The conservative government has introduced legislation on so-called call-out culture at British universities. This includes the appointment of an official free speech emperor on each campus.
Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, Introduced last monthIs welcomed by some activists who warn that freedom of speech has long been frozen in the worst of student “snowflakes,” superpolitical correctness, and radical professors.
But not all are convinced. Some long-time academic freedom activists are concerned that universities will simply win new bureaucracy and that more legislation could prevent the natural thaw of “generational snowflakes.” ..
“The real issue being discussed is the difference between law and culture,” Dennis Hayes, president of academic freedom (AFAF), told The Epoch Times.
“Universities are very smart and avoid this in a variety of ways,” said Hayes, who has been at the forefront of the fight for academic freedom for a decade and a half. “”We already had a law saying that we had to promote freedom of speech, and they avoided it. “
He also said the new law did not address all the strong gag clauses.
The current draft of the bill shows three major new changes.
First, it strengthens existing legislation to make the promotion of free speech a legal definition. “That is, if the university fails to do so, they could be taken to court,” Hayes said.
Second, it brings the previously independent student union within its authority. According to Hayes, student unions are responsible for many of the speaker bans that have occurred since 1974.
Third, each university needs to have an office responsible for academic freedom and freedom of speech for students, called “advocates of freedom of speech.” They are responsible for overseeing the process of complaints about colleges and student unions. “It’s going to be a big change,” Hayes said.
Free Speech Unions, Policy Exchanges, and other campaign participants welcome the promotion of the bill.
Other free speech organizations like English pen Censorship indexes claim that they can curb freedom of speech.
Some commentators and organizations, especially those who are left-winged, question the existence of call-out culture in the first place.
Mr Hayes said he was half supportive of the legislature’s promotion. “But I’m really worried that it will make people quieter than ever. People won’t say anything to avoid getting into trouble,” he said.
Puppy room and petting zoo
He said he had warned about the potential impact of a growing therapeutic culture more than a decade ago.
He said it still needs to be tackled.
“I don’t know how the new law will change the type of treatment attitude towards college students. They protect them whenever they come to college, counseling sessions and anti-stress in puppy rooms and petting zoos. We are offering a session. “
But he doesn’t want more and more students to be seen as snowflakes anymore.
“The word” snowflake “came in 2016. It was like the words of the year. But since then, I think the students have been tired of being patronized and turned into infants. So, in fact, I want the students to actually get the teacher to speak up. “
In the past, he said he was depressed by the student’s attitude towards free speech. He said it changed around 2017.
“I was talking at the University of Warwick, and the students came and said,’How can I start a society of freedom of speech?'” And in the last few years, I think some universities in the UK have established free speech associations. It is the students who do it outside the Students’ Union. Need a girl in Oxford and establish a free speech society in a pub … it’s a really positive change. “
It’s exactly the kind of change he thinks can be discouraged by new legislation by creating a passive culture with people who rely on external rules.
In response to last month’s bill, Universities UK, which represents all 140 UK universities, said in a statement that the law already mandates protection of freedom of speech and academic freedom.
“Higher education (free speech) bills focus on a small number of cases and are proportional and do not duplicate existing legislation or create unnecessary bureaucracy for universities that may have unintended consequences. That’s important. “
“Very authoritarian movement”
Professor Eric Kaufmann is a leader in call-out culture in Western academia.
He welcomed the government’s proposed policy, stating that it was in line with the recommendations he made in the report. Policy exchange..
He said it was naive to think that it was something other than law that could “cut off the wings” of what he said the Epoch Times was a “very authoritarian movement.” ..
Like Hayes, he said many problems come from people who know how to operate the system.
“The protagonist knows how to use this therapeutic term to stop speaking,” he said. “The new law clarifies that academic freedom is prioritized and that universities are essentially not allowed to file harassment or reputational damages as a way to bend over from their obligation to free speech. Is aimed at. “
“Previously, the university was in full power and operated in different ways as a kangaroo court, but it didn’t really comply with the law as intended,” he said. I did.
Kaufman believes that legal threats can help drive cultural change, and the university knows the authorities are strangling.
“Universities have a very strong incentive to make sure they aren’t behind this. Therefore, they are unlikely to try it on, and to be honest, activists said,” Sorry. , Our hands are tied, we can’t do anything. “
According to Kaufman, the desire for call-out culture is growing among young people between the ages of 21 and 28, but there is also evidence that there is a shift in the opposite direction between the ages of 18 and 21.
Kaufman described the driving force behind call-out culture as “left modernism” and described it as “modern hegemonic idealism in the elite system.”
He said it was a blend of liberalism, Marxism, and the therapeutic spirit of college.
An original study by Kaufmann earlier this year discovered that there was a crisis of free speech at the university. He found a series of “no platform, dismissal campaigns, social media mob attacks, open letters … formal complaints, disciplinary action”, primarily aimed at conservative scholars and students.
He does not consider call-out culture to be a matter of silent majority.
“All the data I’ve seen shows that this is a battle of ideas. It’s an idealistic conflict,” he said, about half of them, even if they found their means unpleasant. He added that scholars support the purpose of call-out culture mobs. “They like the purpose of cancellers’ social justice, but they really don’t like firing people. They’re kind of torn, so they’re not going to speak up.”
Both Hayes and Kaufman, who recently endured a campaign to expel him, said they would endanger the wrath of mob cancellations simply by supporting freedom of speech as a recent scholar.
“British trade unions and left groups consider freedom of speech to be a conspiracy like a right-wing fascist and should not have freedom of speech on a particular issue,” Hayes said. “In that case, we may even argue that freedom of speech is very difficult.”
Hayes is also worried about another area, the gag clause, which is not covered by the new law.
“Most colleges have a gagged clause on disciplinary policy,” he said. “That means you can’t say anything if you’re blamed for even just casual comments.”
“You may be suspended for serious illegal activity, which means you risk losing your job and you have to go through a lengthy disciplinary process … but you can’t publish it. It’s another disciplinary breach. is.”
Hayes gave an example of an instructor who published what happened to him, despite the nauseating clause. He criticized the establishment of the Polytheistic Center.
“He was talking to a student, and she said,’What do you think? [the multi-faith centre]?? ‘And in a few words, he said, “Well, I’m a math teacher. I want a math research center, not this religious nonsense.” Uh … it was stopped because of a serious illegal activity. For that one comment. It’s like people are facing. “