The Archbishop of Canterbury has taken a firm stance about rights of minorities in universities, saying that colleges which allow students to be “abused, insulted and excluded” should face serious consequences.
But he added that there was no right not to be offended on campus.
His remarks have been reported as being his first intervention on the thorny issue of free speech in universities, with the Most Rev Justin Welby saying vice-chancellors should face funding cuts if they allow students from minorities to be insulted.
Speaking at a Board of Deputies of British Jews event at the Bevis Marks synagogue in central London, he repeated previous personal undertakings to tackle anti-Semitism.
Explaining his approach, he said he is in favour of a “carrot and stick” about protecting minorities such as trans and Jewish students, underlining that universities have a duty of care.
Declaring that those who are “courageous” should be rewarded, he said Jewish students targeted with anti-Semitic abuse on campus, could not be ignored: “You can’t stop things happening once or twice. You can stop them becoming a habit”, he is reported by the Daily Telegraph as saying.
“Universities that allow it to be tolerated if there is systemic, ‘anti’ any category, whether it’s Jewish people, Jewish societies, whether it’s trans people – whatever it is, whether you agree with them or not – should have really quite serious consequences in terms of the recognition of their authority, their position. And their funding, in particular, I think that is really important”, the paper reports him telling the audience
His comments at Wednesday’s event were welcomed by charities supporting trans people.
Measures protecting free speech in universities are set to become law, through the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act. This will mean controversial speakers cannot be cancelled by universities without the risk of academics and students suing institutions that breach their free speech rights.