“Freedom of Speech, But” – NUS Edition

Charting the National Union of Students’ (NUS) non-committal position on free speech

It is a modern cliché to qualify one’s support of free speech by citing an exception for [enter preferred social or political cause here].

The NUS, notorious for its policy of deplatforming politically unpopular individuals from speaking at universities, is as guilty of perpetuating this cliché as the “fascists” it claims to oppose, which just goes to show: free speech and censorship have no political ideology.

“We must protect freedom of speech, but not at the cost of student safety” – Richard Brooks, NUS Vice President for Union Development (via the Huffington Post)

“A university has a legal duty to protect freedom of speech, but also whilst protecting student safety and balancing a competing range of conflicting duties, such as equality, or the right to protest” – Official NUS Statement (via The Telegraph)

“It’s not a question of free speech, but a question of ensuring the Students’ Union is a safe and inclusive space for all students” – Michael Rubin, Education Officer and President-Elect of the University of Leicester Students’ Union (via The Ripple)

“Universities are required by the Education Act 1986 to promote freedom of speech, but there are also duties to protect students from harm, including speakers who incite violence and extremism” – Pete Mercer, NUS Vice President for Welfare (via BBC News)

“We strongly support the concept of free speech but we won’t tolerate offensive language or behaviour and we make no apology for taking this position” – Alice Phillips, Equality, Liberation and Access Officer of the University of Bristol Union (via The Amber Lights)

“I support the right to freedom of speech, but I believe there’s a difference between allowing freedom of speech and condoning the existence of hateful groups on campus” – Alexia Karageorghis, Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology Officer, University of Leicester (via The Ripple)

“SURHUL believes strongly in the right to free speech, but acknowledges that this shouldn’t be at the detriment to the rights of other individuals and groups. Intention to incite hatred is never acceptable” – Students’ Union Royal Holloway, University of London (via SURHUL’s Safe Space Policy)

See also: Q&A with Peter Tatchell, my April 21, 2016 item on NUS “LGBT Officer” Fran Cowling’s accusations of racism and transphobia against renowned British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.


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