Home | News | The fight for free speech: what it means for universities seminar – 21 November 2018

The fight for free speech: what it means for universities seminar – 21 November 2018

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.


CLICK HERE to register.


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.



Sharon Bell, Deputy Vice Chancellor Strategy and Planning at Western Sydney University and Honorary Professor at the Australian National University

Academic freedom and cultures of compliance

Professor Sharon Bell is an academic leader with over twenty-five years of leadership experience in the Australian higher education sector. Professor Bell holds a PhD from the University of Sydney in Anthropology and began her career as an ethnographic filmmaker at Film Australia and subsequently became Head of Studies at the Australian Film Television and Radio School. Professor Bell is a regular contributor to the Higher Education supplement of The Australian and also to The Conversation. Her commentary focuses on higher education policy and equity in the higher education sector. She is also an Emeritus Professor at the University of Wollongong.


Marguerite Johnson, Professor of Classics at 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.


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.


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.


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.




DATE: 21 November 2018

TIME: 9.00am to 4.30pm

LOCATION: Campus Review head office, Surry Hills NSW

COST: $495.00


Do you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the top stories in our weekly newsletter Sign up now

One comment

  1. “Free speech”; as the quip summarising economics goes ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’! Discussing free free speech as commercial opportunity. So free speech is for those with resources.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


To continue onto Campus Review, please select your institution.