Protest Liaison should be considered a critical function in managing demonstrations and activism on campus and is intended to contribute to ensuring compliance with the Act.
Protest and Activism: Legislation, Engagement & Liaison Training
The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act 2023 will come into force in late summer of 2024 across England and will apply to higher education providers registered with the Office for Students (OfS).
In summary, the Act introduces a number of requirements in relation to freedom of speech on campus and academic freedom. The Act requires a Code of Practice to be created and for a complaints system to be developed. In this regard, the OfS is consulting on regulations and guidance for campuses and relevant students’ unions about their free speech duties.
Lord Justice Sedley during (Redmond-Bate V DPP 2000) said: “Free speech includes not only the inoffensive, but the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, unwelcome and the provocative provided it does not tend to promote violence”. “Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having”.
What do we mean by Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom?
Freedom of speech means everyone has the right to express lawful views and opinions freely, in speech or in writing, without interference. e.g., a guest speaker attending a debate etc can express lawful views freely.
Academic freedom means protecting the intellectual independence of academics to question and test received views and wisdom, and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions without placing themselves in danger of losing their jobs or privileges or reducing the likelihood of them securing promotion or different roles at the university. I think this was quite well summed up by Earl Home when concluding a debate in the UK House of Lords as the legislation progressed through parliament. He said: “We wish universities to be thriving, autonomous centres of free thought, free speech and free debate …”
We have all witnessed the rise in protest and activism across society and higher education campuses and read of challenges to academic freedom over a wide range of issues. On occasions, this has resulted in the destruction of the right to express and explore ideas, opinions, and beliefs because others consider them controversial. This has and can lead to conflict on campus.
This is where Negotiated Resolutions can help.
NegotiatedResolutions.com is developing a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) accredited course to deliver Protest Liaison Training open to higher education institutions and student unions. Protest Liaison should be considered a critical function in managing demonstrations and activism on campus and is intended to contribute to ensuring compliance with the Act.
In order to engage with protesters or activist groups we must develop resilience. We must not be overly sensitive to language used or opinions held, provided they are lawful, which allows us to reduce our vulnerability to:
Unfavourable or alternative views.
Only when individuals or groups feel that they have been heard and their position is understood does the opportunity arise for them to become open to the perspective of others.
Our course will address a wide range of issues including:
Engagement and Communication,
Negotiation, and influence.
While the OfS guidance is being consulted upon and drafted, now is the time for institutions of higher education to carry out a comprehensive review of their policies and procedures, identify any areas of weakness, and secure advice and training that can help deliver a safe, inclusive and questioning place of learning, exploration and freedom of speech and thought we should all wish for.
If you wish further information, please contact us directly to discuss your needs. We can ensure your Protest Liaison needs are met and signpost other providers' skilled in security guidance, and threat monitoring and analysis. RMR Limited | Risk Management
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