By John Ridley
A report published last week by Spiked Online has ranked the University of Sunderland and the Student Union in the highest category for free speech.
The Free Speech University Rankings (FSUR) is the UK’s first-ever nationwide analysis of campus censorship, using traffic light signals to indicate how restrictive free speech is in each university.
The report read: “The University of Sunderland and University of Sunderland Students’ Union create a relatively open environment for free speech.”
The student’s union is ranked Green, which contributes to the University’s overall ranking of a non-intervening attitude to free speech.
The University is ranked alongside Southampton and only 10 other universities.
The report also read: “The University, which has moved to an Amber ranking, places restrictions on ‘offensive remarks’ and religious ‘propaganda’ – but these are relatively minor.”
The full quote from the University’s Religious and Belief Policy states: “Any attempt at coercing others to comply with a particular belief system, for example through distribution of propaganda or through threats or offensive remarks, may result in disciplinary action.”
The FSUR report is a reaction to recent bans by UK Universities, although Sunderland implements no such bans.
One example of censorship highlighted by the report was Northumbria University’s Students Union’s prohibition of the British National Party, the English Defence League and others from speaking at events at their campus.
Guardian contributor Rachel Shabi has discussed the effects of outright banning on BBC News’ The Papers saying: “When you talk to people that are trying to counter radicalisation, one of the things they say is that you can’t drive these conversations underground, because how are you going to challenge them?”
The FSUR report was produced through assessing each University’s policy documents, reports, Freedom of Information requests, and correspondence with Universities and their Student Unions. It is available to read at www.spiked-online.com/free-speech-university-rankings