We need to be a place where difficult and sometimes uncomfortable conversations can take place, that may be objectionable or offensive, but lawful. Freedom of speech within the law is an essential part of academic and university life, and flourishes where there is tolerance of, and respect for, a wide range of views and beliefs. However, our actions in securing and promoting freedom of expression need to take account of our responsibilities to ensure activities undertaken on our campuses are lawful.

In managing this wide range of responsibilities, at Essex we have a Speaker Code of Practice. This provides us with the confidence that the University is discharging our duties in an appropriate way. All staff and students can make a request to the University to hold an event and for this to be considered. We have widely advertised our procedures through our Speaker Code of Practice – and each year we provide extensive training support to staff and students. We also work closely with the Students’ Union and their trustees, who carry similar legal responsibilities to that of the University.

We have now supplemented our protocols to ensure that we have specific guidance relating to protests and demonstrations planned to take place on campus. This new management protocol is available here (.pdf). These arrangements provide a framework to enable the University to support organisers of protests or demonstrations. They reflect the University’s recognition that counter-speech and protest are also characteristics of a university committed to academic freedom, freedom of speech within the law and inclusion. However, the right to protest should never prevent others from exercising their right to freedom of speech within the law.