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Cambridge University students host free-speech event for silenced academics

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 08/03/2021 Ewan Somerville
a bridge over a river in a city: Cambridge University (King's College Chapel)  © Provided by The Telegraph Cambridge University (King's College Chapel) 

Cambridge University students are to host Britain’s first "replatforming" event for speakers who have previously been silenced for their views.

Feminist professors and researchers who have been disinvited from events after being accused of transphobia will give lectures at the Replatforming Deplatformed Women conference.

The group will address the “free speech crisis”, in which their peers have "shut down" anti-woke views.

The frequent deplatforming of academics prompted the Government to propose free speech laws last month to tackle “rising intolerance” on campuses.

The conference includes Oxford historian Prof Selina Todd, whose invita- tion to a feminist debate was rescinded under pressure from trans activists, and Jo Phoenix, a criminology professor whose trans rights lecture at Essex Uni- versity was cancelled amid protests.

The artist Rachel Ara will also speak, after her lecture at Oxford Brookes Uni- versity was axed when students claimed she “shares transphobic discourse”.

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Prof Kathleen Stock, of Sussex University, and Maya Forstater, the researcher sacked over allegedly transphobic tweets, also feature.

The series of lectures will take place on Zoom each Tuesday from March 16. Sophie Watson, a psychology finalist at Newnham College, organised the event with Phoebe Fuller, an English student.

She watched Cambridge dons defeat a free speech policy last autumn requiring them to be “respectful of the diverse identities of others”.

“Being pro-free speech is actually a really controversial position for students to take these days,” said Ms Watson. Members of her feminist society have received rape and death threats for defending women’s sex-based rights.

“The best way to defend free speech is to exercise it,” Ms Watson added. “As soon as [students] deplatform someone, we replatform them. We have a lot of catching up to do; there are so many deplatformed women.”

Toby Young, of the Free Speech Union, said: “Over the last year there have been hundreds of examples of no- platforming on campus ... These censo- rious campaigns are usually driven by a small group of activists.”

Cambridge University said: “Rigorous debate is fundamental to the pursuit of academic excellence and the university will always be a place where freedom of speech is strongly encouraged.

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