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Cancelled: Student society to host newspaper columnist Katie Hopkins

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Update: 23 November 2017

Katie Hopkins has withdrawn her participation and this event will not be going ahead. Students who registered interest in attending are being informed.  


Original story, published 22 November.

The Reading University Free Thought society has invited newspaper columnist Katie Hopkins to speak at the Whiteknights campus on Thursday 23 November.

Ms Hopkins is known for her controversial views, and is currently touring UK schools promoting “an opportunity to look at the information we are fed, to challenge the views we hold and to understand opinions are never right or wrong”.

‘RU Free Thought’ is a RUSU-affiliated student society which, it says, aims to create an environment where people can come and discuss issues that are relevant to society.

A group chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, Sir David Bell, and including RUSU President, Tristan Spencer, among others, has assessed the event and speaker under the University’s External Speaker Policy.

The External Speaker Policy affirms our commitment to freedom of speech. It says, “External speakers play an important role at the University of Reading, not least as part of the regular academic experience, allowing students and staff to be exposed to a range of different ideas, beliefs and opinions”.

All Universities in England and Wales have a statutory duty to secure both freedom of speech (Education (No 2) Act 1986) and academic freedom (Education Reform Act 1988) on their campuses, enabling new ideas to be advanced and open and free debate to be encouraged.

However, whilst the law promotes and protects freedoms of speech and debate, it also places limits on those freedoms. Crucially the protection of freedom of speech does not extend to allow a speaker to break the law or breach the lawful rights of others e.g. using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, particularly with a view to incite hatred. 

Katie Hopkins has agreed, in writing, to abide by the External Speaker Policy and External Speaker Code of Conduct. Measures will be in place to ensure that the Code of Conduct is adhered to throughout the event. 

Members of RU Free Thought society, supported by University staff, are working to ensure that the event runs smoothly with no interruption to teaching or other core University activities.

Finally - and for the avoidance of doubt - in hosting an external speaker on campus, the University does not, as a result, endorse their views or the opinions held by the audience members who are present at the relevant event.

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