This long read from Robert Simpson, Associate Professor of Philosophy at University College London, looks at the relationship between freedom of speech, academic freedom and their alignment with equality, diversity and inclusion in UK higher education institutions.
This is an extract from the introduction, you can download the full piece below.
'Can universities become more egalitarian institutions while maintaining a serious commitment to free speech? Does academic freedom inevitably lead to the exclusion of students and staff from oppressed groups? More generally, is there a fundamental conflict between these two sets of ethical ideals in the higher education (HE) sector – between Academic Freedom and Free Speech (AFFS), on one hand, and Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), on the other?
Discussion of these issues today often takes place in the context of turbulent culture wars. I do not want to dismiss the concerns that drive those conflicts. But I want to try to step back and examine our two sets of ideals in a more conciliatory spirit. I’m going to offer a more optimistic perspective on how the values behind these conflicts are related to each other.
I will argue that these two sets of ideals, AFFS and EDI, are not opposed in any fundamental way. On the contrary, I want to show how they are aligned. When I say they are aligned what I mean is that there is a shared ethical foundation that underpins our commitment to them. The questions “why should universities protect Academic Freedom and Free Speech?”, and “why should universities promote Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion?”, can be given a unified answer.'