|With the Prime Minister confirming that hate speech legislation will be put forward to Parliament before next year’s election, it is easy to feel pessimistic about the fight for free speech rights.
But there are glimmers of hope in the political market. Next week, ACT Leader David Seymour will be joining our podcast to discuss his new Parliamentary member’s bill that would make universities and other tertiary education institutions uphold free speech and academic freedom in order to secure taxpayer money.
Mr Seymour’s Education (Freedom of Expression) Amendment Bill would require public tertiary institutions to issue free speech codes of practice and not use “the avoidance of mental harm to students, staff or visitors, as a reason not to comply with the requirement to protect free speech and academic freedom”.
New fight for the ‘Chicago Principles’
You may recall from an earlier update our suggestion to Massey University not to dither over its free speech policy and instead adopt best practice: the Chicago Principles.
The Principles came about after the University of Chicago in 2014 appointed a Committee on Freedom of Expression tasked with drafting a statement “articulating the University’s overarching commitment to free, robust, and uninhibited debate and deliberation among all members of the University’s community.”
The Principles state that a university may only “restrict expression that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the University. In addition, the University may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of the University.”
Now a group of academics have joined us in backing the call for the Principles to be adopted in New Zealand.
A public letter from Dr Michael Johnston
In a letter delivered to Victoria University of Wellington’s Vice Chancellor last week, the University’s Associate Dean of Education Dr Michael Johnson, and three other leading academics, have requested the VC publicly declare a commitment to free speech on his campus and adopt the Chicago Principles.
The letter criticised the decline in free discourse on overseas campuses and, closer to home, Massey University de-platforming Dr Don Brash and a Speak Up for Women spokesperson. The letter is a rejection of cancel culture and the thug’s veto, and made the important point that – until now – few academics in New Zealand have been willing to make: it’s good for students to encounter ideas they don’t like.
Patrick sat down with Dr Johnston to talk about his campaign efforts and threats of schools and tertiary education providers trying to insulate young people from uncomfortable or ‘offensive’ ideas and views. You can listen to the podcast online here, or via iTunes, Spotify etc (just search for “Free Speech Coalition”).
Part-time position available
Patrick Corish, with whom listeners of our podcast will be familiar, has now finished his law degree and begun a graduate role in a law firm. Assuming we have the funds available in the new year, we’d like to hire a new part time student intern or coordinator to ensure the campaign for free speech continues.
Patrick leaves big shoes to fill. He has produced the podcast and ensured the Free Speech Coalition has been prominent in the debate. Most importantly, his leadership kept the committee (who are all volunteers) accountable and on task.
If you, or someone you know, is based in Wellington, is a supporter of the organisation’s objectives to promote and protect free speech, and may be available for 10 to 15 hours/week, please ask them to get in touch.
The fight for free speech is dependent on your support
Free speech isn’t free. You can’t save the world if you can’t keep the lights on! This work is totally reliant on supporters such as yourself chipping into the cause.
Thank you for your support.
p.s. For the fight against hate speech laws, which Andrew Little wants to pass before next year’s general election, we are relying on your support. Click here to make a confidential donation.