Last January, my anonymous professor friend at the University of Texas proposed the creation of an Office of Free Speech:
[E]very university should have an “Office of Free Speech” where faculty can lodge complaints when their academic freedom or free speech rights are violated, or when policies are put in place to limit the possibilities for intellectual diversity. This office must have adequate funding to complete independent investigations of such allegations, and it should report directly to the highest authority governing the university, either the board of trustees or regents for most private universities or the regents or state legislature for public universities. These investigations must have teeth; attacking academic freedom (not simply criticizing speech with speech) cannot be allowed to stand as acceptable behavior for administrators, faculty, or students. The same sorts of consequences available for other offenses should be applied to those who use their position at the university to deprive others of their institutional or constitutional rights.
Now he points out that the UK is trying something like his proposal:
The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill will bring in new measures that will require universities and colleges registered with the Office for Students to defend free speech and help stamp out unlawful ‘silencing’.
For the first time, these legal duties will also be extended to students’ unions, which, under the measures in the Bill, will have to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure lawful freedom of speech.
This delivers on a manifesto commitment to strengthen academic freedom and free speech in higher education and will help protect the reputation of our universities as centres of academic freedom. Universities, colleges and students’ unions that breach these duties may face sanctions, including fines…
A new Director for Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom will sit on the board of the Office for Students, with responsibility for investigations of breaches of the new freedom of speech duties, including a new complaints scheme for students, staff and visiting speakers who have suffered loss due to a breach.
I say there’s a 97% this is just a coincidence. What say you?