by Keenan Clough 01 July 2020, 22:30

Category: Idea

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In times like these, it is important that the fundamental rights of speech, thought and assembly are protected both on and off our campus. Universities play a key role in exposure to democratic and diverse thought in society, broadening our minds and horizons. Universities should adhere to a Charter for Academic Freedom, protecting the rights of students and speakers to freely voice their opinions without threat of persecution, de-platforming or exclusion.

As an institution of education and thought, a centre of democratic discourse, universities should promote open and civil debate. It is important that for our society to stay democratic, the voices within it must be equally valued and heard. Unfortunately, across the globe and this country there can be seen numerous examples of campaigns and thought deemed too controversial or harmful to be shared and so they are shut down. Universities must stand strong and not only protect but promote the right of the individual to protest, campaign and speak their mind freely.

Whether it be on issues of race, poverty, equality, nationality or faith, we must all be allowed to speak our mind to the masses, to engage in open, civil debate and have our opinions swayed or questioned, as difficult as that sometimes is. Without the ability to speak freely away from the threat of persecution, humiliation or exclusion only hatred, division and intolerance can prosper. As a democratic institution in a free and tolerant society, the plurality of opinion must prevail. All voices must be heard.

I put forward this Charter because I fear for the future of debate in this country and the voices of our students and partners globally. Current events not only in China, Xinjiang or Hong Kong but across the Western world put these basic freedoms at risk. Even non-authoritarian societies are being subject to the restriction of voices and opinion. As both a member of a political party and most importantly a part of the Student community I have been inspired by the Social Democratic Party and their campaign for Academic Freedom. In light of current campaigns for racial equality, democracy and representation, we should take the vital steps to enshrine the rights that make progress possible here on campus and provide a space for civil, although sometimes controversial, public debate across our University.

We must protect these fundamental rights and values, for the very fabric of our society is at stake. Therefore, I propose that the Guild takes steps to meet and adhere to the following Charter for Academic Freedom and ask that the University do the same. 


Freedom of thought and inquiry together with freedom of expression are vital to a tolerant democratic society. We believe that citizens inside and outside the University shall enjoy the following fundamental rights:

  1. The right to express your own opinions without being silenced or intimidated by those who disagree with you. 
  2. The right to be offended by what other people might say, but to respect their right to say it – and to move on from it constructively.
  3. The right to be treated as an equal irrespective of colour, creed, age, social class, sexual orientation, nationality or biological sex.
  4. The right – indeed the duty – to challenge all established orthodoxies even those of the University or Guild itself.
  5. The right to an education which is politically broad, free of indoctrination and introduces a wide variety of viewpoints.
  6. The right to be able to hear outside speakers at university who possess a wide variety of views in a civil atmosphere and without harassment or intimidation.
  7. The right to be judged by your lecturers purely according to academic ability, regardless of how great your political views might differ from theirs.
  8. The right of lecturers and staff to voice their political opinion without threat of removal or punishment for their opinion. 


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    Lucy Pilling Guild Democracy Coordinator   wrote, 26-10-2020 - 16:16

    The Student Officer team agreed to send this idea to Guild Summit as a complicated idea. The idea will go to Summit 3rd November. Find out more about Summit here:

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    Lucy Pilling Guild Democracy Coordinator   wrote, 19-11-2020 - 14:05

    An update on the outcome of this idea can be found here:

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