Monday, 17 May 2010

Leeds Salon May 20th

Freedom of Expression and the University
Thursday 20 May 2010
Leeds University Union
ARC Conference Room, 7:45pm (for an 8pm start) to 9:30pm

A joint event with Liberty@Leeds

In May 2010 Leeds University Union banned an issue of the Leeds Student newspaper containing a Palestinian activist’s allegedly anti-Semitic comment. Earlier in the year, a student society, the Palestinian Solidarity Group, was banned because its members disturbed a speech by an Israeli diplomat. A debate by Liberty at Leeds was prevented from going ahead as it featured a former member of the banned group Islam 4 UK. The Atheist Society were prevented from holding an event on freedom of speech that planned to show controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders’ anti-Islamic film Fitna.

Leeds University’s Protocol on Freedom of Expression states that an event can be banned if it ‘is likely to give rise to an environment in which people will experience - or could reasonably fear - harassment, intimidation, verbal abuse or violence.’

On Academic Freedom Day, a panel of university students will debate the pros and cons of academic freedom in light of recent controversies. Should speech be regulated and if so, by whom, to what extent and on what grounds? Is censorship sometimes necessary to protect ‘vulnerable’ groups, or should there be no protection from offence?

Does the university as a public institution and a place of free inquiry have a duty to promote the free expression of opinions, no matter how unpopular? Or are these lofty and old-fashioned ideals which interfere with the main business of the modern university of providing workplace skills for its customers and the know-how Britain needs to compete in the global economy?
Can free speech be institutionally protected, or is it up to students and lecturers, as free adult citizens and constituent members of the university, to speak out and challenge rules and regulations that restrain freedom of expression? Is free speech a private or a public right – an individual’s right of free expression, or the right of the public to hear all opinions free of censorship and make up their own minds?
Come and join the debate!

Jak Codd, Communications and Internal Affairs Officer, Leeds University Union
Sophia James, Equality and Diversity Officer, Leeds University Union
Marco Schneebalg, Chair of Manchester Israel-Palestine Forum; Politics, Philosophy and Economics student, Manchester University
James Wood, Liberty@Leeds member, Politics Student, Leeds University

Background readings:

Leeds University: campus conflict in microcosm
by Henrietta Foster, with podcast interview to Jak Codd and Virginia Newman, editor of Leeds Student newspaper

Pulled: LS removed from the shelves
Leeds Student editorial on attempted censure

Not about censorship
By Jak Codd, on why Leeds Student was censored:

The press has exaggerated anti-Israel protests in Manchester
By Marco Schneebalg, Alarmist reporting of an attack on Israel's deputy ambassador eclipsed growing dialogue between Jewish and pro-Palestinian students.

Fear and Loathing in Leeds
By Phil Dickinson, on No Platform at Leeds University:

Free speech on campus rightly has limits
By Geoffrey Alderman

Defend the Freedom Campaign
By Gayan Samarasinghe on Defend the Freedom campaign:

Leeds University Protocol on Freedom of Expression:

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