We survey British universities, examining the policies and actions of universities and students’ unions, and rank them using our traffic-light system.
Traffic-light ranking system:
has banned and actively censored ideas on campus
has chilled free speech through intervention
has a hands-off approach to free speech
Birkbeck University and Birkbeck Students' Union collectively create a hostile environment for free speech. The university, which has maintained its Amber ranking, includes ‘remarks, gossip or jokes’ in its definition of harassment. The students’ union, which has maintained its Red ranking, holds a No Platform policy, banning racists and fascists; restricts ‘offensive’ sexual speech; and has backed an academic boycott of Israeli universities. The institution’s overall ranking remains Red.
The university - AMBER
The students’ union - RED
External Speakers Protocol
Possible reasons for blocking an external speaker include if the ‘contents of their materials is likely to elicit a negative/distressed response from the membership, Birkbeck College or the general public’.
Zero Tolerance to Sexual Harassment
Definition of sexual harassment includes ‘wolf-whistling, catcalling or offensive sexual noises’.
No Fascists in Our Union
Resolves: ‘To give fascists no platform in our union.’
Union Procedures and Societies Handbook
‘Any speaker who is likely to be offensive, controversial or cause alarm must be disclosed with full details to the SU manager and trustee responsible for clubs and societies portfolio at the time of requesting a room booking; and the students’ union retains the right to withdraw an invitation to attend any event at any time that has been extended to an external person – whether they are speaking or not.’
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)
Resolves: ‘To work with BRICUP and lobby institutions to adopt academic boycott of Israeli universities.'