I just stumbled across the ‘Free Speech University Rankings’ produced by Spiked Online. As one does, I immediately looked up my own institution. Warwick has been given a ‘red card’ but not, as one might expect, relating to the recent police action on peaceful protesters but rather because the student union has banned The Sun:
The University of Warwick and Warwick Students’ Union collectively create a hostile environment for free speech. The university, which has received an Amber ranking, restricts material that is ‘likely to cause offence’. The students’ union, which has received a Red ranking, has instituted bans on the Sun and the Daily Star, launched a campaign to have ‘offensive’ wallpaper in a local bar removed and banned ‘prejudiced’ entertainers from performing in the union. Due to the severity of the students’ union’s actions, the institution’s overall ranking is Red.
As I wrote a couple of months ago, it seems to me that we’re seeing an unprecedented attack on academic freedom at universities:
We’ve already seen the police ask a university for attendees of a fracking debate. The president of the Lancaster Student’s Union was warned by police, who she discovered taking photos of her office, that she may have been committing a public order offence by displaying a poster in her office window. Police used CS gas and pulled a taser on Warwick students who were screaming in terror. They launch secret operations to spy on peaceful student protestors. University staff are increasingly expected to function as proxy border guards. Police violence is increasingly an expectation at student protests, including some astonishing and egregious instances of brutality. Punitive bail conditions are becoming the norm for student activists and some university managements have gone out of their way to exclude and persecute ‘trouble makers’.
But the self-professed freedom lovers of Spiked, who believe “university is a place for saying the unsayable and thinking the unthinkable”, want to spend their time campaigning against motions to ban pornography on university campus enacted by students unions which for all their many flaws are the only democratic organisations on said campuses?