This week the Joint Committees on Human Rights have published its report detailing the ways in which freedom of speech at universities is being restricted.
The report mentions factors like ’no platforming’ and ‘safe spaces’ as limits on speech, as well as confusion around the Prevent programme and unnecessary red tape in organising external speakers.
It also highlights that many groups had events cancelled, guests banned or were put off organising events because of the hurdles they had to go through.
CARE welcomes the inquiry into the freedom of speech at universities and we made a submission to the committee, which you can read here. Our submission examines the main free speech challenges at universities, which are closely associated with the impact of the Prevent duty and the concept of ‘hate speech,’ and makes suggestions for the way forward.
Our submission was referred to at various stages during the report, during the discussion of the Prevent strategy in Section 67 of the report and also in footnotes 62 and 78.
CARE is particularly concerned how current definitions of extremism were being wrongly applied to nonviolent individuals and groups instead of to those who could draw people into terrorism. This has led to many speakers and groups being ‘no platformed’ and to their views being excluded from public debate because they were considered offensive by some, but were by no means illegal.
Particularly concerning was how people of faith and prolife groups were frequently no platformed or had undue burdens placed on them which made hosting events difficult, frustrating their freedom of speech on campus.
CARE’s Director of Parliamentary Affairs Dr Dan Boucher
“Universities must be a place of free speech, where different ideas can be explored, otherwise they run the risk of turning into mindless echo chambers.”
“Vague or poorly defined definitions of extremism continue to marginalise people of faith from speaking out in the public sphere.”