Free expression is essential to the pursuit of truth

Table of contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Part One
Chapter One: Free Speech in Western Universities
Chapter Two: Academic Freedom: History, Definitions, and Democratic Significance           
Chapter Three: Campus Free Speech and Academic Freedom         
Part Two
Chapter Four: Free Speech, Compelled Speech, Facts/Falsehood/Unpopular Opinion
Chapter Five: Political Correctness, Harassment/Discrimination/Hate Speech, Microaggression
Chapter Six: Deplatforming, Trigger Warning, Safe Space
Part Three
Chapter Seven: The United Kingdom: Human Rights Act, a New Bill, and the Uncertain Future of Campus Speech
Chapter Eight: The United States: First Amendment, Speech Codes, and Promising but "Not Quite There Yet" Results
Chapter Nine: Canada: The (Ir)relevance of the Charter to Campus Free Speech
About the Author


In this book, Amy Lai examines the current free speech crisis in Western universities. She studies the origin, history, and importance of freedom of speech in the university setting, and addresses the relevance and pitfalls of political correctness and microaggressions on campuses, where laws on harassment, discrimination, and hate speech are already in place, along with other concepts that have gained currency in the free speech debate, including deplatforming, trigger warning, and safe space. Looking at numerous free speech disputes in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada, the book argues for the equal application of the free speech principle to all expressions to facilitate respectful debates. All in all, it affirms that the right to free expression is a natural right essential to the pursuit of truth, democratic governance, and self-development, and this right is nowhere more important than in the university.

Amy Lai is Researcher and Visiting Associate Professor at Freie Universität. Her blog can be found at

“Amy Lai provides a much-needed cross-national perspective on the problem of censorship in Western universities. Read this brave book, and raise your own voice in defense of freedom.”
 —Jonathan Zimmerman, Berkowitz Professor in Education, University of Pennsylvania

- Jonathan Zimmerman

“As book bans, trigger warnings, and deplatforming foster scepticism toward freedom of expression, Amy Lai offers a necessary defense of the legal and philosophical underpinnings of the right to dissent. Reframing contemporary questions of  academic freedom through readings from Milton, Locke, Kant, J.S. Mill, and Rawls, she underscores its value and our collective obligation to maintain difficult conversations on sensitive cultural and political questions. Anyone concerned with these issues will find much in this book to enlighten, provoke, and disquiet them, and much to reconsider, or dissent from, in her unflinching analysis of recent flashpoints in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.”
—Brendan de Caires, Executive Director of PEN Canada

- Brendan de Caires

Rated "recommended" by CHOICE Connect

- CHOICE Connect

Read: Writing in Defense of Free Speech in Universities Blog Post | February 13, 2024