Bullying and harassment will not be allowed to undermine free expression of “legitimately held opinions” on university campuses, the Equalities Minister has pledged.
Kemi Badenoch said the Government is taking steps to bolster academic freedom and free speech in England’s universities.
She made her remarks defending free speech as she answered questions in the House of Commons on diversity and freedom of belief in public institutions.
Badenoch said: “Freedom of belief and speech are vital pillars of our democratic society, and no one should be silenced for expressing their legitimately held opinions.”
Commenting on John Cleese’s recent decision to withdraw from an event at the University of Cambridge over its blacklisting of another speaker, Badenoch said that “it should not be up to comedians to educate students on core values” but universities.
no one should be silenced for expressing their legitimately held opinions
She added: “Those that seek to bully, harass and intimidate others because of their views risk undermining our precious freedoms. Such behaviour should not and will not be tolerated on university campuses.”
The Minister also said that she had been “appalled by the disgraceful treatment of Professor Kathleen Stock”, after she was driven out of her job at the University of Sussex for upholding the reality of biological sex.
Last month, several leading academics called on university heads to robustly protect free speech following Stock’s ousting from her job for defending the reality of biological sex.
Prof Michael Biggs of Oxford University stated that the current culture at some universities was “ludicrous” and is embedded within the institutions themselves.
And University College London’s Prof Alice Sullivan called the situation “absolutely disastrous” and described Stock’s departure as “a scalp for the bullies”.
In October, over 200 academics signed an open letter in The Sunday Times calling on the Equality and Human Rights Commission to intervene at universities where staff and students who uphold the reality of biological sex have suffered “bullying, harassment and no-platforming”.