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Campus free speech fears 'whipped up', says university boss

From BBC - January 10, 2018

Claims that universities are inhibiting free speech are based on misleading evidence "whipped up to create a moral panic", a university leader has told a Parliamentary committee.

Universities thrive on free speech said Sussex University Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Tickell.

The former universities minister, Jo Johnson has voiced concern that free speech is limited at some universities.

The evidence is part of a Parliamentary inquiry into campus free speech rules.

"We hear all sorts of claims of the inhibition and chilling of free speech in British universities but the evidence base for it is anaemically small," Prof Tickell told the joint select committee on human rights.

He said criticism of his university's free speech record had stemmed from a campus rule banning the use of derogatory language referring to women and "people of colour" and because the student union wanted to check posters before they were put up.

These were "things not relevant to discussions around free speech".

'No no-platforming'

Speakers from the student unions of Sussex and Edinburgh universities said they had never denied a speaker a platform on the basis of their views.

Frida Gustaffson, Sussex University student union president described how UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge last year decided not to go ahead with a planned speech after the student union asked to vet his speech in advance.

She and Edinburgh University Student Union president Patrick Kilduff said they did have a no-platform policy for "six racist, fascist or extremist groups" drawn up by the National Union of Students.

"These processes have never stopped anyone coming to speak at the university," said Mr Kilduff.

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