Cancel culture is a threat to freedom of expression in universities, according to research by Civitas, a British think tank that focuses on issues of social policy and democracy. Like in the US, there has been a rise in cases of students and faculty members getting canceled for expressing unpopular opinions in universities.
According to the researchers, more than 68% of universities in the UK have had cases of severe restrictions of free speech over the last three years. This rise in cancel culture is becoming a barrier to discussing issues such as gender and race.
“Our findings suggest that 86 percent of universities faced either severe or moderate free speech restrictions which need to be addressed,” said Civitas’ lead researcher Jim McConalogue.
“The fundamental issue must be dealt with because students and academics find themselves in educational institutions in which they cannot speak freely of the leading subjects of their day including on race, gender, the outcomes of elections, their views on religion, or on discrimination itself for fear of judgments that lead to eventual penalty or censorship,” McConalogue explained.
The report by Civitas noted that even premier institutions such as Cambridge, Oxford, and St Andrews are in the “red” zone (severe restriction of free speech), particularly due to cases of “no-platforming” of speakers who are deemed by some students to have politically incorrect opinions.
A few weeks ago, some students at Clare College, Cambridge, wanted a city councilor, who works as a porter at the college to get fired because he refused to support a pro-trans motion.
35% of UK universities are in the “red” zone. The researchers warned the situation in these 48 universities is so severe that government legislation might be required to stop censorship. Only 19 universities were in the “green” zone.
For the 70 institutions in the “yellow” zone, Civitas did not recommend government legislation. Instead, it recommended intervention by The Office of Students, the UK universities watchdog.
Cancel culture at universities has become such a big issue that, earlier in the year, the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said removing “no-platforming” was a matter of urgency. He warned that if the trend continued, the government would have to introduce new laws to fight censorship. We won’t hold our breath though.