Controversy, security and free speech (students)

1. The School has a mission, and a legal obligation, to uphold free speech in all meetings held at LSE - see the code of practice on free speech|.

2. Very broadly, the code says that all reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that a speaker is safe from when they arrive at LSE till they leave and that they can say what they have come to say without being shouted down, intimidated or otherwise prevented from speaking (irrespective of what we may think of them or what they have come to say).

3. You, as event organisers, are responsible in the first instance for assessing whether an event might be controversial or for other reasons require special treatment to ensure free speech, such as limited access or security. You can get help and advice from the Students' Union in deciding if the event should be flagged as controversial, by completing a Risk Assessment Questionnaire |with SU staff support. 

4. An SU staff member or sabbatical officer can facilitate a discussion with other LSE students who might have concerns about the event. The discussion should aim to agree shared principles, boundaries and negotiated compromises in relation to the event.

5. Be honest about the potential outcomes of the event. If you don't flag up an event as controversial when necessary, it may delay the process and jeopardise the holding of the event.

6. Start early – at least two weeks before the event and preferably sooner!

7. Once Conferences & Events have the information they need, they will consider – with others such as LSE Security and if necessary consulting senior officers of the School up to the level of the Pro Director (Research & External Relations) – whether conditions must apply. These might include, for example:

• Access: whether an open event should be restricted to LSE staff and students only.
• Security: whether security or stewards or both are required (eg public events typically require more security). Costs will be charged to the society.
• Chairing: public events should in principle always be chaired by an LSE academic as a representative of the School; this may be requested even for a limited-access event if appropriate. Societies should in principle seek to identify suitable chairs themselves, with guidance from Conferences & Events (who will if appropriate seek approval from the Director of External Relations; also see paragraph 9). Chairs' responsibilities are outlined in LSE's 'Guide to Chairing Public Meetings', last updated in February 2011.
• Recording: the event may have to be filmed, in which case the room should have a video capture facility, or the Society should contact the SU who will provide filming equipment.
• Publicity: this may need to be restricted, and in particular not undertaken through social media. 

8. In accordance with the Code of Practice on Free Speech|, Conferences & Events may recommend that the Pro Director (Research & External Relations) ask the Free Speech Group, which he chairs, to decide whether an event should go ahead. The Free Speech Group will not normally be invoked unless the potential threat to free speech or the School's reputation is so high that the event in question might need to be cancelled or postponed, depending on the School's risk assessment.

9. For student society events which are referred to the Free Speech Group, the chair of the Good Campus Relations Group or the chair of the Free Speech Group or the Deans may in cases of exceptional need assist in finding a suitable chair. This will apply only where the society is unable to do so itself and Conferences & Events and the Director of External Relations have been unable to assist.

10. The Code of Practice on Free Speech| includes provision for appeal by any person dissatisfied with the School authorities' exercise of their responsibilities under the Code. Appeal will be in writing to the Director. For appeals relating to decisions of the Free Speech Group, the Director will normally consider the appeal herself. For other appeals, the Director will normally nominate one of the Deans to consider the appeal.

11. It must be recognised in all cases that it may not be possible for an appeal to be heard before the date of a planned event, if insufficient time remains. 

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