UK bill to limit ‘heckler veto’ in college debates

Following the treatment of women scholars by transgender activists, a new free speech bill amendment attempts to address those who try to silence speakers on campus.

Academics have introduced an amendment to the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill to address the use of “heckle vetoes” on campus.

A jeering veto refers to an attempt to silence someone else’s speech by speaking or yelling at the speaker with the intention of seriously disrupting the event.

Lawyer and academic James Murray, along with Professor Alice Sullivan of University College London, along with his Labor colleagues Lord Hunt and Baroness Morris, have called for “silence of legitimate debate on campus and the pursuit of academic freedom.” drafted an amendment to combat the use of the jeering veto to “weaken the

They said they were inspired by the treatment of women scholars on campus who rejected and opposed radical transgender ideologies.

For example, Professor Kathleen Stock at the University of Sussex was harassed on campus for years by transgender activists.

She said that many trans women are “males with penises” and “sexually attracted to women” and should not enter spaces such as women’s locker rooms “totally unrestricted”. As a result, I was forced to resign in 2021.”

defend freedom of speech

The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill imposes requirements on colleges and student unions to protect free speech, and strengthens existing laws to make it a statutory duty to promote it, Congress’s This is a suggested action.

This means that if the university fails to defend its free speech, it could be taken to court.

write in Legal Affairs Taylor Vinters, Murray sums up, “The amendment specifically excludes attempts to silence others from the scope of the core security obligations under the bill and reduces the impact of those exercising a jeering veto.” We are asking universities to take proactive steps to mitigate.” Without unduly prejudicing your right to a lawful protest. ”

This effectively “switches off” such speech if it is shown that such conduct “has both the purpose and effect of restricting the lawful speech or academic freedom of others.” can.

The amendments and the bill were debated in the House Grand Committee this week.

in a discussion about October 31st, Hunt said the government is essentially “trying to address leadership failures at many universities through legislation, and from the amendments we’ve seen today, this would be very difficult to implement.” ”

Amendments selected by the Senate will be sent back to the House for further consideration.

“We expect this bill to likely become law in late 2022 or early 2023,” Murray said.

Heckler Free Speech Censorship

Professor Dennis Hayes, president of Academics for Academic Freedom (AFAF), told the Epoch Times in an email that there is something of a “targeted heckler.”

AFAF is banned listthis is a list of academics and others who have faced attempts at censorship or banning from campus.

“‘I don’t believe in the truth’…’Is it true? Sometimes the heckling isn’t that smart, [like] ‘garbage! ‘ or ‘You’re talking garbage!’ said Hayes.

“The question is, when is yelling at the bullshit an example of free speech, and when is it a sound barrier intended to keep the speaker from being heard? , it’s not free speech or speech,” he said.

“The test of the law lies in its application,” he said.

“In the current climate, where people are overly sensitive to what they see as offensive, the line of censoring heckling free speech may be too close,” he added.

Epoch Times photo
Undated screenshot from an interview with Eric Kaufman, Professor of Political Science at Birkbeck College, London, NTD. (Screenshot/NTD)

Professor Eric Kaufman, a leading authority on cancellation culture in academia, told The Epoch Times in an email:

Kaufman is Professor of Political Science at Birkbeck College, University of London, and author of Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities. He pioneered the use of surveys to study “authoritarianism and political discrimination” at universities in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Kaufman argues that cultural socialism, which he calls a “religious awakening,” is dominant among students and young people.

“I hope this bill will stop the kind of destructive behavior that affected Kathleen. [Stock]”People have the right to protest, but they don’t have the right to block other people’s speech,” Kaufman said.

Owen Evans


Owen Evans is a UK-based journalist with a particular interest in civil liberties and free speech, covering a wide range of national stories.