Bristol University academic David Miller – currently under investigation over allegations of antisemitic comments directed at Jewish students – could be given protection under new freedom of speech proposals by the government, a leading charity chief has warned.
Speaking to parliamentary committee assessing the planed Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, Antisemitism Policy Trust director Danny Stone said he did “worry” that the proposals could provide cover for academics, especially if they were passed over for promotion.
Asked by Labour MP Charlotte Nicols if he was concerned that this Bill “would actually protect” someone like Miller, Stone replied: “I do think that needs looking at. I do worry bout it.”
The charity head then went on to explain to the committee that he feared Miller could highlight his official area of expertise – “the Zionist movement, Israel lobby and racism.”
Stone said:”One could see, using the Miller case as an example, how this might present an issue in the future.
“An academic has the right to protest, if for instance he had been passed over for a job or promotion because of free speech they had used in their area of expertise.”
Stone said he feared “there will be academics who have a particular area of expertise – and that are will potentially give cover for them saying particular things.
“I do think that needs looking at – those particular complexities in the Bill.”
Stone added that “across parliament” it had “been recognised” that Miller had made “antisemitic statements” such his reference to Jewish students as “politcal pawns” of a regime “engaged in ethnic cleansing.”
During Monday’s session in Westminister one university professor , who supported the government’s proposals, admitted he would be prepared to invite speakers from the far-right British National Party or National Front to address students on campus.
Professor Matthew Goodwin, from the University of Kent School of Politics, was asked if he would be prepared to allow fascists to speak to students.
He said: “I have invited people from cross the political spectrum to speak to my students over the years …. I would have invited somebody from the BNP or National Front where they available.
“Experience has taught me and demonstrated clearly students were more than capable of being exposed to a range of views, and challenging these views.”
He added: “We are not here to put students in idelogical monocultures that only give them one view of the world.”
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