It appears some worrying trends from US universities have found their way to Australian shores.
Foremost amongst these trends is a growing hostility towards free speech on Australian university campuses.
As a recent report has discovered, only eight of Australia’s 42 universities have an explicit policy that protects intellectual freedom.
Increasingly, these policies are being forced out and are replaced with speech codes.
Speech codes define what can and can’t be said on campus.
It’s absurd to police someone’s tone of voice
Here are a few shocking examples of what this means in practice:
The University of Queensland’s Discrimination and Harassment policy, Western Sydney University’s Bullying Prevention Guidelines, and Charles Sturt University’s Anti-Racism Policy forbid ‘sarcasm’.
Yeah great idea guys, real great idea to ban sarcasm.
Comments like this would be thrown out, and subject to sanction in Orwellian style.
It is simply absurd to police the tone of people’s voices.
Monash University has started introducing the notorious trigger warning into its course guides.
Perhaps most worrying is La Trobe University’s speech code which defines bullying as including ‘unintentional offence’ and students must not use language that causes ‘emotional injury’.
The problem that this creates is that there is no longer an objective standard by which to judge people’s language.
This is generally understood by most to be the concept of common decency.
When you try to regulate the subtle norms of language however, you end up with some dire consequences.
Universities shouldn’t be silencing individuals
People, particularly people who have political opinions that don’t fit the university mould, will be increasingly silenced.
For fear of causing unintentional offence, and being punished, they will simply stay quiet.
This is entirely the opposite of what universities should be doing.
Universities should be preparing their students for the outside world, a world where they will inevitably encounter opinions that are not to their liking.
There will be no administrators in the outside world to filter out unwanted opinions, and students will need to argue their positions based on reason rather than emotion.
Recently at the University of Sydney, a conservative students club was required to pay costly security fees because of a fear that a speaker was too controversial.
Naturally, an outraged group of students tried to disrupt the event.
This is not how a university should operate, and policies that inhibit free speech and intellectual freedom need to be abolished.
It is more than just a need for students to have thick skin, it is about giving them the best education possible.
An education where they are challenged to defend their views in a civil way — not a shouting match.
For this reason, Australian universities need explicit free speech policies.
Otherwise we won’t just lose one of our most basic rights, we will lose a generation of talented minds to a coddled worldview.
By Lachlann Tierney
Free Report: Australia’s right to free speech is under attack! Discover how a select group of Australians want to stifle your fundamental right to speak your mind — and what you can do help turn the tide.