July 15, 2009

Nottingham: ‘Reading lists inspected for capacity to incite violence’

Filed under: Academic freedom,David Miller,Nottingham,Uncategorized — David Miller @ 8:55 pm
Time Higher reports on vetting at Nottingham

The Times Higher reports on vetting at Nottingham

This was the headline of a piece in the Times Higher Education on 25 June, which sparked some controversy.  The story is online on the THE site, but the significant number of comments posted in response are now no longer online. There seems to be a variety of reasons for this, but we can note in particular that many of the comments were strongly critical of the report and in particular of the journalist who wrote it. The comments were removed on the 29/30 June.  At lunch time on the 30th Sean Matthews from Nottingham University emailed the deleted comments to me as convenor of the Teaching About Terrorism email list stating that the debate ‘is too important to suppress’. He went on to suggest that the comments be posted on the web ‘in order that the materials may continue to
be in the public domain’.

Since this group is interested in the practice of teaching about terrorism and in issues that may impinge on that there seems to be a good rationale for making the comments available for the record.  As can be seen below many of the comments emanate from supporters of management at Nottingham and there is a fair amount of invective aimed at the journalist who wrote the piece.  Indeed the thread below does not include a comment by Sean matthews colleague Macdonald Daly which the THE editors removed on the grounds that ‘our policy does rule out abusive comments or personalised attacks on individuals.’  It should be noted, that Macdonald Daly then specifically denied the implied charge:

The editor’s comment above makes it sound as if I was censored because I abused or made a personal attack on Ms Newman. I did neither. I did make an evaluation of her journalism over the last year and found it wanting in professionalism, honesty and trustworthiness. This was neither an attack, nor was it personal: it was a critical evaluation of her writing and the means whereby she frames and procures stories.

Matthews and Daly certainly seem to have written in response to Melanie Newman’s stories before (for example in comments on this story: Melanie Newman ‘Nottingham scholar held for 6 days under anti-terror law‘, Times Higher Education, 29 May 2008) and would no doubt deny that their efforts are directed at attempting to bully reporters and censor coverage of what happened at Nottingham.  Certainly the question of what constitutes censorship (The creation of the vetting committee; or The Times Higher Education removing the comments from its website; or the attempts from Nottingham to manage coverage of their response to the events of last year) is disputed.

The comments are reproduced below for the record.  It is obviously the case that there are conflicting views here of what is happening at Nottingham, but is is equally clear that not all versions of the story below can be reconciled.  There certainly needs to be some attempt to disentangle the various counts, which this group might help to do.

Readers’ comments

Sean Matthews, University of Nottingham 25 June, 2009
Ms Newman is to be congratulated for drawing attention to the new
processes for reviewing reading lists in the School of Politics at the
University of Nottingham. As a result of last year’s events, it is clear
the School of Politics is working hard to ensure proper procedures are
in place to protect the study of difficult and dangerous materials, and
to ensure that academics and students have proper, protected access to
them. It is unfortunate, though not unsurprising, that Ms Newman tries
to insinuate that this process is an attack on academic freedom. The
article leads off with the institution’s ‘denial’ that this is
‘censorship’, rather than praising the institution (which is to say
colleagues in the School of Politics) for doing everything it can to
*prevent* censorship or external interference. Seeing his words in this
context must also leave Professor Miller feeling sheepish: after all,
students have no academic freedom under the law anyway, and this process
seems calculated to make sure that their access to problematic data is
carefully moderated and protected (providing a defence in law against
the draconian Terror Acts). Last year’s miserable events and the
‘outrage’ they generated are dutifully mentioned – but Ms Newman makes
no acknowledgement of the truth that is now widely acknowledged:
academic freedom was never in question in the case of the Nottingham Two
– as serious scrutiny of the facts of the case demonstrates. So Two
Cheers for the THE and Ms Newman: scooped the story (their ‘source’ must
be very pleased at the splash), just rather missed the point.

