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Universities can no longer ban controversial speakers

Universities can no longer ban controversial speakers

Here is everything that you need to know about the university free speech pledge.

It appears that universities may no longer be allowed to ban speakers which they deem controversial from either practising peacefully on campus or holding university talks- any universities that continue to do so could face a fine.

These new plans come from the concerns over the ‘no platforming’ of university speakers and the fears over censorship in our current society.

The Universities’ Minister, Sam Gyimah, is calling for a clear set of guidelines for universities and students alike, instructing them to replace the ‘dizzying rules’ currently in practice that determine which speakers can attend certain universities and exactly what they  can say.

For over 30 years, the government have failed to involve themselves in matters of free speech on campus, this decision may have therefore emerged due to the dangers that have arisen concerning complete censorship in universities.

The new plans could also see many universities ‘named and shamed’, if they do not uphold the standard protocols surrounding the act of free speech.

The universities’ minister hopes that a clearer set of guidelines will allow students to have open and informed discussions, stating that lively debate is good for the brain and opens one’s mind to a variety of opinions, allowing them to determine whether they agree or not.

Gyimah also argues that the strict rules of university free speech could also be down to the consumerist culture on campus, with many people viewing university as simply a pathway for a job, rather than a lively atmosphere of learning, creativity and debate.

Gyimah states that universities are under pressure to supply a stereotypical, neat university experience, leading to obvious censorship on campus.

Clearly, it can be seen that the introduction of clear cut guidelines, which will apply to every university in the UK, will be a great step in the right direction of opening up academic and invigorating discussion on campus.

The universities’ minister has also called for a more accepting climate in the media, asserting that for the discussion to be opened up, there needs to be less of a clear division between the sides of left and right wing politics, as well as a lessening of the use of the word ‘snowflake’, which clearly does little to represent a whole generation of young people.

Standing as the first free speech regulation since 1986, universities hope that this decision will work to relieve tensions on campus.

According to the Conversation, there needs to be a set of clear cut free speech rules for every university, as well as equal opportunities for every student and a level footing for anyone to attend university if they so wish.

It is clear that the ‘free speech debate’ cannot be separated from the broader issues in society, such as inequalities behind education and censorship in the news.

Hopefully, by allowing everyone an equal footing- as long as they do not preach speeches that incite hatred or violence- will allow a broader conversation on university campuses around the UK.

Elizabeth Whittingham Elizabeth is a history graduate currently working in content and communications.