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Universities: Unsafe Spaces for Free Speech

Rite on University free Speech

When controversial topics such as the ‘prevalence of rape on campus’ are on the agenda, feminists demand their voices are the only ones heard

Australian Universities have slipped into a dangerous ‘fact-free-space’ where echo chambers of the noisy few are the only sounds now allowed in public debate.


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We request the house to review funding for institutions who fail to allow free speech, fail to fulfil their charter, and who fail to apply their own Codes of Conduct.

When breaches occur, these should be met with punitive measures including withholding funding, until such time breaches are addressed and reversed.

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The riot squad was recently called in to remove rowdy Sydney University protesters who were preventing people attending a talk on campus by well-known social commentator Bettina Arndt. Bettina is currently touring Australia questioning whether there is really a rape crisis on university campuses.

Her previous talk at La Trobe University was initially banned by university administrators who claimed her lecture failed to align with the values of the university. Only after media pressure was the event allowed to proceed but still university security was unable to control noisy demonstrators who succeeded in drowning out the audience Q&A session. Bettina has put together a video showing the protesters in action and the free speech issues being raised by her tour.

Recently there have been calls in the media for universities to rethink their policies on free speech (1) to avoid the tag of ‘intellectually bankrupt’ in the humanities and social science sectors, but the minorities are in control, the administrators in denial, and the taxpayers insulted. Australia’s taxpayer-funded public institutions (2) MUST allow freedom of speech.

Bettina Arndt’s tour has highlighted a growing phenonium with visiting speakers de-platformed and tours cancelled at the whim of cowardly university administrators kowtowing to the demands of noisy minority groups. When challenging topics are on the agenda, feminists demand their voices are the only ones heard, and any contrary evidence ideas and opinions are silenced, because in their minds, they are just too dangerous to discuss.

This follows a worrying trend in the US, (Trump and Kavanagh) where rapid third-wave feminists dominate debate and a culture of guilty-until-proven innocent in sexual assault cases pervades public debate. Freedom of speech in general is fast becoming the preserve of a select and privileged few, not only in the US surrounding sexual assault, but now in Australian universities. Bettina Arndt’s experience is not an isolated case, but one in a growing number. E.g. Sydney University featured in the Same Sex Marriage Debate late 2017, when student activists physically assaulted other students supporting the NO vote. (4)

Sydney University has now officially joined Australia’s list of taxpayer-funded universities that appear to deny free speech, ignore ‘Codes of Conduct’ and bow to pressure from noisy minorities. The university ‘Code of conduct for students’ cites clearly defined obligations: (5)

All students must:

·         Respect the privacy of employees, honorary appointees, consultants, contractors, volunteers and other members of the public and other students.

·         Ensure they do not become involved in or encourage discrimination against or harassment or bullying of employees, honorary appointees, consultants, contractors, volunteers or any other members of the public or other students

Denying students, the opportunity to engage in a robust discussion of ideas, is in fact denying the genesis and role of the institutions themselves.

There is therefore an urgent need to rethink policies of free speech in universities. Taxpayers (6) should not be expected to continue funding institutions that refuse to apply their own charter and refuse to allow freedom speech and ideas.

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