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Student midwife speaks out against censorship on campus
Topic | Free Speech
Are universities stifling students’ views? Midwifery student Julia Rynkiewicz believes so, and her now settled case provides one such example. Rynkiewicz served as president of “Nottingham Students for Life”, a pro-life student society that was initially denied affiliation by Nottingham University’s Students’ Union.
Concerns around Rynkiewicz’s fitness to practise centered on material available at the society’s freshers’ fair stall, as well as her public association with the society. She faced a suspension and four-month fitness-to-practice investigation, disrupting her education. In the wake of the Fitness to Practise panel dismissing all allegations against her, she knew that she was unfairly targeted for her beliefs.
ADF UK was able to support Julia in securing justice, with the university issuing an apology and a settlement in 2020 as a result of the way it had treated her. Yet, our nationwide polling showed that she was not the only student to be impacted by the growing culture of censorship:
- 2 in 5 students fear that lecturers will treat them differently if they express their true opinions on important issues.
- Over a third feel their careers would be adversely affected if they express their views.
- 40% stated that views held by speakers, and pressure from other student groups, has led more frequently to cancellation of events.
We knew something had to be done. So, in light of the inclusion of protecting free speech on campus in the governing party’s election manifesto, we penned a letter to Boris Johnson. We reminded him that “freedom of speech is one of our most precious rights”, and asked for concrete steps to be taken, including the publication of clear government guidance on free speech at university, and the introduction of comprehensive free speech protection training for all university staff and student representatives. Over 30,000 supporters have already joined our efforts by adding their signatures on www.protectfreespeech.uk
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