Cardiff Metropolitan University accused of undermining free speech

Abby Watson 5 March 2017

Cardiff Metropolitan University has recently issued a Code of Practice on using Inclusive Language, which advises that certain words should be avoided.

Instead the Code promotes the use of “gender-neutral” terms which also “embrace cultural diversity”. Consequently, words such as “forefathers”, “housewife” and “sportsmanship” have been listed as words that should not be used.

According to the Code the aim is “To promote an atmosphere in which all students feel valued”. It therefore advises that students and staff should avoid making assumptions and generalisations based on stereotypes or one’s cultural background.

An example was replacing “Christian name” with “first name”.

Other ways to create an inclusive and tolerant atmosphere include disability and age awareness, and taking care when using language relating to sexuality and relationships.

They advise using the term “wheelchair user” rather than “wheelchair-bound” to evoke a sense of empowerment.

The guidance includes 34 words and phrases that should be avoided, although it does add that people should not feel “too anxious” about the language they use.

Cardiff Metropolitan University has since been condemned for these attempts at suppressing free speech by academics such as Dr Joanna Williams, a lecturer in higher education at the University of Kent and author of Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity.

This comes in the wake of spiked’s survey regarding the restriction of free speech at HE institutions in the UK, which concluded that 90% of UK universities have restricted free speech in some way.

Yet equally concerns have been voiced by students about cultural appropriation and potentially offensive language. Students at Cambridge University complained when catering staff named dishes “Jamaican stew” and “Tunisian rice”.

A spokesperson for Cardiff Metropolitan University commented in light of allegations that the University is undermining free speech.

“The University is committed unreservedly to the principle of academic freedom within the law. It is also committed to providing an environment where everyone is valued and treated with dignity and respect. These two commitments are cornerstones of academic life at the University.”