As reported by the The Telegraph over a hundred academics from the UK's top universities have joined forces to tackle the growing threat of cancel culture through the creation of a new body dedicated to academic freedom.
In a pioneering initiative, scholars set up the "London Universities Council for Academic Freedom (London Universities Council for Academic Freedom), which involves all academic institutions in the capital including theUniversity College London (UCL), the King's College London, l'Imperial College London and the London School of Economics (LSE).
The primary objective of this initiative is the defence of the fundamental principles of free research, intellectual diversity and civil dialogue. This effort came about in response to the numerous controversies in recent years that have put freedom of expression within academic circles, including the growing polarisation in the debate on the conflict between Hamas and Israel.
The group was inspired by the Harvard Council on Academic Freedom, launched at the beginning of the year, and has already gathered over 100 academics of which 70 are professors. These scholars come mainly from the 'big four' London universities that are part of the prestigious Russell Group.
The main objective of the Council is prevent freedom of expression scandals, demonstrating to university leaders the strength of support for academic freedom and developing resources to counter institutional policies and practices that undermine free speech.
John Armstrongco-founder and professor of financial mathematics at King's College London, emphasised the importance of combating the culture of erasure, stating: 'It is not just a question of left or right; academics of all political persuasions should feel free to explore controversial ideas without fearing repercussions for their careers."
Professor Alice Sullivan, another co-founder and sociology expert at UCL, reiterated the importance of this initiative, stating that academics must be the first to defend freedom of expression.
In recent years, concerns about academic freedom have grown and it is crucial that higher education voice these concerns, especially in light of recent legislation. The Council argues that Academic freedom is crucial to the pursuit of knowledge and truth, fundamental pillars of the mission of universities within a democracy.
The Council's launch communiqué clearly states that universities should not adopt official positions on controversial issues and that open, honest, courageous dialogue based on reasoned discussion of contrasting ideas both inside and outside the classroom is encouraged, always with respect for people even when they disagree with their convictions.
The Council is in favour of open discussion, freedom of protest and criticism, but opposes any attempt to prevent the freedom of expression of other individuals regardless of their lawful opinions.
In a launch event scheduled for 20 November at the London School of Economics will also speak Akua Reindorf KC prominent lawyer known for opposing the great influence of the controversial Lgbtqai+ Stonewall association in higher education,
London universities faced recent controversies related to freedom of expressionThis is the case of the left-wing King's College London academics who refused to condemn Hamas; the university that excluded white staff from tai chi classes; Professor John Armstrong who fought against plans to 'decolonise' mathematics. Imperial College London encouraged students to have 'difficult conversations' about 'white privilege' in diversity education.
At the London School of Economics terms such as 'Lent' and 'Easter' were replaced with non-religious terms, and in 2021 Israeli Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely was forced to flee the campus due to protests by pro-Palestinian students that prevented its intervention. Last year, LSE academics demanded an official apology from management for a 'hostile environment' towards staff with critical gender views, attributing this to a 'ideological cabal' which runs the gender studies department.
translation and adaptation by Angela Tacchini