Professors contest Oxford harassment rules in free speech row

A group of academics at the University of Oxford is attempting to get the institution’s social media guidelines and harassment policies changed because they fear the documents are “frustrating” academic freedom. Michael Biggs, professor of sociology, and Roger Teichmann, tutor and fellow in philosophy, proposed the move in a question tabled to the university’s sovereign body, Congregation. It has also been signed by seven other colleagues, including Jeff McMahan, White’s professor of moral philosophy and Nigel Biggar, professor of pastoral theology.

Tom Williams, Times Higher Education, 10th June 2022.

Free Speech Union legal pressure forces Essex harassment changes

A UK university has revised its policy on harassment under legal pressure from the Free Speech Union, spotlighting the organisation’s influence and the prospect of it mounting bigger legal actions against institutions if England’s free speech bill becomes law.

John Morgan, Times Higher Education, 7th June 2022.

Cambridge don claims woke critics have labelled him a “white supremacist” for teaching classics – as he warns of “threats” to his academic discipline

Toby Young, founder of the Free Speech Union, yesterday warned that the “intolerant atmosphere on Britain’s campuses is reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution in Mao’s China”. He added: “The union gets about a dozen requests for help a week from university students or academics who’ve got into trouble for exercising their lawful right to free speech. A small minority of political activists have succeeded in shutting down any dissent from woke orthodoxy.”

Alice Wright, The Daily Mail, 29th May 2022.

Why I fear this censors’ charter

It is hard to overstate just how sinister the Online Safety Bill is. The gravest threat to freedom of speech since section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, which criminalised “insulting words and behaviour”? That scarcely does it justice. Let’s settle on the most serious threat since the proposal to force state regulation on the press in the aftermath of Levison.

Toby Young, The Critic, June 2022.

Durham students’ plan to shake off “Oxbridge rejects” tag… cancel formal dinners

Toby Young, the general secretary of the Free Speech Union, said: “All the old traditions the commission wants to do away with are what make Durham such a special place. A Durham cleansed of all its old-fashioned characteristics won’t appeal to anyone. You might as well pull down the old buildings, replace them with prefabs and call it Durham polytechnic.”

Ewan Somerville, The Telegraph, 24th May 2022.

Elon Musk Twitter takeover dubbed ‘dangerous’ as critics question free speech claims

Toby Young, Director General of the Free Speech Union, agreed, labelling Musk in a comment for a “steely-eyed free speech warrior” and outlining his hope that Twitter is taken back to what it was originally: “The free speech wing of the free speech party.”

Michael Curzon, The Daily Express, 30th April 2022.

Salmond’s university snub “breached human rights”

In a letter to Professor George Boyne, the university’s principal and vice-chancellor, the Free Speech Union campaign group said “no-platforming Salmond was contrary to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights”. This defines freedom of expression as including the “freedom to hold opinions and receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority”, Toby Young, the union’s general secretary, said. “The students who were planning to attend Mr Salmond’s talk had a right to hear what he was going to say,” Young said. “By cancelling the talk the university golf club was interfering with that right.”

Jeremy Watson, The Times, 30th April 2022.