Higher Education Minister Attacked For Demanding Universities Defend Free Speech

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.

  • Grust

    Don’t cave in to any threats, Johnson.

  • Danlantic

    Crossreference this report by an Englishwomanperson:

    Safe spaces and ‘ze’ badges: My bewildering year at a US university
    Madeleine Kearns

    I’m now at New York University studying journalism, where a different mantra seems to apply. Words, it turns out, might cause life-ruining emotional trauma. During my ‘Welcome Week’, for example, I was presented with a choice of badges indicating my preferred gender pronouns: ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘they’ or ‘ze’?

    The student in front of me, an Australian, found this hilarious: ‘Last time I checked, I was a girl.’ Her joke was met with stony silence. Later I realised why: expressing bewilderment at the obsession with pronouns might count as a ‘micro-aggression’. Next stop, ‘transphobia’.

    Read more:

  • Mr0303

    It’s rather refreshing to see a politician make a stand for free speech let alone an education minister. Hopefully he doesn’t back down.

    Seeing NUS’ statement makes me even more glad that I’m done with university.