Cardiff University ranked as “hostile environment for free speech”

Photo credit: John Nakamura Remy via Flickr
This follows movements to ban homophobic speech, banning inappropriate comedians and the sale of controversial newspapers.

By Rimante Bivainyté

The Free Speech University Rankings, launched by online magazine Spiked, has given Cardiff University and Cardiff University Students’ Union a “red ranking” and called it a “hostile environment for free speech”. The statement revealed that the university “restricts offensive speech and operates an outright ban on homophobic speech”, pointing this to the opposition in 2015 to the feminist Germaine Greer delivering a lecture.

In online platforms, students created a petition against this lecture due to the consideration of Greer’s opinion towards transgender people. Greer, at that time, was working on her book on women in power and the history of feminism, and was therefore planning to deliver the speech called “Women and Power: The Lessons of the 20th Century”, which was not expected to touch topics concerned with transgender issues. Hence, the petition was neglected and Greer gave her speech.

According to The Independent, there were at least five police officers and at least 10 university security staff checking tickets and monitoring a crowd of about 25 demonstrators. Moreover, the “red ranking” includes that the university ‘bans sexist speech, tabloid newspapers and, in 2015, banned the comedian Dapper Laughs.’

Three years ago, more than 700 students signed a petition demanding that Dapper Laughs’s tour should not be held at the university’s Students’ Union. David Daniel O’Reilly, better known as Dapper Laughs, is a British stand up comedian who was criticised for being “sexist and inappropriate”. Eventually, the performer was banned after students complained about his show that “trivialised rape, unprotected sex and dehumanising of women.”

A final year student at the time said that it was not appropriate to bring “this kind” of gig to the academic venue, where it would have gone “against our policies”. Furthermore, three years ago the university banned newspapers The Sun and The Daily Star from the Union’s branch of WHSmith. Nevertheless, the deputy editor of Spiked Tom Slater defended the “red ranking” by saying: “One of Cardiff’s policies operates an outright ban on homophobic propaganda in the forms of written materials, graffiti, songs or speeches. Now, I’m sure no-one in this room would think that that kind of viewpoint is acceptable – they would want to challenge it”. The Vice Chancellor Colin Riordan has also defended the institution against the claims of the university being a “hostile environment for free speech”.

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