Over 100 academics from leading U.K. universities have united to “fight cancel culture” through the establishment of a new council dedicated to upholding academic freedom. The Telegraph has the story.
In the first move of its kind, the scholars have formed the London Universities’ Council for Academic Freedom that spans all of the capital’s campuses, including University College London (UCL), King’s College London, Imperial College London and the London School of Economics.
It aims to defend the principles of free inquiry, intellectual diversity and civil discourse, following a spate of free speech rows in recent years and escalating campus rows over the Hamas-Israel war.
Inspired by the Harvard Council on Academic Freedom in the U.S. which was launched earlier this year, the group has already amassed more than 100 academics – 70 of them professors – mainly from the ‘big four’ London universities who are members of the prestigious Russell Group.
They will aim to prevent free speech scandals happening in the first place by “demonstrating the strength and breadth of support for academic freedom” to university bosses and drawing up resources to challenge “institutional policies and practices” that erode free speech.
One of the co-founders, John Armstrong, a lecturer in financial mathematics at King’s College London, told the Telegraph: “We all need to fight cancel culture. It has been painted as a Left-Right issue, but academics across the political spectrum need to know that they can explore controversial ideas without fearing for their careers.”
Another co-founder, Prof. Alice Sullivan, a sociology expert at UCL, said: “It is really important because if academics don’t defend academic freedom then we can’t rely on anyone else to do it.
“Over the last few years, there have been growing concerns about academic freedom and we think it’s timely given the legislation on academic freedom, that may give us an entry point to actually get university leaders to engage with these issues with academics who care deeply about it.
“The transgender issue has alerted people to how serious the problems are, but of course it’s not just that – whether it be the current discussion about Israel-Palestine, Islam, race, all sorts of issues.”
Worth reading in full.