Dr. Pauline Eadie 25 June, 2009
I work in the School of Politics and International Relations at the
University of Nottingham. Amongst other subjects I teach terrorism and
security studies. I have been party to the module review process.
Therefore, unlike David Miller or Alia Brahimi, I feel I am qualified to
speak. For an unbiased account of the Nottingham arrests please see the
publication at www.academicfreedom.co.uk. How can there be censorship
when nothing has been censored? As an academic these characters should
know that no one cares for opinions or anecdotes, especially biased
ill-infomed ones, only proof. Where is this proof of censorship? Is
anyone banned from looking at specific material? No. Was this process
democratically agreed by all members of the School? Yes. Can students
and staff be assured that we are working in their best interests?
Absolutely. Can Nottingham staff, students and parents of students,
current and potential be confident that we are working to maintain a
free, fair and safe environment to work and study in? Most certainly.
Ms. Newman, if you consider yourself to be an investigative journalist,
then you might want to consider checking your facts.

Steven Fielding 26 June, 2009
I notice in the print version of the THES containing this story the
contents page states ‘Uproar as Nottingham police reading lists’. Where
is this ‘uproar’ and why use the verb ‘police’? The whole story is in
fact framed in a way associated with the tabloid press – I might have
hoped that THES journalists would have had more respect for their
readers, especially as (on the basis of the experts from Oxford and
Strathclyde) most will not have full possession of the facts. Academic
freedom is a very serious matter and should not be devalued in such a
way. So, reader: beware. And by the way, along with ‘denying’ that the
Politics module reviews are a threat to academic freedom I also here
‘deny’ that I am a wife beater, a paedophile and a fan of the work of Mr
Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Former Student 26 June, 2009
I have just graduated from the School of Politics and IR at the
University of Nottingham and I’m very glad to have left. Instead of
apologising for the arrest of one of its own students (an arrest I, and
everyone I know personally, sees as patently racist) the school has gone
on the offensive and is now blaming its own staff for this absurd,
paranoid witchunt. They’re acting as if the arrest of Rizwaan and Hich
was actually down to the nature of the document they had (a rambling
bore probably written by the CIA, attributed to ‘Al-Qaeda’) rather than
due to the incompetence of the management. The irony is that this silly
‘review’ board will push out the good researchers even if it is, as
Matthews et al. above suggest, toothless — why would you go to
Nottingham, where your work will be ‘reviewed’, when you can go to a
superior department and aovid such reviews altogether? Those pushing the
reviews seem to barely realise that they are destroying their own
department. Personally, I was considering staying on for a Masters in my
second year — but now I wouldn’t even think twice. I’m only going back
for graduation.

Steven Fielding 26 June, 2009
‘Former Student’ might like to know that Rizwaan is now enrolled on a
PhD in the School of Politics and IR and benefits from a fee waiver
which is funded by the School.

Sabine Carey 26 June, 2009
I am working at School of Politics and International Relations at the
University of Nottingham. As someone who was actually involved in the
module review, I do not recognise the process that took place with the
one that seems to be described in the article and by some of the
comments. First, this review process did not inspect reading lists ‘for
capacity to incite violence’, which the title of this article wrongly
claims. Second, it did not in any way review the work of our colleagues,
as ‘Former Student’ wrongly claims. What it did do, however, was to
provide us with a clearer picture and overview of what we teach
collectively so that we can offer our students an interesting, coherent
and intellectually challenging education.

Katherine Almassy 26 June, 2009
I guess this is a question that academics at Nottingham may be able to
answer. How much did this module review actually have to do with
‘illegal material’ or incitation to violence? The article reports that
‘Professor Miller said he was not aware of any other university that was
reviewing reading lists’ – I can actually think of a few, which
regularly review their reading lists for reasons that have nothing to do
with terrorism (but rather with paedagogy and/or library collections).
It may not make the headline of THES, but it does happen.

Alan Aardvark 26 June, 2009
I am amazed to discover that ‘former student’ thinks that an academic
department can arrest anyone! I’d always assumed that was done by the
police… Mind you, wouldn’t it be great it we could? ‘Failed to submit
your seminar paper? You’re nicked sunshine. Five years in the slammer’.
From the comments posted by Nottingham staff, this just sounds like one
of those THE bits of sensationalism that undermine the paper’s
reputation.

Steven Fielding 26 June, 2009
A comment by Macdonald Daly criticising Melanie Newman has been deleted:
could someone at the THES please tell us why?

