Regulation Governing Freedom of Speech
Free speech is fundamental to the role of universities as places where the boundaries of knowledge are broken. In the fulfilment of its obligations to educate, enlighten and innovate, the University of Warwick is strongly committed to providing an environment in which not only views and ideas which are well received are expressed, but also an environment in which conflicting and controversial views can be brought forward, listened to and challenged.
This Code of Practice (“the Code”) is issued by the Council in pursuance of its duties as laid down in Section 43 of the Education (No.2) Act 1986, with a view to providing such safeguards as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the University, and for visiting speakers.
(1) Principles to support Freedom of Speech
(a) The University will put in place mechanisms to ensure freedom of speech within the law.
(b) In accordance with the Education (No.2) Act 1986 s.43(2),so far as is reasonably practicable, and within the bounds of the law, no premises of the University shall be denied to any individual or body of persons wishing to use them for meetings on any grounds connected with:
(i) the beliefs or views of that individual or of that body; or
(ii) the policy or objectives of that body.
(a) An event, as defined for the purpose of this code, refers to any gathering of staff, students, or to visiting speakers in relation to the University’s core purpose and activities or for any purpose which is not part of the academic curriculum or official business of the University. Such gatherings include, but are not limited to:
(i) meetings, talks, debates or workshops arranged internally or externally
(ii) demonstrations and marches
(b) The principles set out in this Code will apply to:
(i) events taking place on any property which the University owns, holds a lease or habitually uses by licence or permission.
(ii) events taking place outside of such property as listed in 2(bi) which are University organised, affiliated, funded or branded; including events organised by individuals, groups or societies using the University’s name or resources. The University brand can only be used in any event with the express permission of the University.
(iii) events taking place online, via mobile technology, or via other audio-visual technology which are University organised, affiliated, funded or branded; including those organised by individuals, groups or societies or online communities using the University’s name or resources. These include but are not limited to: webinars, online discussion forums and social networking (the University’s Social Media Policy, as updated from time to time, provides further guidance in this regard).
(3) Freedom of Speech with the Law
(a) The University is required to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech is secured within the law. Freedom of speech is not therefore an absolute right, and there is no requirement to provide a platform for speech which amounts to a breach of the law, for example: speech which is defamatory or in contempt of court, or which constitutes an incitement to violence or terrorism (or glorification or encouragement of acts of terrorism) or incitement to religious or racial hatred, or harassment under the Equality Act 2010 (or other legislation as amended from time to time).
The University also has a statutory duty under the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 s.26(1), when exercising its functions to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism (the “Prevent Duty”).
(b) The University must always adhere to its obligations under law and will not tolerate any unlawful acts against its people, community, property or the institution itself, whether through speech or physical action. A speaker who, for example, engages in any conduct outlined in point (3)(a) above, will be deemed to have transgressed the bounds of lawful speech. Equally, assemblies of persons, even if directed to lawful purposes, cease to be lawful if they cause serious public disorder or breach of the peace.
(c) The University reserves the right to take advice from external bodies on the appropriate and reasonable assessment and mitigation of risks related to any speakers.
(4) Dignity at Warwick
(a) The University is a vibrant and diverse community, where debate and challenge are encouraged in line with its core values of providing a space for the discussion of difficult topics. The University’s commitment to ensuring a working, learning and living environment in which all University members and visitors are treated fairly and with dignity, respect and tolerance, is exemplified by the Dignity at Warwick policy (see section 5(i) below). Individuals should be mindful of their obligations with regard to behaving in a way that respects the rights and dignity of others, when articulating views.
(b) The University will not permit gender segregation except for the purposes of collective religious worship.
(5) Ensuring a Secure Environment
(a) The University is committed to ensuring a welcoming and secure environment for its staff, students and visiting speakers. Where the University is in any doubt about the personal safety of any person present at an event, it is obliged to exercise caution and ensure that an appropriate assessment of the risks is carried out. The University reserves the right to impose conditions on an event in order to mitigate any identified risks, or to refuse permission for the event to proceed should it determine that any identified risks cannot be appropriately and reasonably mitigated. Policies and procedures relating to risk assessment and event or speaker authorisation are set out in section 6(ii) and 6(iii) below.
