Uni Sydney adopts free speech code

VC Michael Spence said implementing the Robert French free-speech code at Uni Sydney was “far from straightforward, they worked it out*

The university’s senate has adopted a changed version of its academic freedom charter, in line with the model code of free speech on campus the federal government commissioned from former Chief Justice of Australia Robert French.

The university quotes Mr French endorsing the new charter, calling it “one useful model that may assist other universities and the result is entirely consistent with my hope that the code would provide a non-prescriptive basis for reform in this difficult area.”

Which is good for the university. Education Minister Dan Tehan says he is, “committed to working with the sector to achieve 100 per cent adoption of the code by next year and we will benchmark all responses against the code,” (CMM December 2).

Uni Sydney now states it, “shall not refuse permission for the use of its land or facilities by an external visiting speaker or invited visiting speaker nor attach conditions to its permission, solely on the basis of the content of the proposed speech by the visitor.” Except when a speech, “is or is likely to involve the advancement of theories or propositions which purport to be based on scholarship or research but which fall below scholarly standards to such an extent as to be detrimental to the university’s character as an institution of higher learning.”

The university also sets out a protection for people expressing unpopular opinions. The charter’s definition of the university’s, “duty to foster the wellbeing of staff and students,” “does not extend to a duty to protect any person from feeling offended or shocked or insulted by the lawful speech of another.”

* CMM July 30


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