Editor’s comment
Whilst Times Higher Education is very open to readers’ reactions and
criticisms, our policy does rule out abusive comments or personalised
attacks on individuals.

Pauline Eadie 26 June, 2009
In answer to Katherine’s query. You are absolutely correct other
universities do review reading lists and we are required to at
Nottingham. We felt that as the School has grown considerably in recent
years it would do us no harm to review reading lists, not least because
it helps us build an overview of what we actually do collectively as a
School. For instance repitition can identified and avoided and links
between modules can be noted. The illegal material etc. was really an
insignificant part of that process. The key point is that no material
was censored or removed from any reading list. Steve Fielding is
correct. If the University of Nottingham is racist and operates
draconian standards of censorship why did Rizwaan Sabir choose to
continue his studies with us? We actually ask students in their review
feedback on modules to say if they think that the lecturer treats them
with respect. I would like to think that my colleagues always do
regardless of race, gender, disability, religious belief etc. The
‘former student’ seems to have a very poor grasp of both the Nottingham
arrests and the review protest. However if he has been fed a version of
events similar to the article published here then that is hardly
surprising.

Sean Matthews, University of Nottingham 26 June, 2009
I’m pleased to hear that the THE has a policy for the moderation of
these comment strings following its articles. It gives one confidence to
know that standards are being maintained. One looks forward, therefore,
to a similarly firm editorial hand being exercised in the direction of
some of the journalists/reporters, too. Professor Fielding has, I think,
caught the tone of exasperation perfectly: inviting interviewees to deny
non-stories in order to justify retailing them is a poor substitute for
seeking out real stories, and I’m afraid a review of Ms Newman’s output
over the past year does reveal a marked tendency to this tactic. Her
reporting, which seems to follow a consistent set of prejudices or
strongly-held beliefs (perhaps even an ideology), has resulted in
tendentious reporting which has been hurtful to individuals (as Mac Daly
and I know to our cost), as well as to groups and collectives. I’m sure
it’s not personal on Ms Newman’s part, nor would she recognize her
behaviour as abusive, but I suspect (indeed I know) those who have had
the misfortune to be the object of her actions might feel differently.

Macdonald Daly 26 June, 2009
The editor’s comment above makes it sound as if I was censored because I
abused or made a personal attack on Ms Newman. I did neither. I did make
an evaluation of her journalism over the last year and found it wanting
in professionalism, honesty and trustworthiness. This was neither an
attack, nor was it personal: it was a critical evaluation of her writing
and the means whereby she frames and procures stories.

Mark Curry 26 June, 2009
I know that we are rapidly approaching the silly season – but this is no
reason to fill the THE with guff. This article is shoddy and lazy
journalism. I hope academics from Nottingham get a full right of reply
in the next issue and the Editor of THE is forced to issue an apology.

Richard Armstrong 28 June, 2009
While “no material was censored or removed from any reading list”
Pauline admits that the review did take into account – in her own words
– illegal material. Admittedly, it was “an insignificant part of that
process” but it is worrying that any university would think of reviewing
their reading lists for anything other than academic reasons.
Contextually, if the same logic were applied to humanities for example,
I would not have been able to study most of the texts in my American
Fiction unit this year. There is the castration and murder of a black
man in William Faulkner’s Light in August, and anti-Semitism in Ernest
Hemingway’s Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises. Racial issues arise in numerous
other titles: Quicksand & Passing; Invisible Man and The Heart is a
Lonely Hunter. As well as Nazism in Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High
Castle. I cannot even begin to imagine how history would be taught if
reading lists were moderated. Logically, you are advocating particular
realities, or inversely, subverting those which are problematic at the
moment, which is hard to justify at the best of times. But surely that
is how we arrived at this situation in the first place? British
involvement in Palestine after world war one, and the break-down of
colonialism in Africa are major causes of contemporary world issues, but
because these topics are so unpopular in education you have entire
generations of young-adults questioning why their armed forces
intervenes in Afghanistan and Iraq, or perhaps more pertinently – why
there is such hostility towards the UK from the Middle-East.