(b) Any event where there is a strong likelihood that the speaker or attendees may not be able to enter or leave the building safely and/or have the freedom within the law to deliver the speech will also be deemed to fall within the requirements of this Code.
(c) Encouragement of terrorism and inviting support for a proscribed terrorist organisation are both criminal offences. Further, statutory Guidance published under the legislation imposing the Prevent Duty states that when deciding whether to host a particular speaker, the University should consider carefully whether the views being expressed, or likely to be expressed, constitute extremist views that risk drawing people into terrorism or are shared by terrorist groups. Should such concerns arise, the statutory Guidance states that the University should be “entirely convinced that such risks can be mitigated” (Prevent Duty Guidance: for higher education institutions in England and Wales (2015), paragraphs 10 & 11), for example, through such views being challenged by speakers with opposing views as part of the same event. Where the University is in any doubt that such risks cannot be fully mitigated, the statutory Guidance states that the University should exercise caution and not allow the event to proceed. Policies and procedures relating to risk assessment and event or speaker authorisation are set out in section 6(ii) and 6(iii) below.
(d) According to the statutory Guidance and for the purposes of this Code “extremism” is defined as meaning vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect, and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. It also includes the call for the death of members of the armed forces.
(6) Supporting Procedures
This Code is supported by the following policies and procedures to enable all members of the University and its visitors to exercise freedom of speech whilst being respectful of the diversity of views in the wider community, ensuring a welcoming and secure environment for all, and remaining within the bounds of the law:
(i) Dignity at Warwick – The University expects all members of its community and its visitors to behave in a way that respects the rights and dignity of others, and to value differences in others and the contribution they make to the working, learning and living environment. The Dignity at Warwick Policy sets out the responsibilities of individual members of the University community in this regard, and outlines the procedures for dealing with potential breaches of the policy.
(ii) External Speakers Procedures – In order to discharge its duties under the Education (No.2) Act 1986, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Prevent Duty, the University is required to conduct a risk assessment in respect of events on campus, and external speakers invited to speak on University premises or at University organised, affiliated, branded or funded events off campus; in particular to ensure that the exercise of free speech remains within the law. The following approval procedures apply to the events involving external speakers encompassed by this obligation:
- Procedures for the Approval of External Speakers for Students’ Union, Student-Led, and Institutional Level Events (including, but not limited to: talks, debates, workshops and training organised by a central University department; the Students’ Union or an official Students’ Union society; or independently by students).
- Procedures for the Approval of External Speakers for Academic Departmental Events (including, but not limited to: timetabled or extracurricular teaching, learning and research activity; public lecture programmes; and academic conferences and seminars).
- Procedures for the Approval of Speakers at Conferences held on University Premises (including, but not limited to external, commercially-organised conferences, workshops and training events held in venues managed by Warwick Conferences).
(iii) Terms and Conditions of Room Usage - The duties laid upon the University under Section 43 of the Education (No.2) Act 1986, the Charities Acts and the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015, apply to any authorised meetings or gatherings held on University property. The Terms and Conditions of Room Usage govern the booking of centrally-timetabled teaching rooms for such authorised events.
(iv) Guidelines on the use of the University Brand – Where individuals, groups or societies are speaking or holding an event in the University’s name, whether on or outside of University premises or in the virtual environment, the guidelines for the use of the University brand must be adhered to.
(v) Any student or member of staff found to be in breach of this Code may face disciplinary action under the relevant University procedure.
(7) Review and Amendment of the Code
The University has a duty under s43(3) of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 to issue and keep up to date a Code of Practice on Freedom of Speech. The Council will receive a report from the Senate on the operation of the Code, together with any recommendations for its revision, at intervals not exceeding 3 years.