London wants to ensure free speech at universities
The British government has announced a new initiative aimed at protecting freedom of speech at universities. Among other things, people who have been denied participation in panel discussions are to be able to appeal the decision. The creation of a post called "free speech and academic freedom champion" with a supervisory function is also planned. Is there really a need for such an initiative to defend opinions that are comparatively conservative in a university context?
No right to be treated with kid gloves
This initiative was sorely needed, political scientist Eric Kaufman comments approvingly in The Daily Telegraph:
“The meaning of safety has been distorted to include the crime of offending the sensibilities of protected groups - as imagined by the radical activists who claim the right to speak on their behalf. ... By instituting principles which protect the liberty of academics from emotional safety claims, this government gives us the confidence to perform our role of setting out challenging ideas and findings, however uncomfortable, inside and outside academia. As a result, we can all breathe a little easier.”
Don't we have bigger problems to deal with?
Britain's institutions of higher education face far more urgent challenges at the moment, writes Columinist Gaby Hinsliff in the Guardian:
“Give us a plan for students stuck at home paying £9,000 a year to watch lectures from their bedrooms while universities struggle to plug the black hole caused by unpaid student rent, and then let's worry about who sits on the panel for all the speaker meetings that aren't happening anyway thanks to lockdown. ... But don't start a culture war in lieu of having any better ideas. Or if you do, don't be surprised if nobody turns up.”