Student Academics For Academic Freedom

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Student Academics For Academic Freedom is a UK based offshoot of Academics For Academic Freedom and, as such, is associated with the libertarian anti-environmental LM network.

It was launched in 2007 by Richard Reynolds and its administrators include Dennis Hayes and Andy Jones. Reynolds set the group up in response to student campaigns to oust controversial lecturers and to the National Union of Students' policy of refusing to give a platform to groups such as the British National Party and fundamentalist Islamic organisations.[1] Its sole public presence, its Facebook group, has shown little activity, with only one or two postings per year during 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Overturning the 'No Platform' Policy at the University of East Anglia

In October 2007 an offshoot of AFAF, called Student Academics for Academic Freedom created a motion to overturn the NUS policy of 'no platform for fascists'. The motion was carried and Richard Reynolds, the student who set the group up argued that 'I am delighted that the motion was passed. We should be taking racists on in debate rather than trying to hush them up', he described the view that ethnic minority and gay students needed to be protected from those with racist and homophobic views as 'patronising'.[2]

Dennis Hayes welcomed the motion arguing that 'It represents a sea change in the attitudes of students unions'. NUS president Gemma Tumelty said of the decision that 'Our primary concern is the safety of our members, many of whom are foreign nationals or from black and ethnic minority communities. The NUS believes the right to freedom of expression must not be separated from, or take precedence over, the right to freedom from oppression'.[3]

Battle of Ideas Festival 2007

One of the topics at the Battle of Ideas festival held in 2007 was the threat to academic free speech. Richard Reynolds of Student Academics for Academic Freedom was at the festival where he argued that 'Castrated academics are boring' and criticised a student who had one of the few dissenting voices during the debate. The student had argued that he found the content of a novel he was studying offensive, Reynolds argued that the student had 'no right not to be offended,' and that taking offence to the concept of a novel was 'a deeply regressive concept.'[4]

John Fitzpatrick, a senior lecturer at Kent Law School, argued that 'to speak out against the environmental agenda is seen as a badge of courage.' Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at Kent University, criticised the censorship of academic arguing that 'We're not in Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany.' Steve Fuller, professor of sociology at Warwick University, argued that one of academia's roles is to teach students how debate can lead to enlightenment. Expertise in a subject is irrelevant; what matters is the ability to frame an argument.[5]


Contact

Facebook: SAFAF

Notes

  1. Melanie Newman, Debate rages despite 'advice', Times Higher Education Supplement, 16-March-2007
  2. Melanie Newman, Free Speech Wins the Day, The Time Higher Education Supplement, 26-October-2007
  3. Melanie Newman, Free Speech Wins the Day, The Time Higher Education Supplement, 26-October-2007
  4. Melanie Newman, Right to Speak is Threatened, Times Higher Education Supplement, 2-November-2007
  5. Melanie Newman, Right to Speak is Threatened, Times Higher Education Supplement, 2-November-2007