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Free Speech Union Launches Professional Membership For Academics To Fight ‘Culture Of Fear’ In Universities

The Free Speech Union has launched a professional membership category especially for academics to ensure their speech rights are defended, upheld, and celebrated, says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.

“Over the past week, the public has become more aware of how academic freedom is under threat in New Zealand’s education sector in light of Victoria University’s problems scheduling a discussion on free speech.

“The Free Speech Union has engaged this problem over several years. Research we produced in both 2022 and 2023 reveals that as many as 50% of academics at some universities do not feel free to raise differing perspectives on key issues.

“Our academic leaders and education professional bodies have statutory duties to protect academics’ basic freedoms but have failed us every time they’ve threatened or disciplined someone from speaking. Not only has this affected the individuals silenced, it’s told the rest of the industry to keep their mouths shut.

“There’s now an entrenched ‘culture of fear’ which many academics refer to. It takes immense courage to challenge the status quo if you know it puts your income and reputation on the line. It’s time academics and teachers weren’t afraid to share their opinions.

“Prof. Paul Moon from Auckland University of Technology and Prof. Elizabeth Rata from the University of Auckland will chair the Inter-University Council on Academic Freedom. This Council will work to provide members with protection and a community of others also striving for academic freedom and free speech in our universities.

“This is the first of eight professional, industry-specific memberships we’re launching across the next eight months. We want to see Kiwis able to freely express themselves without retribution, no matter their context.”

The academic membership can be found at

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