Speaking the truth to power 2

May 28, 2009

A right to "absolute" free speech would come at the expense of others' right to exist ("Academics urged to defend free speech without limits", 14 May). It is an inherently regressive idea that privileges supposed limits on the freedom of the powerful above material threats to the safety of minorities.

At my university, supporters of Academics for Academic Freedom used the notion of unqualified free speech as an argument against the "no platform" policy that bars right-wing extremist groups such as the British National Party from students' union platforms. Wherever the BNP gains a foothold, violence against minorities increases, but the straight white men leading the "free speech" campaign boasted that they were "not scared" of the BNP speaking on campus. Members of ethnic minorities, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, and the majority of the student body saw things differently and voted in a referendum to keep "no platform".

Continuing attacks on academic freedom are nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with a Government obsessed with commercialisation. We should not allow the noble cause of academic freedom to be hijacked by this reactionary agenda.

Tom Wills, Second-year international relations student University of Sussex.

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