Elections for Academic Board Working Group on Definitions of Racism and Prejudice

24 January 2020

This message is for the attention of members of UCL's Academic Board (AB).

The election of members to the AB Working Group on Definitions of Racism and Prejudice opens today, Friday 24 Jan. AB members should already have received an email with the list of candidates and their statements.

This election is happening because Senior Management took highly contentious definitions of racism (to form part of the UCL code of conduct) - anti-semitism and Islamophobia - to UCL Council for approval without proper consultation and scrutiny of AB. No proper academic impact assessment was produced of their potential clashes with academic freedom and freedom of speech at UCL.

UCU firmly supports the protection of academic freedom and free speech within the law, especially where matters of academic disagreement arise. We have recently seen Senior Management imposing restrictions on exhibitions and book launch events at UCL, using highly contentious politicised definitions. Without proper academic scrutiny, this type of censorship will become more common.

We have been asked by UCU members of AB to highlight candidates whose previous interventions on AB demonstrate an excellent grasp of the issues, of equalities law, of what politicisation means in the context of group-specific definitions of racism, and of reasonable spaces of contestation and debate as protected by academic freedom at UCL (academic matters of which Senior Management seem to have little grasp):  

  • Judith Suissa
  • Tamar Garb
  • Alan Sokal
  • Francois Guesnet

Please note that this list is not intended as a criticism of any other candidate. It just reflects previous contributions to AB debate.