By Rod Thornton, Nottingham University
Nottingham University: Debating academic freedom
I welcome the fact that a couple of my colleagues have put forward their views in regard to the situation vis-à-vis the monitoring of module reading lists in Nottingham University’s School of Politics. I feel I should be allowed some sort of reply. I am, after all, at the centre of this whole situation in that I feel that I cannot allow my own reading lists concerned with Terrorism modules to be monitored in the fashion suggested.
Just about everything the two writers say needs to be put into context. First of all, the point is never made as to why this module review process – where academics check other academics’ reading lists without student input – is actually necessary specifically in the School of Politics. Why does it need to be introduced in the School of Politics and not across the whole of Nottingham University? I would say that there is no rationale. Of course, the assumption has been made that the School of Politics was involved in some way in the arrests that we had in May 2008 on campus – when two people were detained on terrorism charges. In fact, the School was in no way involved.
by Pauline Eadie and Mathew Humphrey of Nottingham University
The Times Higher reports on vetting at Nottingham
In the 25 June 2009 edition of the Times Higher Education an article appeared credited to Melanie Newman entitled ‘Reading lists inspected for capacity to incite violence’. The article referred to the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham. The article claimed that the institution had set up a module review committee to advise on academic teaching materials. The article cites an internal document which states that the review is to ‘provide feedback to staff on a range of issues’, including the topics covered, the assessment methods used and “whether any material on reading lists could be illegal or might be deemed to incite people to use violence”’. The convenor of the on-line ‘Teaching about Terrorism’ group, Prof. David Miller of Strathclyde University, is cited as saying that Nottingham’s review policy ‘represented a fundamental attack on academic freedom’ The module review committee is a censorship committee: it can’t operate as anything else […] The University is acting as the police one step removed”