Sir Steven Smith FAcSS FRSA is the Vice Chancellor at the University of Exeter. On 15th Feburary, he gave a fascinating and thought provoking talk on a very topical subject: The Freedom of Speech.
For most of his career Sir Steve has been heavily involved with International Studies. He was only the second non-American to become the President of The International Studies Association. He is a prolific author of books and academic papers and has lectured around the world.
Sir Steve was an excellent speaker to give members a view on the Freedom of Speech in the academic world at The University of Exeter. In the past, universities have provided a safe haven for freedom of speech but, sadly, this is no longer the case. Nine out of ten universities reported that freedom of speech was restricted or endangered.
The changed political atmosphere, the rise in terrorism and Brexit has only served to enhance some of the complexities. Universities have to spend a lot of time and effort ensuring that a balanced view is presented. However, as we have seen in the news, especially post the Brexit vote, some students have become much exercised, verbally and sometimes physically, involved with these issues. There can be disruption to learning because of this, leading to a reduction of the academic safe haven role that the universities provide to discuss and exchange ideas.
This event helped raise funds to give local gap students a contribution to visit many countries such as Nepal, Peru, Sri Lanka and Kenya.
The next event for Exeter and District ESU is a Lunch Event on 15th March. Bel Mooney has had to postpone her visit planned for March and will now be the speaker in September 2017. The speaker in March will be Chris Parsons of the Landworks charity which works with prisoners after their release.
Anyone interested in attending Exeter and District ESU events or becoming a member should contact the Membership Secretary Margaret Guyver on 01392 491898.
This story was submitted by the ESU Exeter branch. Please click here for information on this branch and its upcoming events.