New government regulations published Tuesday, Feb. 16, in the UK warn that universities will be fined if they or student bodies jeopardize freedom of speech on campus. In turn, educational bodies will be sanctioned if they use funds to promote partisan political movements.
British Education Secretary Gavin Williamson on Tuesday announced tough legal and financial measures to strengthen free speech and academic freedom at universities in England to end the culture of cancellation on campuses.
The proposed measures fulfill a manifesto commitment and include a new free speech condition imposed on higher education providers in order for them to register and access public funds in England.
To earn public funds universities in UK must provide free speech
Williamson enthusiastically announced the new measures from his Twitter account, “Our universities have a long and proud history of being places where students and academics can express themselves freely, challenge views and cultivate an open mind. That’s why I’m taking measures to strengthen free speech in higher education.”
Our universities have a long and proud history of being places where students and academics can express themselves freely, challenge views and cultivate an open mind.
That’s why I’m taking measures to strengthen free speech in higher educationhttps://t.co/ipC9NxaZ0V
— Gavin Williamson (@GavinWilliamson) February 16, 2021
Following a growing number of reports of individuals and groups being silenced, the education secretary warned of a “chilling effect” where students and staff feel they cannot express themselves freely.
The report states, “Universities or student bodies that attempt to cancel, dismiss, or demote individuals for their views will be sanctioned by the Government.”
The ultimate goal is to ensure that freedom of expression is not hindered and that academic freedom is maintained, and to impose fines on establishments or student groups that restrict expression.
Chilling effect of unacceptable silencing and censorship
A government source told the Telegraph, “Unacceptable silencing and censorship on campuses is having a chilling effect and that is why we must strengthen freedom of speech in higher education by reinforcing existing legal duties and ensuring strong and robust action is taken if they are breached.”
The move comes after numerous allegations report that public funds are being used to pay for student programs and political actions that seek to link British heritage with “colonialism” and “white supremacy.”
Such is the case of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who appointed a group of left-wing activists to conduct a citywide relay to check whether statues and other historical landmarks in the city are “diverse enough.”
A recent study published by a prestigious think tank, Civitas, an independent research center, warns that the problem the British government is seeking to solve in its universities also affects major universities around the world. Where freedom of expression is being eroded at an alarming rate due to the rise of the “cancel culture.”
The study found that over the past three years, more than 68% of universities in the UK have seen freedom of speech severely curtailed, with academics unable to meaningfully discuss the nuances of issues such as race and gender.