The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

Cambridge University Has "Strongly Rejected Guidelines Requiring Opinions to Be 'Respectful'"


The BBC (Sean Coughlan) reports:

The proposed rules would have required staff, students and visiting speakers to remain "respectful" of the views and "identities" of others.

But there were claims this would block controversial ideas and debates.

The university's governing body, the Regent House, has voted by a big majority in support of amendments [to the proposed rules] from those worried about a threat to academic freedom, introducing a commitment to "tolerance" rather than "respect"….

Professor Ross Anderson [one of the critics of the initial proposals] argued that requiring "respect" would undermine the "freedom to question", with academics being afraid to examine controversial views in case they were reported for being disrespectful to the opinions of others.

"It's our duty to tolerate colleagues even when they say things that we consider foolish, when we find their views offensive we should point that out politely. We should not be running to the vice chancellor asking him to censor them," said Prof Anderson.

The actor Stephen Fry was among those worried about the threat to free speech—saying calls for "respect" might have been well-intentioned, but people could not "demand" that their views would always be respected by others.

Thanks to the Media Law Resource Center MediaLawDaily for the pointer.