Sean Matthews, University of Nottingham 28 June, 2009
To repeat: the potential illegality of materials on reading lists
relates, in this case, to the Terror Acts of 2000 and 2007. Posession
and distribution by ANYONE of ANY material which might incite or support
terrorism is covered by these Acts. A defence in law relates to the
purpose or intention relating to that possession: this School is
properly assessing whether there are such materials on the reading lists
IN ORDER that they might be able to present a defence, NOT in order to
remove them. So – again – the School of Politics is to be congratulated
for recognizing that there are potentially problematic materials on some
modules, and thus preparing the defence in law. Other institutions ought
to be following suit. Is this really so difficult to grasp? The laws,
yes, are draconian – and we might readily challenge and question them –
but they do not infringe academic freedom: nor does this module review.
Academics, who are free within the law to research AND teach what they
like, have only to demonstrate that the materials they wish to use are
not being distributed with the intention of inciting or planning
terrorist acts. So Richard Armstrong need not worry – he can teach all
of those texts he mentions, and young adults can continue to question
their armed forces’ interventions (they tend to do little else, in fact,
without let or hindrance). The moderation of a reading list does not
mean the censorship of a reading list. The naive short-circuit which
Richard Armstrong’s thinking demonstrates is by far the more worrying
concern: there is a ready orthodoxy, to which he evidently subscribes,
which presumes a malign and oppressive regime in British universities,
and that HE is the tool of the dark forces of a malevolent State. Such
presumption, and the reflex of hysteria it generates (I cant teach
Faulkner!), is a far greater danger to our intellectual culture – and
our cultures of dissent – than any module review might ever be.

Phil Edwards 28 June, 2009
Under the Terrorism Act 2006, there is no such thing as an “illegal
document”. The Act does define certain documents as “terrorist
documents”, and creates an offence of distributing a terrorist document
– or holding such a document with intent to distribute – *if* the person
distributing it either intends to assist or encourage the commission of
acts of terrorism, or is reckless about this possibility. The offence
has two elements – the ‘terrorist document’ itself and the intention or
recklessness. The definition of “terrorist document” in the Act is
broad, and sits on top of an extremely broad definition of terrorism in
the 2000 Terrorism Act; the only way to be confident that there were no
“terrorist documents” on a reading list would be to have a list
consisting entirely of government publications. (There is no such thing
in the law as an “illegal document”, or a document which it is always
illegal to possess, or a document which it is always illegal to
recommend to students.) On the other hand, the intention and/or
recklessness test is easy to meet – as far as I can see, a university
would simply need to add a disclaimer to any potentially dangerous
reading list, saying that all the material contained in it was
recommended solely for the purpose of academic study. Nottingham have
gone for the wrong target, and set a very bad precedent for other
departments studying terrorism.

Richard Armstrong 28 June, 2009
Sean, I concede there was a level of ambiguity in my original comment
but I do not think you should be so quick to judge. I am a student not a
lecturer. My ‘reflexive hysteria’ centres on the problematic nature of
defining what constitutes “material which might incite or support
terrorism”. All material has the potential to incite or support unlawful
activity in the right context. This is why I highlighted the problematic
nature of applying these sorts of laws in humanities. But to blame the
material for causing the behaviour is “naive short-circuit” thinking,
and a consequence of knee-jerk politics. Your logic is inverted. Why
should lecturers be actively defending their course material? I thought
it was innocent until proven guilty? It should be the police not you who
should have to prove the link between your teaching and the incitement
and support of terrorism.

Richard Armstrong 28 June, 2009
Phil Edwards, perhaps, articulates my point of view better than I do
myself!

