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The fight for free speech: what it means for universities

APN Educational Media

Wednesday, 21 November 2018 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm (AEDT)

The fight for free speech: what it means for...

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Ticket Type Sales End Price * Fee Quantity
Early Bird Ticket 31/10/2018 $295.00 $0.00
Standard Ticket Not Started $395.00 $0.00
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Event Details

Universities are the guardians of robust debate.


However, questions about the roles and responsibilities of universities in providing a forum for open debate are repeatedly being raised.

  • Are universities in Australia adequately equipped to protect free speech?
  • Are existing university speech policies sufficiently robust?
  • Should you be reviewing your university speech policies?
  • Do we need clearer rules to protect free speech and open debate at universities?

These questions and more will be addressed in this seminar, hosted by Campus Review.

The seminar will include debate on the philosophical issues surrounding freedom of speech on campus as well as the legal principles behind regulation and conduct.


Who should attend: VCs, policy and governance professionals, university legal counsels, university in house counsel.


The seminar will be held in a purpose-designed venue at Campus Review‘s head office in Surry Hills, Sydney.

Speaker line-up:

Richard Fisher AM, general counsel, The University of Sydney

What are universities’ obligations and restrictions for freedom of speech?

Richard’s presentation will investigate charters of academic freedom, enterprise agreements (to the extent that they contain provisions expressly protecting intellectual freedom), and the concept that academics are members of a community whose relationship with the university is not purely contractual. Constraints on freedom of speech, such as codes of conduct, limitations on both the use of a connection with the university when making public comment, and the use of the university’s IT resources, will also be explored. Richard will also consider the extent to which the policies of a university are calculated to protect the exercise of academic freedom.


Matthew Lesh, research fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs

IPA Campus Audit: a postscript to what happened next

Speech codes. Safe spaces. Trigger warnings. Violent protests. Venue cancellations. What is happening on campus and how can we fix it? Matthew will refer to the Free Speech On Campus Audit – a systematic analysis of over 165 policies and actions at Australia's 42 universities – which has found that universities are failing to uphold their legal and moral duty to protect free intellectual inquiry. This, he believes, is seriously hampering the discovery of truth and student development, which requires debate and challenge, and impacting on the future of Australian society, which depends on tolerance and openness to debate.

Sharon Bell, deputy vice chancellor Strategy and Planning, Western Sydney University, and honorary professor, Australian National University

Academic freedom and cultures of compliance

Academic freedom is seen as a fundamental value that enables the academy to transparently articulate and test ideas, concepts and claims to expertise. It also enables members of the academy to present considered and informed points of view to inform public debate and to engage in critique based on rigour and evidence. Sharon will address the fact that while it is assumed universities share a common understanding of the concept of academic freedom and its limits, contemporary Australian universities are large and complex organisations, so we can’t assume all parts of a university share a common culture. The impact of internal cultural differences, and attendant expectations, is writ large as cultures of audit and compliance permeate every facet of our 'ways of being'.

David Baker, lecturer in Big History, Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations, Macquarie University 

Are universities failing freedom of speech?

David’s presentation will explore the relationship between free speech and what makes universities respected, successful and a net benefit to Australian society at three levels: the student, the academic and the administrator. Instead of lamenting the pedagogical and philosophical problems of 21st century education that are inhibiting the free exploration of ideas (and potentially diminishing the value of a university degree), David’s session will focus on solutions that could revive and amplify what makes universities so valuable to society in the first place. David will argue that we must reconsider the role of university lecturers and researchers as purveyors of knowledge to the public and future generations they serve.

Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon, director of litigation, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

An international perspective – the formation and application of speech codes

Marieke will discuss the development and use of speech codes on university and college campuses in the US, including the origins of speech codes and their increasing use by institutions of higher education since the 1960s. She will cover how such policies have been handled by the courts and how they are most frequently employed on US campuses today. She hopes to engage in a discussion with the audience on parallels or differences between the US and Australian experiences.

Marguerite Johnson, Professor of Classics, The University of Newcastle

Trigger warnings in Australian Universities – walking the fine line between student care and institutional surveillance

Drawing on her own teaching experience, Marguerite will discuss the increase in calls to more closely monitor course content and its delivery as an example of academic freedom that promotes open intellectual dialogue and provides her and other academics with the freedom to devise their own courses and content. She will also investigate the social and educational trends that could lead to these freedoms being removed at the risk of free speech, and intellectual and pedagogical integrity and authenticity. She will also point out that by acknowledging the fine line between student care and institutional surveillance we should be conscious of a current rhetorical strategy characterised by a prudish, censorious voice on the one hand, and the somewhat deafening voice of identity politics on the other.

DATE: 21st November 2018

TIME: 9.00am to 4.30pm

LOCATION: APN Educational Media head office, Surry Hills NSW


Have questions about The fight for free speech: what it means for universities? Contact APN Educational Media

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APN Educational Media

Surry Hills, NSW 2010

Wednesday, 21 November 2018 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm (AEDT)

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