Oxford University, once a bastion of free thought and contender in the arena of ideas, appears to have changed the meaning of “free speech” to “freedom to shut people up.”
A motion by the Oxford University Student Union to condemn the use of “hateful material” in teaching was passed in Student Council on April 30, according to The Oxford Student.
If experience is any guide, this will enable anyone claiming victim status to control the speech of anyone with whom they disagree.
The meaning of victim status is apparent in the SU policy’s title: “Protection of Transgender, Non-binary, Disabled, Working-class, and Women* Students from Hatred in University Contexts”.
Current University policy on academic free speech protects most academic speech as long as it is within the law. The motion notes that hate speech which is “ableist,” misogynistic, classist or transphobic is not criminalized but believes that the University should amend the relevant policy to “ensure that trans and non-binary people, women, and disabled people receive equivalent protection from hateful speech within University contexts as groups which are protected by the criminal law.”
A committee member of the Student Union’s Disabilities Campaign, who seconded the motion, told The Oxford Student “The SU Disabilities Campaign is very pleased about the support from students for the Academic Hate Speech motion. The University’s current policy towards such issues falls short of protecting many students who are particularly vulnerable to hate speech.”
The motion also directs the SU to push for trigger warnings on reading lists and for lectures, tutorials, and examinations with content deemed unacceptable to be non-compulsory for students. It asserts that arguments based on “free speech policy are inapplicable” when students are “required by the University to listen to the speech in question.”