Sean Matthews, University of Nottingham 28 June, 2009
I’m grateful to Phil Edwards for his further specification of the law in
these matters. I suspect we are all agreed that these laws are
profoundly disturbing. I part company with Phil Edwards only because of
the unusual circumstances at Nottingham, and I think they set a very
positive precedent (in fact, what they are doing is, in effect, flagging
up such items with a disclaimer – but they are also making sure that
colleagues and students are aware of what might constitute a problematic
document – something which was, unfortunately, clearly not the case last
year). The case last year revealed that students *are* potentially at
risk if they are in possession of ‘terrorist documents’ and there is no
ready defence in law in place. They also run the risk of placing their
non-student friends in trouble (the tragedy of our local case). For this
reason, I reiterate that I think a review of one’s reading lists to
assess whether there are documents which might be, in this case
‘terrorist documents’ (in my own case, it is more likely to be
pornography, but that’s another story), and therefore might be subject
to the 2000/7 Acts, seems prudent – and, as a colleague remarked to me,
might allow one to respond reassuringly to a prospective student’s fears
of being arrested for studying on modules in the School of Politics. I’m
sorry if I upset Richard Armstrong – the laws *are* a problem, but I
still see the action of this School, in this institution, as providing
an excellent example. As I have argued elsewhere, these *are* bad laws,
and they do precisely make the awful assumptions about innocence –
permitting pre-emptive action on the part of the authorities – which
RIchard Armstrong fears. My point remains that these modules reviews
would seem to do everything possible to pre-empt challenges or problems.
In my own case, I would no more put child pornography on my modules
concerned with censorship – or even download for research – without
consultation with the University’s Research Ethics Committee and
carefully ensuring that there is a defence in law. Richard – we cant NOT
apply these laws in the humanities, but we can appeal to a defence the
law provides in its important articulation of academic freedom.

Sean Matthews, University of Nottingham 28 June, 2009
I didnt conclude my analogy about child pornography – I would no more
put that material on my reading list without consultation, etc., than I
would – to echo Professor Fielding – beat my wife or listen to the music
of Mr Andrew Lloyd Weber.

Macdonald Daly 28 June, 2009
The moral of this story is, if Melanie Newman calls you up and asks you
to deny something (no matter how little need you have to deny it because
it isn’t happening), don’t be surprised if she writes a story about the
uproar surrounding your denial of something you never even contemplated
doing. Of course, the only uproar is the one it is her intention to
cause by printing a story about your unnecessary denial. In this case,
the uproar is the disagreement in this thread – although my general
reading of it is that most contributors have seen right through Ms
Newman’s tactic.

Phil Edwards 29 June, 2009
Pauline Eadie: “The key point is that no material was censored or
removed from any reading list.” Sean Matthews: “this School is properly
assessing whether there are such materials on the reading lists IN ORDER
that they might be able to present a defence, NOT in order to remove
them” Could somebody clarify this important point? Was it ever envisaged
that “terrorist documents” might be removed from a reading list as a
result of the review? If not, why not save the trouble of having the
review and simply introduce a standard disclaimer?

Sean Matthews, University of Nottingham 29 June, 2009
Pauline Eadie provided the response to Phil Edwards’s question in her
earlier posting – the identification of potentially problematic material
in reading lists is only one aspect of the purpose of the review, which
was part of a wider process of teaching review. I quote below from an
excerpt from the document itself, which was posted to the JISC
discussion list on Teaching Terrorism a month ago. Knowing the format
issues of the THE threads I apologise in advance for any difficulties in
reading it. For those of you interested in following the discussion of
the document, including Melanie Newman’s email correspondence with David
Miller of Nuffield College, and his attempts to stimulate ‘responses’ to
‘Nottingham’ see (again with apologies for the formating)

https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A2=ind0906&L=TEACHING-ABOUT-

TERRORISM&T=0&F=&S=&P=11994 What is the purpose of a Module Review? The
aim of a review would be to provide feedback to staff on a range of

issues pertaining to their modules including:

* The range of topics covered by the module

* The assessment methods and whether they are appropriate for the learning outcomes

* Electronic resources available on the module

* Potential links with other modules in the School and contribution to the overall curriculum

* Whether any material on reading lists could be illegal or might be deemed to incite people to use
violence

How would it be carried out? In the first year of introducing
the system, there would be a review of all modules. This would be
undertaken by the Heads of each Teaching Group with additional help from
some members of staff. In subsequent years, the exercise would be
carried out by the Heads of Teaching Groups. A module would be reviewed
every three years on a rolling basis, unless it was a new module. The
exercise would be conducted after the end of exams and before U/G
results are released. Those responsible for the task of module reviews
would feedback their comments and suggestions to module convenors.

