July 16, 2009

Nottingham: Vetting committee – Unpublished letter to the Times Higher

Filed under: Academic freedom,David Miller,Nottingham — David Miller @ 1:17 pm

Following 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 letter on the controversy from myself.  I reproduce it below for the record.

—–Original Message—–
From: David Miller [mailto:davidmiller@strath.ac.uk]
Sent: 03 July 2009 15:13
To: THS Letters
Subject: for publication

The Times Higher Education should be congratulated for covering the establishment of a vetting committee at Nottingham University.  Use of the word ‘censorship’ is entirely justified, contrary to the spin emanating from supporters of management at Nottingham.

Censors never like their activities honestly described.  When introducing the 1988 Irish Broadcasting Ban, then Home Secretary Douglas Hurd argued ‘this is not not censorship’.  In 2009 the euphemism for vetting is ‘module review’.  In reality, every university keeps its modules under review.  But, it seems, Nottingham is alone in vetting reading lists for items that might ‘encourage’ terrorism.

This is spun as protecting academics and students from arrest and a defence of academic freedom.  It is just the opposite. The creation of an Orwellian sounding ‘module review’ committee infringes the most basic principle of academic freedom: autonomy over the content of lectures and reading lists.

The attacks on the THE and its journalist Melanie Newman for covering the story at all betrays the same contempt for press freedom as the defenders of vetting exhibit for academic freedom.  Please continue to report the truth about these issues without fear or favour.

David Miller
Professor of Sociology
University of Strathclyde

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