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Free Speech On Campus Begins With The Academics

Editorial, The Daily Telegraph

 The Government is absolutely right to introduce uniform guidance on free speech in universities, but it shouldn’t even be necessary. Why can’t academics, who are supposedly motivated by the spirit of free inquiry, define and defend liberty themselves? Instead, students have been allowed to set the rules and, through no-platforming, noisy protest and “safe space” policies, make it difficult to engage in dialogue.

One issue, which the Government is addressing, is complicated guidance that critics say is open to exploitation. But the problem extends to the culture of the academy itself. Since the Sixties, the Left has taken over, imposing a consensus so deadening that a group of thinkers recently launched a journal of “controversial ideas” that offered to publish essays, if so desired, under pseudonyms. Groupthink and timidity are matched by entitlement, reflected in the Cambridge don who railed against college porters because they failed to call her “doctor”. She inferred racism.

MPs must see that what’s taking place on campus is a microcosm of the wider society that politicians have had a hand in building. The ever-expanding definition of “hate crime” has turned nobodies into witchfinders, while many Britons feel they cannot say things for fear of being shouted down. No one approves of speech that is denigrating, bigoted or incites violence. But there has to be freedom to contest ideas within the constraints of the law – and that contest not only should exist on campus but also ought to be actively encouraged by authoritative university officials. Heaven knows they are paid enough.

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