Sean Matthews, University of Nottingham 29 June, 2009
Terrifying stuff, isnt it! Thank heavens the THE exposed this awful
process of censorship and oppression before it went too far.

Macdonald Daly 29 June, 2009
Phil Edwards seems to misunderstand what is happening here, and his
proposal (a “standard disclaimer”) looks to me like the merest fig leaf
designed to protect the institution but not its students. The point is
not superficially to protect the institution but make students aware of
the law and previous interpretations of it (however much he dislikes
them) so that they don’t end up getting arrested. A useful point to make
is that none of this would have prevented what happened last year
because Rizwaan Sabir (the student) transferred a document to a
non-student for no good reason, and it was the presence of that document
on the latter’s computer that led to the arrest of both. Therefore
students also need guidance about what it is appropriate to do with
certain documents (i.e. not transfer them) – a “standard disclaimer” on
a reading list is not enough.

Pauline Eadie 29 June, 2009
I think you are merely trying to split hairs to be awkward here. Also
the review was no trouble. Those doing it commented that it was
interesting to see what other colleagues were teaching. I am starting to
feel like I am repeating myself here. This eroneous article stated that
we were censoring reading lists. Numerous academics from Nottingham,
privy to this process has stated that we are not. I guess censosrhip was
a story a lack of it is a non-story. So unless Ms. Newman had spun the
tale as she wanted it there would have been nothing to write. I can see
the title now ‘University of Nottingham staff think their modules are
jolly interesting and they are not censored’.

Sean Matthews, University of Nottingham 29 June, 2009
I’d like to correct my earlier posting: I must deny what it was David
Miller of Nuffield College to whom Ms Newman wrote about this story. I
am sorry to David Miller of Nuffield College for any criticism, real or
implied, that this mistake may have generated. If the moderator would
care to remove that association, I would be most grateful.

Maria Ryan 29 June, 2009
It’s amazing to me that Sean Matthews–an expert in D H
Lawrence–considers himself qualified to comment (and even write a short
book) on the research methods of scholars in Politics and IR, a field in
which he is not expert and has never undertaken any scholarly research.
I happen to differ from him in my views over this case but that’s not
really the issue here. (And before you ask–my research is on
contemporary US foreign policy). The main point is that we have a
non-expert in the field pontificating over research in an area where he
himself has no direct experience. Other who have commented here do have
expertise in this area and I respect their views as well informed,
although I might disagree with them. Steven Fielding: you imply that
Rizwaan’s fee-waiver has something to do with his mistaken arrest. This
is not the case. The decision had nothing to do with the registry or the
VC. He simply applied for a fee-waiver in the Politics School. He didn’t
get it at first and was put on a waiting list. In the end he was given
the award as the favoured studetn dropped out.

Maria Ryan 29 June, 2009
You might also like to consider that his arrest now means that he is
questioned under the Prevention of Terrorism Act evey time leaves the
country. His name will always appear on the list of people who have been
arrested under that act even though all charges against him were
dropped. He will never be able to visit the US for business or pleasure
as he would not be granted entry. So the consequences of his wrongful
arrest have not gone away; they may well be with him for the rest of his
life even though he is entirely innocent.

Macdonald Daly 29 June, 2009
As Sean Matthews’ co-author of the pamphlet Maria Ryan refers to, I must
set the record straight: it is about academic freedom; it is not about
Politics and International Relations and no one who reads it could
possibly think that it is. Academic freedom is not a topic on which any
single discipline has a monopoly, but it is a topic in which every
academic has an interest. Clearly there are a number of people in
Nottingham (and further afield) who are mistaken about what academic
freedom is and to whom it applies. If Maria Ryan thinks Rizwaan Sabir
had academic freedom and that that freedom was breached she is simply
wrong. Students do not have academic freedom, which is a legal
protection which extends only to academic staff. (That’s a fact, not an
opinion.) The scholarship of our publication is there for people to
judge on its own merits. Rizwaan Sabir is technically irrelevant to
current events, but presumably Maria Ryan would agree that we don’t want
anyone else being arrested because they do what he did. As such
prevention is what the School of Politics is trying to achieve, I am
surprised that she seems not to be with her colleagues from that School
in their attempts. Her statement that Sabir’s arrest was wrongful is
simply without foundation. An arrest is not wrongful because it does not
lead to a charge. It is wrongful only if carried out in breach of the
law (i.e. the laws governing arrest). Sabir was quite legally arrested
and quite legally released – as we say in our short book. Lastly, I am
quite simply stunned that Maria Ryan thinks that the confidential
processes whereby a student gains finance from her School should be made
a matter of public record. That strikes me as an invasion of Mr Sabir’s
privacy. I refer her top her own contractual clauses on confidentiality
and the relevant University policies.

