Freedom of Speech Policy

Free speech is the lifeblood of a university. It enables the pursuit of knowledge. It helps us approach truth. It allows students, teachers and researchers to become better acquainted with the variety of beliefs, theories and opinions in the world. Recognising the vital importance of free expression for the life of the mind, a university may make rules concerning the conduct of debate but should never prevent speech that is lawful.

Inevitably, this will mean that members of the University/College are confronted with views that some find unsettling, extreme or offensive. The University/College must therefore foster freedom of expression within a framework of robust civility. Not all theories deserve equal respect. A university values expertise and intellectual achievement as well as openness. But, within the bounds set by law, all voices or views which any member of our community considers relevant should be given the chance of a hearing. Wherever possible, they should also be exposed to evidence, questioning and argument. As an integral part of this commitment to freedom of expression, we will take steps to ensure that all such exchanges happen peacefully. With appropriate regulation of the time, place and manner of events, neither speakers nor listeners should have any reasonable grounds to feel intimidated or censored.

It is this understanding of the central importance and specific roles of free speech in a university that underlies the detailed procedures of the University of Oxford/Wolfson College, laid out below.


College policy on Freedom of Speech

The College is committed to ensuring freedom of speech within the law. Members, students and employees of Wolfson College must conduct themselves so as to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the College, and for visiting speakers.

The College agrees to the following principles governing Freedom of Speech on its premises and at its events:

  • All speakers and audience members alike are reminded of their responsibility to observe the College's policy on harassment.
  • In any case where the College is proposing to grant permission to an outside organisation or group to hold meetings or events on College premises, the outside organisation or group shall be required to act in accordance with the College Code of Practice on Meetings and Events. 
  • If an event is likely to cause security concerns, the President reserves the right to relocate that event to premises where the safety of all participants can be properly provided for.
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Annual Berlin Lecture 2020
Thursday 21 May - 6:00pm to 7:00pm

*THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED BY THE ORGANISER*

Further details including title and abstract to follow. Launched in 1990 to celebrate the 80th birthday of the College's Founding President, Sir Isaiah Berlin, the Berlin Lecture is in his own field of study, the history of ideas. Each Trinity Term, we welcome speakers of the stature of Professor Amartya Sen, Professor Roy Foster, Professor Timothy Garton Ash, Michael Ignatieff and Baroness Helena Kennedy.