University of Northampton defends its policy on freedom of speech on campus

The University of Northampton, Park Campus, Boughton Green Road, Northampton. NNL-150427-173812009

The University of Northampton, Park Campus, Boughton Green Road, Northampton. NNL-150427-173812009

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The University of Northampton has defended its record on free speech after it was accused of censoring ideas on campus by an online magazine.

In its latest Free Speech University Rankings (FSUR), Spiked has rated the town’s university and its Student’s Union as “hostile to free speech”.

The magazine cites the university’s ban on payday loan adverts and ‘no platform’ policy for fascists, racists and extremists on campus as examples of its lack of freedom of speech.

In response, a spokesperson for the university said it supports debates on all issues but does not tolerate any “offensive or extremist activity.”

The spokesperson said: “The University of Northampton is open to free speech and free expression and doesn’t mandate explicit restrictions or ban specific ideologies, political affirmations, beliefs, books, speakers or words, unless they could be deemed to be explicitly offensive, discriminative or extremist.

“We support and embrace constructive debates on all issues. However, we do not tolerate any offensive or extremist activity and we have policies and procedures in place to ensure our staff and students are free from bullying, intimidation, victimisation and discrimination.”

In a blog, student;s union president Victor Agboola said students were free to debate controversial topics but said the university’s Equality and Diversity policy was used to protect students from bullying.

He said: “The Students’ Union and University welcome students of all backgrounds and believe first and foremost that this institution that so many call their home every year should be an environment in which they can feel safe and supported, able to work with dignity and the respect of their fellows to grow, develop and become the best possible version of themselves.

“Putting aside any requirement of the 2010 Equality Act, if this commitment earns us a red ranking from Spiked, so be it – freedom of speech is not a license to bully, discriminate or abuse another person.”