Pauline Eadie 29 June, 2009
Sean Matthew’s book is on the Nottingham arrests and academic freedom at
the University of Nottingham. As he was in the department where the
arrests took place and was consulted by many interested parties given
his position with the UCU I really don’t see where you get the idea from
that he does not know what he is talking about. In fact random talking
heads drummed up by Ms. Newman to counter ‘irate’ (I quote) of
Nottingham can hardy claim to be experts in the issue. Here we are again
defending something that needs no defence. Try reading the book. Steve
Fielding did not imply anything – you chose to read it that way. Just
the same that review does not equate to censorship.

Macdonald Daly 29 June, 2009
I had assumed that Maria Ryan was a member of the School of Politics at
Nottingham (so knowledgeable does she seem of its financial workings and
decisions) but I should point that she is in fact in the School of
American and Canadian Studies at Nottingham. Obviously someone in
Politics has seen fit to tell her how Mr Sabir got his fee waiver. I am
not sure why someone would wish to breach mr Sabir’s confidentiality
like that, nor why she would wish to repeat the breach, but there it is,
she has done so.

Steven Fielding 29 June, 2009
In response to Maria Ryan’s point, above: I was replying to ‘Former
Student’ who made allegations about ‘racism’ and also claimed that (if
indeed they were a former student – they chose to be anonymous) they
would not be studying for an MA in the School of Politics because of the
arrests in 2008. Moreover, to address her own point: as the person
responsible for operating the School’s fee waiver scheme last year I
know the mechanism through which Rizwaan gained his PhD fee waiver. The
arrests are anyway an entirely different point to the one raised in the
article, although the THES tried to link them in the print edition by
having a picture of Rizwaan heading it. I was hardly a supporter of how
the police conducted themselves after the arrests were made and I think
the University might also usefully revisit some things said and done
during what was a unique and unpleasant experience for all concerned. I
also do not support each and every aspect of the relevant legislation.
This is not, then, a black and white matter; there are many threads and
grey areas; although the story is part of an attempt to present it in
the crudest of simplistic terms. As Orwell said of some socialists in
the 1930s, more than a few of those who claim to be defending academic
freedom are in danger of alienating the very people with whom they
should be building bridges.

Phil Edwards 29 June, 2009
Macdonald Daly: “Phil Edwards seems to misunderstand what is happening
here, and his proposal (a “standard disclaimer”) looks to me like the
merest fig leaf designed to protect the institution but not its
students.” <br>I repeat: there is no offence of possessing a ‘terrorist
document’. The offence introduced by the Terrorism Act 2006 is of
distributing such a document with intent to assist or encourage
terrorist acts, or with recklessness as to such a result. <br> The onus
is on universities to demonstrate that they’re not being reckless as to
the results of their distribution of certain texts. Obviously this
disclaimer could be extended to include a warning to students against
committing their own reckless distribution of “terrorist documents”. But
there is no way I can see of addressing the other half of the offence,
by removing anything that could be classed as a ‘terrorist document’
from a reading list for teaching on terrorism.

Phil Edwards 29 June, 2009
Sorry about the “<br>”s. Is there *any* way of putting a line break into
these comments?

2 Comments »

  1. […] on from the previous post on the removal of online comments following a piece in the Times Higher Education on 25 June,  the THE also refused to publish a […]

    Pingback by Nottingham: Vetting committee – Unpublished letter to the Times Higher « Teaching About Terrorism — July 23, 2009 @ 1:25 pm

  2. […] about the Nottingham case and its implications for academic […]

    Pingback by London Residential « Teaching About Terrorism — August 5, 2009 @ 10:19 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress