Lincoln receives ‘red’ status for freedom of speech in new report

The University of Lincoln and the Students’ Union have been given an overall ‘red’ status for freedom of expression in this year’s Free Speech University Rankings.

Compiled by the online magazine Spiked, the report rates universities on freedom of speech, awarding them ‘red’, ‘amber’ or ‘green’ status.

‘Red’ means a university ‘has banned and actively censored ideas on campus’, while ‘green’ means they have ‘a hands-off approach to free speech’.

The University of Lincoln received ‘amber’ status for its code of practice on freedom of speech, but combined with the SU’s policies, Lincoln was given ‘red’ status as an institution.

In the report on Spiked’s website, it says: “The University of Lincoln and the University of Lincoln’s Students’ Union collectively create an environment that is hostile to free speech.

“The university, which has maintained its Amber ranking, restricts ‘offensive’ speech. The students’ union, which has maintained its red ranking, has a No Platform policy, banning racists and fascists; an Equal Opportunities policy, restricting offensive speech; and a Safe Space policy, which means controversial speakers can be ejected if any complaint is made against them.

“The institution’s overall ranking remains red,” it said.

This is the second year in a row Lincoln has been given the ‘red’ rating after falling from ‘amber’ the year before.

In response to the report, the Students’ Union said their policies and procedures are in line with the Charity Commission regulations and guidance, and are in place to comply with the law.

They said: “Any issues which may be linked to freedom of speech – such as racism, fascism and other areas which fall under this category – before they have any policy enacted, will be raised by students.

“The issues will then progress to All Student Members Meetings to be discussed, and voted on. All policies are student-led and voted on by students.

“For students wishing to make any comments on existing policies we also encourage the use of the SUggestions platform.”

The SU also went on to explain the specific policies, saying:

  • The External Speakers Policy has been put in place by charity guidance to ensure that we comply with the law. Since the policy has been put in place, we have not prevented anyone speaking within the Students’ Union – providing the form has been signed.
  • It is also a legal requirement that we must have an Equal Opportunities Policy, and that the Students’ Union adheres to this.
  • The policy on Initiations is a regulation that must be adhered to if we wish to participate in BUCS, which we do participate in and is a large part of a sporting offer.
  • The Safe Space Policy and No Platform are both student-raised issues along with the banning of Yik Yak. In each instance a student has raised this as an issue, brought it to the Students’ Union’s attention and then [it has been] voted on by other students.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson from the University of Lincoln said it is “committed to the principle of free speech exercised responsibly within the law in all its activities”.

They said: “The right to think and speak freely and to explore ideas is fundamental to the idea of a university and protected by law.

“Upholding academic freedom and respecting the views of others are joint commitments shared by all members of the University and we have a clear Code of Practice on the Freedom of Speech, which is designed to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for all staff, students and visiting speakers.”

The full results from Spiked’s Free Speech University Rankings can be viewed on their website.