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Spiked rates Sussex as “hostile” to freedom of speech

The University of Sussex and the Students’ Union create a “hostile environment for freedom of speech on campus, according to recent study by Spiked.

Released last week in their ‘free speech university rankings’, Spiked discovered that 80 percent of institutions in the UK uphold and abide by policies which stifle free speech and debate on campus, including the University of Sussex.

As a combination of both the University and the Students’ Union, Sussex was one of 47 out of 115 institutions surveyed which received a ‘red’ ranking, indicating high levels of censorship of campus.

Individually however, The University received a marginally better rating than the Students’ Union, receiving an amber rating as a result of its history of student discipline.

The survey flagged up the recent OIA report, which ruled that the University’s actions in suspending five students involved in anti-privitisations protests on campus was disproportionate. However, because the University accepted culpability for its wrongdoings, it’s policy was marked as amber.

The Sussex Students’ Union received a red ranking as a result of its ‘No Platform’ policy, along with 37 percent of other unions, which prohibits groups with perceived racist and fascist views from speaking at union events.

In response to the rankings, Michael Segalov, Students’ Union Communications Officer, said: “These Spiked magazine rankings are misleading, and frankly dangerous.

“They neglect to appreciate that racism/homophobia and other forms of discrimination is already illegal. To have policies in place to implement restrictions on hate speech is to be celebrated. “Instead of demonising democratic policies that create a safe environment for students, we should be discussing the new Counter Terrorism Bill that requires universities to spy on their students for thinking ‘radical’ thoughts, the injunctions being taken out to ban all forms of protest on campuses like ours, police being called onto campuses such as Warwick and pepper spraying students for holding a peaceful protest.”

The University of Sussex were contacted but were not able to comment. Overall, 51 percent of Students’ Union receives a red ranking in the study, compared to 9.5 percent of universities who received a red rating.

According to statistics by Spiked, 13 percent of Students’ Unions implement ‘safe space’ policies while universities themselves have “censorious” external speaker policies, which restricts people with objectionable views from speaking on campus and university events.

The report also detailed the lists of bans Students’ Unions have in place around the UK, which include newspapers, pop songs and unruly sports teams.

At the time that the research was conducted, 26 Students’ Unions in the UK ban the selling of newspapers with page 3 (such as The Sun and The Daily Star) in their outlets and 21 unions banned the Robin Thicke song ‘blurred lines’, which when released received criticism for its objectification of women.

Eight Students’ Unions in the UK also placed bans of unruly sports teams.

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7 Comments

  1. “Instead of demonising democratic policies that create a safe environment for students, we should be discussing the new Counter Terrorism Bill that requires universities to spy on their students for thinking ‘radical’ thoughts” well done on being such a politician Michael, don’t contend with the criticism, just choose a different subject.

    Maybe we should be spending University money on cotton wool, I’m sure we’d have enough money to buy out a lot of shops, that way we could wrap all of our students up and not have to worry about nasty ideas.

    Reply
  2. These ratings are ‘frankly dangerous’? What? Are the ratings going to jump out of the computer and bite you? Have you so confused your definitions of disagreement and danger that you fear a point made in an article?

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Richard Vaughan: Witch hunt against UCL professor betrays free speech - The Badger

  4. Why was Segalov given a comment on this? We don’t even have a Communications Officer at the Union any more…

    Reply
  5. Seriously? As someone who studied at Sussex from 1981 to 1987, I am appalled at the new narrow-minded, patronising, “I-can-choose-who-can-speak-to-you-and-who-you-can-listen-to”, thin-skinned and ethically illiterate generation of student union reps at my old university.

    “They neglect to appreciate that racism/homophobia and other forms of discrimination is already illegal”, says that mighty intellectual Michael Segalov. The No Platform does not seek to silence speech that is illegal – a task and prerogative that in any case rightly belongs to the courts and not some spotty youth sitting in Mandela hall. What No Platform seeks to do is silence speech that is ‘offensive’. This is not the same as illegal.

    We do not, as yet, haul conservative Catholic priests to the dock to punish them for their views on homosexuality. Nor do we jail BNP politicians for expressing offensive views about immigrants. And we don’t prosecute Muslim preachers who openly believe that women are inferior to and subject to the authority of men.

    Segalov and his sensitive ilk would no doubt deny a platform to some or all of the above speakers, not just to prevent them articulating an opinion but – worse – to prevent everyone else from hearing it, engaging with it and challenging it. We see here the staggering arrogance of the No Platform enthusiasts: “I sincerely believe that I have the right to deny other adults the right to hear the arguments and judge for themselves, because this is in their own best interests. They do not have the intelligence to resist or handle dangerous ideas.”

    How is it possible for someone to get to university who is so clearly unable to see the difference between speech that is criminal and speech that is merely offensive, between ideas and acts of violence? He and his kind are transforming universities from places for thinking the unthinkable and saying the unsayable into places where you can neither think nor say anything that somebody, somewhere, somehow might possibly, perhaps find offensive, intimidating or uncomfortable.

    Never was there a greater need for student leaders to grow up. While none of us is the sole guardian of ‘Truth’, we should all be free to stand on a platform and argue our case. To quote John Stuart Mill: “There is the greatest difference between presuming an opinion to be true, because with every opportunity for contesting it, it has not been refuted, and assuming its truth for the purpose of not permitting its refutation.”

    Sussex deserves better.

    Reply
  6. …and if you are going to deny others their freedom of speech within the law, please don’t whinge and cry and express surprise when the Government takes its cue and starts policing ‘radical thoughts’ of students just like you.

    Reply

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