Silenced on campus – are our universities safe-guarding free expression?

At 18:30 GMT on Wednesday the 1st July, the quarterly Index on Censorship magazine debate took a look at academic freedom and the threats it is currently facing.

This debate launched the latest edition of the Index on Censorship magazine and took place in the Clore Centre at Birkbeck College, London. Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, and the writer Julie Bindel both featured in the debate as did members of the audience, who were encouraged to get involved and to ask questions of the speakers.

Listen to a recording of the debate:

(In a rush? Get a foretaste of the evening from Index‘s short summary text)

For more information about Index on Censorship click here, to read more about the background to the debate, please proceed to the text below, and to access bibliographical information on the evening’s speakers, click here


Background to the debate:

Education is the beginning of so many roads, yet, if we start closing some of those avenues down, arguing that they are too dangerous or too challenging, are we not likely to find ourselves on the wrong track?

In both the U.K. and the U.S., offence and extremism are being used to shut down debates. In Turkey, an exam question relating to the Kurdish movement recently led to death threats for one historian, while, in Ireland, there are concerns about the restraints imposed by corporately sponsored research. The situation is no better in Central America, where students are being abducted and protests quashed. And, reports from Ukraine, China and Belarus show how these countries’ administrations expect education to toe the official line.

So great are many people’s concerns about the state of academic freedom that authors, academics, poets, lawyers, publishers and journalists from across the world recently came together to sign Index on Censorship’s open letter calling for the urgent protection of academic freedom.

It is no surprise then to learn that the latest edition of the Index on Censorship‘s magazine takes a closer look at this pressing theme and that its launch debate further pursued the issues featured within this summer edition. Addressing themes ranging from no platform policies and trigger warnings, to campus extremism, the threat facing student sit-ins and the correct balance between safety and liberty, this Index debate explored the global situation for on campus freedom of expression and you can hear a recording of the full debate here.

Proceedings were chaired by Index on Censorship’s CEO Jodie Ginsberg and introduced by magazine editor Rachael Jolley. Following the debate, there was also a summer drinks reception, which all were invited to attend.

The evening’s speakers:

Siana Bangura, blogger, writer and spoken word poet

Julie Bindel, journalist, broadcaster, author and feminist campaigner

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK

Greg Lukianoff, president & CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education [FIRE], USA

Lord Ken Macdonald, barrister, ex-director of public prosecutions and warden of Wadham College, Oxford

Information about the organiser:

This debate was presented by Index on Censorship in conjunction with The Conversation, SAGE Publishing and Arts Council England.

CoverSummer2015-200The theme of this debate stems from the Index on Censorship magazine’s summer 2015 issue, which takes a global vantage point to explore all of the threats – governmental, economic and social – currently faced by students, teachers and academics.

To find out more about the summer edition of the Index on Censorship magazine, which also features details of an interview with Alexander Litvinenko’s widow and explains why the Polish Catholic Church is so upset by Winnie the Pooh’s lack of gender, click here.

For the already converted, Index on Censorship‘s subscription page can be reached here and you can currently acquire a year’s digital subscription to the Index on Censorship magazine, with six years’ archive access included, for just £18.

Related articles:

Fear of terror and offence pushing critical voices out of UK universities by Professor Thomas Docherty, University of Warwick

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