UNIVERSITIES AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH-NO PLATFORMING APPEARS TO BE ILLEGAL

The NUS  seems to be keen on protecting sensitive students from ideas, arguments and speakers that might potentially offend them. Hence the emergence of ideas such as trigger warnings , safe spaces, and  no platforming, in other words preventing certain speakers from addressing student gatherings. Given that universities were established in the first place in  order to encourage freedom of speech and expression  ,  informed by the values of the Enlightenment, and the exchange of ideas, in order to help discover Truth, its all rather perplexing.  Freedom of Speech is only working if you are irritated by what other people are saying. Lets hope that  its all  a passing phase and that University administrators robustly oppose such nonsense. Interestingly though  the use of “no-platform” could be illegal.  The Sunday Times has seen   legal advice commissioned by the NUS. The  37-page legal opinion  says that  no platforming  is lawful only if applied to members of proscribed groups, such as terrorists. In other cases they breach part of the Education Act 1986, which requires universities to ensure freedom of speech.

For example The  Education Act 1986:

Part IV Miscellaneous

43 Freedom of speech in universities, polytechnics and colleges.

(1)Every individual and body of persons concerned in the government of any establishment to which this section applies shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the establishment and for visiting speakers.

(2)The duty imposed by subsection (1) above includes (in particular) the duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the use of any premises of the establishment is not denied to any individual or body of persons on any ground connected with—

(a)the beliefs or views of that individual or of any member of that body; or

(b)the policy or objectives of that body.

(3)The governing body of every such establishment shall, with a view to facilitating the discharge of the duty imposed by subsection (1) above in relation to that establishment, issue and keep up to date a code of practice setting out—

(a)the procedures to be followed by members, students and employees of the establishment in connection with the organisation—

(i)of meetings which are to be held on premises of the establishment and which fall within any class of meeting specified in the code; and

(ii)of other activities which are to take place on those premises and which fall within any class of activity so specified; and

(b)the conduct required of such persons in connection with any such meeting or activity;

and dealing with such other matters as the governing body consider appropriate.

(4)Every individual and body of persons concerned in the government of any such establishment shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable (including where appropriate the initiation of disciplinary measures) to secure that the requirements of the code of practice for that establishment, issued under subsection (3) above, are complied with…….

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1986/61

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