Free speech is under threat in universities but there is growing opposition to bans and censorship. This opposition is led by students, student groups and academics. The Speakers’ Corner Trust, Liberate the Debate (LtD) and Academics For Academic Freedom (AFAF) began to form a loose alliance of supporters of free speech in universities at the Battle of Ideas Festival in October.
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As the Guardian (UK) various media report, Cambridge University has rescinded its offer of a visiting fellowship at the divinity School to Jordan Peterson after a backlash from faculty and students.
The BBC reports: “Dr Peterson said the faculty had made a serious error of judgement in rescinding their offer to me“. A spokesperson for the University said: “[Cambridge] is an inclusive environment and we expect all our staff and visitors to uphold our principles. There is no place here for anyone who cannot,”
Peterson himself has posted a full Statement on his website. He points out that he was not even informed personally about the decision: “The Divinity Faculty (@CamDivinity) tweeted their decision to rescind, consciously making this a public issue.”
He continues by pointing out: “This is inexcusable, in my estimation, given (1) that they did not equally publicize the initial agreement/invitation (which has to be considered an event of equal import) and (2) that they implied that I came cap-in-hand to the school for the fellowship. This is precisely the kind of half-truth particularly characteristic of those who deeply practice to deceive, as the fellowship offer was a consequence of mutual discussion between those who invited me to Cambridge in July and my subsequent formal request, and not something I had dreamed up on my own.”
In a postscriptum he writes: “I also find it interesting and deeply revealing that I know the names of the people who invited me, both informally and formally, but the names of the people who have disinvited me remain shrouded in exactly the kind of secrecy that might be expected from hidden, conspiratorial, authoritarian and cowardly bureaucrats.”
The latest victim of an academic mobbing is 28-year-old social scientist Noah Carl who has been awarded a Toby Jackman Newton Trust Research Fellowship at St Edmund’s College at the University of Cambridge.
Rarely has the power asymmetry between the academic mob and its victim been so stark. Dr Carl is a young researcher, just starting out in his career, who is being mobbed for being awarded a prestigious research scholarship on the basis of his peer-reviewed research.
Three hundred academics from around the world, many of them professors, have signed an open letter denouncing Dr Carl and demanding that the University of Cambridge “immediately conduct an investigation into the appointment process” on the grounds that his work is “ethically suspect” and “methodologically flawed.” The letter states: “we are shocked that a body of work that includes vital errors in data analysis and interpretation appears to have been taken seriously.” Yet the letter contains no evidence of any academic misconduct. It does not include a single reference to any of Dr Carl’s papers, let alone any papers that are “ethically suspect” or “methodologically flawed.”
Sign in support of Noah Carl