Higher Education Minister Attacked For Demanding Universities Defend Free Speech

Higher Education Minister Jo Johnson announced plans in his Boxing Day speech to fine universities that failed to protect freedom of speech on campus. Johnson pointed out how no-platforming is stifling debate, the Guardian reported.

“In universities in America and worryingly in the UK, we have seen examples of groups seeking to stifle those who do not agree with them,” Johnson said in his speech.

“We must not allow this to happen. Young people should have the resilience and confidence to challenge controversial opinions and take part in open, frank and rigorous discussions.”

Johnson said come April, the newly created Office of Students (OfS) will have the power to fine universities that fail to uphold free speech.

Asked about cases where students had tried to deny speaking slots to Tatchell, a gay rights campaigner, and Greer, a feminist writer, over their views on transgender issues, he said: “The Office for Students will have a range of remedies at its disposal which do include fines at the more extreme end of the spectrum. I think it is important that we look at the cases mentioned.”

“These are speakers who have been potentially banned or harried under no-platforming or safe spaces decisions. On all reasonable definitions, they are advocates of openness and liberal values and should be welcomed on our campuses.”

He claimed free speech was under threat because some students are denying speaking slots to campaigners who have expressed controversial views, calling for books to be removed from libraries and demanding extensive ‘trigger lists’ of words not to be used.

Nora Ralph

Student, worker, and Co-Founder of the #Killstream. You can also catch me on TheRalphretort Rundown.