- Ryan Christopher, Director of ADF UK, debates SOAS professor on the threat to free speech at universities
- Debate set to air Saturday 13th March at 6pm on Premier Christian Radio
LONDON (12 March 2021) – Is there a free speech crisis on UK campuses? In the run-up to World Speech Day, the Unbelievable radio show hosted a debate about censorship and “cancel culture” at UK universities.
Alison Scott-Baumann, a Professor of Society and Belief at SOAS University of London, has publicly criticized the government’s recent efforts to reform campus culture. She advocates instead for “communities of inquiries” – sometimes called “safe spaces”, where controversial conversations can take place outside of mainstream dialogue. The academic discussed these issues with human rights advocate Ryan Christopher, who has spoken out in favour of students’ right to freedom of speech. ADF UK, which he leads, has consistently defended the rights of students who have faced discriminatory treatment by Student Unions and university administrations because of their opinions. The human rights group is gathering signatures for an open letter to 10 Downing Street, asking for steps to be taken to end cancel culture on campus.
“We welcome the Department for Education’s proposals, which mark important progress towards the goal of protecting free speech at universities. Our recent polling highlights the importance of this issue. Over a third of students are afraid to voice their opinions, lest it negatively impact future career prospects. The “chilling effect” of cancel culture on campus is damaging to students and universities, which should be forums where students can freely discuss, debate, and learn from each other,” said Ryan Christopher, Director of ADF UK.
The government has recently taken significant steps to respond to evidence that a quarter of students are “self-censoring” their views at university. In February, proposals were made to better protect open conversation, including through creation of a right to redress in law for students and individuals who have suffered the negative consequences of censorship, including expulsion from university courses. Students and academics could possibly receive compensation for harm caused by censorship.
The debate, hosted by Justin Brierley, will also feature input from Julia Rynkiewicz, the pro-life midwifery student who faced suspension from her course last year because of her views.
The show will be broadcast internationally on Saturday 13th March at 6pm GMT, or be available for download on Podcast from Friday evening.