The UK government will soon be introducing legislation to protect freedom of speech in academia. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson says there is “an unacceptable climate of silencing and censorship” in higher education.
Prime Minister Boris Johson tweeted encouragingly, “Freedom of expression is at the heart of democracy” and “Our universities are historic centres of free-thinking and ideas,” and he says that should be better protected in law.
Part of the plan is to create a legal supervisor who is still called “the champion of the free world”.
It would become the authority to judge people’s fate who claim that they are being discriminated against for their opinions, are no longer invited, taken off social media, or have even lost their jobs and prestige. The regulator could then oblige universities to pay compensation if he considers claims justified.
Bitter academic feuds have arisen over many recent issues, from colonial history to the magnitude of the danger posed by coronaviruses. In a letter in The Times, a group of leading British academics welcomed Secretary Williamson’s initiative.
The group states that “in recent years, far too many academics have been marginalized simply because they do not hold orthodox views about, say, gender, Brexit, or the history and legacy of the British Empire”.