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Free speech at university sites

Dear Reader,

While I have never pretended that an absolute right to free speech exists, in general I hold the view that even those people who I disagree should be allowed to express their views. That is as long as their expression of their views does not harm society or the interests of others.

I was dismayed to see that Imperial College was not listed as a bastion of freedom of the thought and expression in a ranking of the freedom of speech at UK universitys. This caused me to examine the evidence, I found that the survey recorded Imperial College and Imperial College’s student union as having and environment “that chills free speech and free expression”. Sound scary !

I then found out the sins of Imperial College included the outrage of having a IT policy which includes an agreement not to

“display, store, receive or transmit images or text which could be considered offensive e.g. material of a sexual, pornographic, paedophilic, sexist, racist, libellous, threatening, defamatory, of a terrorist nature or likely to bring the College into disrepute.”

<Sarcasm>Shocking stuff !</sarcasm> But I have to say that such a policy is a reasonable one for a university, I think that it is unreasonable for the university to permit students to send, make and access such things. So I think that the people making the ranking of “free speech” at university sites have made a big error of judgement.

The student union’s safe spaces rules seem reasonable to me, a university student union which lacks such rules would be in my view unreasonable. A student union which does not outlaw violence, sexual harassment, discriminatory comments / behaviour and other forms of abuse would be a rather disturbing one.


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