Helpful as I am, I have written a short but comprehensive guide for Universities on the issue of inviting External Speakers.

It is intended to replace the wretched rambling 44 page effort put out by Universities UK that after much huffing and puffing came down on the side of accepting non-discriminatory (sic) gender segregation at meetings if certain ‘ultra orthodox religious speakers’ (the preferred real-life phrase is ‘extremist Muslims’) demanded it.

My new version fits nicely on two sides. Here it is. Key points:  

It is normal courtesy on the part of event organisers to let the appropriate University authorities know that an outside speaker is being invited to University premises to address an audience.

If the organisers of an event with an outside speaker have any reason to think that the event concerned may create undue controversy or attract protests or negative media coverage, they should talk to the University authorities and make a suitable plan.

A speaker is a guest at a University, and guests can be expected to respect the rules laid down by their hosts. Certain speakers nonetheless may seek to impose conditions for their participation in an event. Organisers of events should accept no conditions that have the effect directly or indirectly of achieving any segregation of the audience on grounds of race, gender, appearance, belief, age or any other specious if not unlawful criterion.

(Note: these considerations need not apply if a speaker is invited by a University society that (a) has its own rules consistent with University practice, and (b) is limiting the audience to its own members who have freely accepted those rules.)

If any speaker asserts that the University’s refusal to meet such conditions is ‘discrimination’, the organisers should let the appropriate University authorities know that this issue has arisen, and inform the speaker that to accept these conditions would infringe basic University principles. The speaker can decide whether to accept University principles or decline the invitation.

When in doubt, all concerned should go for the option that allows the most freedom. No concessions should be made to organisers or speakers who seek to limit the freedom/choices of others.

Assertions that a ‘genuinely held belief’ entitles a University member to limit the choices of others at the University or eg require some form of audience segregation should be ignored on principle.

Nothing much else to be said on the subject, I think?