Letter to the Oxford University Proctors about OUSU’s vote to deny the Oxford Union a slot at freshers’ fair in October

We’ve written to the Proctors of Oxford University, who are responsible for student discipline, to complain about the decision by Oxford University Students’ Union (OUSU) to ban the Oxford Union from having a stall at the next Freshers’ Fair, seemingly in response to the Union’s refusal to no-platform Kathleen Stock. Kathleen is due to give a talk at the Union on 31st May and the Union has come under enormous pressure to cancel the talk, including from OUSU’s LGBTQ+ officer. We believe OUSU’s decision is a breach of the University’s Free Speech Policy, as well as its Code of Practice on Meetings and Events, and are asking the Proctors to investigate OUSU‘s officers under the University’s Code of Discipline.

Letter urging St John’s College to reverse its decision to cancel a film screening over threatened student protests

We’ve written to St John’s College and the University of Cambridge asking for the urgent reinstatement of a film screening organised by student Charlie Bentley-Astor which the College has cancelled. She intended to show the film Birthgap – Childless World with director Stephen Shaw, but student activists threatened protests – apparently for the ludicrous reason that Shaw had appeared on Jordan Peterson’s podcast. The College had already imposed prohibitive security costs, which we had offered to pay, before it caved in to the demands of the protesters and axed the screening. The decision was criticised in the House of Lords as the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill completed its passage through Parliament.

The Free Speech Union responds to the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries’ Consultation on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

We’ve responded to the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries’ (IFoA) consultation on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI).  Like many other professional and supervisory bodies, the IFoA is proposing to update its Code of Conduct to (among other changes) require its members to encourage DEI. We are concerned this will result in further suppression of members’ free speech and expression, especially as the IFoA’s code of conduct has very broad application, including across parts of individual members’ personal lives. In our response, we highlight how the existing IFoA Code already contains extensive DEI provisions. If these new proposals were to be implemented, we fear the IFoA would be adopting an approach to DEI that risks scope creep from unclear or contentious definitions, and which itself lacks a diversity of views. Our experience at the FSU is that these kinds of DEI requirements lead to members being put through unnecessary and stressful disciplinary procedures.

Letter to the CEO of the Charity Commission asking her to open an investigation into the mosque at the centre of recent events in Wakefield

We’ve written to Helen Stephenson, the CEO of the Charity Commission, asking her to open an investigation into Jamia Masjid Swafia. This is the mosque in Wakefield where the mother of a 14 year-old autistic boy accused of mistreating a copy of the Quran – he accidentally dropped it – sat on a panel, head covered by a veil, while the Imam warned that the Muslim community wouldn’t tolerate any disrespect shown to the Quran and if necessary would defend its honour with their lives. We think his remarks constitute a breach of one of the mosque’s charitable objects, namely to “promoting good community relations and cohesion between Muslims and non-Muslims”.

Letter to West Yorkshire Police about children having ‘non-crime hate incidents’ being recorded against their names at Kettlethorpe High School in Wakefield

We’ve written to Inspector Andy Thornton, the police officer leading the investigation into the events at Kettlethorpe High School involving a 14 year-old autistic boy bringing a copy of the Quran into the school. We have complained about the fact that the episode is being treated as a ‘hate incident’ by West Yorkshire Police. We’ve asked Thornton to assure us that the four boys at the centre of the story have not had ‘non-crime hate incidents’ recorded against their names and, if they have, to remove them immediately. As the school said, there’s no evidence of any malicious intent and damaging a book that belongs to you, even if it is the Quran, should not be treated as a ‘hate incident’.

Letter to CEO of ITV Urging Her Not to Sack Jeremy Clarkson

We’ve written to Dame Carolyn McCall, the CEO of ITV, urging her not to fire Jeremy Clarkson as host of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Sacking Clarkson would be cancel culture at its most brutal, destroying a person’s livelihood because they’ve said something perfectly lawful, but which someone who thinks of themselves as a ‘victim’ finds offensive.

Clarkson has apologised for any offence he caused and that should be enough. As a society, we believe in the possibility of redemption for hardened criminals. Why can’t we extend the same charity to someone whose only crime is to have said something offensive?

Letter to the Education Secretary About the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill

The Free Speech Union pulled together a letter from over 50 academics urging the Government not to water down the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, which is currently in the House of Lords. The reason for the letter is because there was strong opposition in the Lords during the Bill’s Committee Stage to clause 4 which would create a new statutory tort enabling students and academics to sue their universities if they breach the new free speech duties in the Bill. We are worried that the Government will now drop or amend clause 4 and without that enforcement mechanism the Bill will be toothless. You can read an article about the letter in the Telegraph here.

The Free Speech Union Complains to Gonville and Caius’s College Council and Cambridge University’s Vice-Chancellor About the Master’s Email Denouncing Dr Helen Joyce.

The Free Speech Union has made two complaints about the email sent by the Master and Senior Tutor of Gonville and Caius, denouncing Dr Helen Joyce, who’d been invited to speak at the College by Dr Arif Ahmed, a Fellow of Cauis and a Professor of Philosophy. The first complaint is to the College Council, Caius’s governing body, pointing out that the email may have been a breach of the College’s Statement on Freedom of Speech; the second is to Dr Anthony Freeling, Cambridge’s Acting Vice-Chancellor, arguing that the email, which was sent by the Master using her University email address, may have been a breach of her duty under s43 of the Education Act 1986 to uphold free speech on campus, which applies to all officers of English universities. The talk went ahead, but was disrupted by noisy protestors, as Ewan Somerville reported in the Telegraph. You can read about our complaints here.

Letter to the National Education Union to express concern about a draft document which contains the NEU’s proposal to redefine the word ‘transphobia’ 

We’ve written to the National Education Union, Britain’s largest teaching union, after a whistleblower leaked a document to us containing the NEU’s proposed definition of ‘transphobia’ which it looks likely to adopt. The definition is so wide, it would mean any teacher that challenges the transrights activist agenda would be labelled a ‘transphobe’. You can read about this letter – and the NEU’s reaction to it – in the Telegraph.

Letter to YouTube About its Censorship of Russell Brand

We’ve written to YouTube about its removal of a video by Russell Brand, allegedly for breaching its Covid-19 medical misinformation policy. We’ve argued that since YouTube is clearly exercising public functions, it is subject to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and, as such, this is an unlawful interference with Mr Brand’s freedom of expression. In addition, we’ve argued that this censorship is a breach of his Article 1 property rights. We’ve asked YouTube to restore the video and withdraw the ‘lifetime’ warning it has issued to Mr Brand.