A report penned by a think tank has flagged Cambridge University as hostile to free speech, barely a week after the prestigious UK university received accolades for pledging a new tolerance within its halls for all viewpoints.
The institution was ranked among the worst UK universities for free speech by the London-based Institute for the Study of Civil Society, known as Civitas. The think tank’s Free Speech University Rankings (FSUR) listed Cambridge as one of 48 other universities, including Oxford, as “most restrictive” when it comes to free expression.
Civitas analysed over three years of campus censorship between 2017 and 2020 on 137 different UK campuses, assessing a number of variables, including to what degree student societies discourage free speech, as well as how speech codes and harassment policies may restrict open debate. Of the surveyed institutions, 35 percent were given the “most restrictive” designation in regards to free speech, while only 14 percent were deemed “mostly friendly” to an open marketplace of ideas.
The think tank cited the rise of “cancel culture” as a driving factor behind growing hostility towards the free exchange of views. Among other worrying trends, it found that many UK universities use “perceived transphobic episodes” to justify censorship.
In free-speech-stifling examples specific to Cambridge, Civitas noted a number of controversies, including an incident earlier this year in which students demanded that a commemorative window in honor of eugenicist Sir Ronald Fisher be removed. Gonville and Caius, one of the university’s oldest colleges, eventually relented in the face of the student campaign.
Ironically, Cambridge received widespread praise last week, after it voted to encourage “tolerance” rather than “respect” for all viewpoints. The amendment to the university’s ‘Statement on Freedom of Speech’ was seen by many as a victory against ‘woke’ activism in academia.
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