Prohibition on Free Speech Activities on Australian University Campuses

As published in The Australian, according to the “Free Speech on Campus Audit, 2017”, conducted by the Institute of Public Affairs, it has been found that a large number of universities in Australia restrict freedom of speech on campuses. Most of the institutions have introduced policies and guidelines that restrict students from engaging in conversation or making comments that may appear to be “insulting” and “unwelcoming” and telling jokes that are “offensive”. Reportedly, involving in sarcasm has also been restricted in some cases.

As per an analysis made by IPA, it has been revealed that eighty one percent of forty two universities in Australia have gone against free speech within the university premises. This has occurred as a consequence of prohibition guidelines and policies drafted by the students or the administrative heads.

Prohibition on Free Speech

As per report, another potential count of seventeen percent of the universities in the country is said to be implementing regulations that could suppress free speech among students. It has been found that there’s only one university in Australia (University of New England), situated in Armidale which is supporting freedom of speech on university campuses actively. The institution is also one of those universities that support intellectual freedom.

If we are to talk about the universities that are against free speech on campuses, the University of Sydney is said to be the most actively involved one. The institution has acquired top rank in this matter with a score of 36. The next one nearest to this rank is Charles Sturt University, followed by James Cook and Monash University. It is said that the factors that have contributed to the University of Sydney’s free speech hostility ranking are the censorship scandals, and other actions led by students.

Matthew Lesh (an IPA research fellow) conducted an audit to find out that most of the university students are prohibited from engaging in free speech activities within the university premise than what they could engage in beyond the campus. The research fellow has referred to the Racial Discrimination Act that holds a person unlawful for engaging in activities that reasonably intimidate, offend, humiliate or insult another person or community in terms of ethnicity and race.

Matthew added that the University regulations and policies have caused a “chilling effect” on freedom of speech. It’s not possible to debate ideas and share thoughts without potentially hurting someone’s feelings or causing offence.

The audit has also revealed that most of the Universities in Australia are not being able to meet their legal duties and obligations, as per the Higher Education Support Act 2003. It has also been stated that the Australian Universities have several policies and regulations on almost everything, but lack having policies that can protect their ‘Free’ intellectual inquiry and fundamental purpose.

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