In a move that could have wide-reaching implications on U.K. campuses, British universities will be instructed to uphold freedom of speech as a “legal duty.”
Jo Johnson, British Minister of State for Universities and Science has written to universities informing them that they will be expected to uphold free speech for their students, faculty, and visiting guests. The move is being described as a response to the rise of “safe spaces” and other forms of censorship in higher education.
According to Johnson, this means that the use of universities facilities cannot be “denied to any individual or body on any grounds connected with their beliefs or views, policy or objective.”
“As part of this, the government proposes to raise the issue of freedom of speech, with a view to ensuring that a principle underscoring the importance of free speech in higher education is given due consideration,” Johnson wrote.
He added that speech protections extend to premises occupied by student unions, even if those premises aren’t university-owned: “It is important to note that the duty extends to both the premises of the university and premises occupied by the students’ unions, even when they are not part of the university premises.”
Johnson claimed that all institutions will be expected to have an explicit statement expressing their commitment to free speech principles. “They are crucial in demonstrating to students that free speech should be at the heart of a higher education community,” Johnson finished.
Tom Ciccotta is a libertarian who writes about education and social justice for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org