to the above concerns, MPs and Peers are recommending to students, universities and the authorities:
That an independent review of the Prevent policy is necessary to assess what impact it is having on students and free speech, after evidence the Committee took demonstrated an adverse effect on events with student faith
That the Charity Commission, which regulates student unions as registered charities, review its approach and guidance, and that its actions are proportionate and are adequately explained to student unions and don't
unnecessarily limit free speech
That the Office for Students should ensure university policies proactively secure lawful free speech and are not overly burdensome
That student societies should not stop other student societies from holding their meetings. They have the right to protest but must not seek to stop events entirely
That while there must be opportunities for genuinely sensitive discussions, and that the whole of the university cannot be a "safe space." Universities must be places where open debate can take place so that
students can develop their own opinions on unpopular, controversial or provocative ideas
Groups or individuals holding unpopular opinions which are within the law should not be shut down nor be subject to undue additional scrutiny by student unions or universities.
Members of the Committee believe that codes of practice on freedom of speech should facilitate debate, not unduly restrict it.
Freedom of speech is vital in universities
Chair of the Committee, Harriet Harman MP, said:
Freedom of speech within the law should mean just that -- and it is vital in universities.
Evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights showed that there is a problem of inhibition of free speech in universities.
While media reporting has focussed on students inhibiting free speech -- and in our report we urge universities to take action to prevent that -- free speech is also inhibited by university bureaucracy and restrictive
guidance from the Charity Commission.
We want students themselves to know their rights to free speech and that's why we've issued a guide for students today.