A libertarian politician wants to cut funding to universities that don’t protect free speech.
ACT leader David Seymour has announced he has written the Education (Freedom of Expression) Amendment Bill, taking aim at universities that don’t take the right steps to protect freedom of expression on their campuses, something Seymour has accused Massey University of doing by controversially refusing permission for Don Brash to speak at the Manawatū campus last year.
The bill says universities and tertiary education providers could have their funding revoked if they use the potential for mental harm to stop events or speakers on campus. It also says universities must create and uphold a code of practice that protects free speech.
Tertiary institutions are required by s161 of the Education Act 1989 to uphold academic freedom which includes the freedom of staff and students to state controversial and unpopular opinions.
If a university isn’t willing to do this, then it is right for this to have funding implications.
In a statement, Seymour said the risk of mental harm was being used as an excuse to cancel potentially controversial speaking events and universities were abusing their health and safety obligations to “deplatform” speakers.
“Avoiding mental harm to students has now become an excuse for universities to shut down free speech on campus. Students will not become confident, resilient adults if we turn universities into giant creches.”
One could use mental harm as an excuse to quash any controversial speaker.