'Make freedom to offend legal'

March 2, 2007

Support is steadily growing for a proposed new legal definition of "academic freedom" that would give scholars the unfettered right to offend.

A campaign by Academics for Academic Freedom ( www.afaf.org.uk ), launched in the pages of The Times Higher last year, has the backing of 6 academics.

The group wants the law on academic freedom, which guarantees the right to question received wisdom and put forward controversial and unpopular ideas, to offer the "unrestricted liberty" to put forward offensive ideas.

One signatory, Geoffrey Sampson of Sussex University, said: "Free speech on condition that no one could possibly be offended is not free speech".

Steven Popper of Chichester University said: "Ideas should be responded to in terms of their merit, not received wisdom or dogma."

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