Union calls for ban on BNP man

November 1, 2002

Lecturers' leaders have called for the expulsion of a senior British National Party official from Greenwich University.

Natfhe, the lecturers' union, said that the presence of Lawrence Rustem, head of the BNP's "ethnic liaison committee" and a politics student at Greenwich, had upset many students and could encourage racist campaigning at the university.

Natfhe has also promised to support any lecturer who refuses to teach any "fascist or racist student". In a statement this week, a Natfhe branch official at Greenwich said: "Allowing a leading office-holder of the BNP to continue studying here sends completely the wrong message to racists."

The union's national spokesman said that the union recognised the right of individuals to receive an education irrespective of their views and accepted that Mr Rustem himself had been keeping "a low profile".

But the spokesman added that the mere presence of a senior BNP activist created an unacceptable learning environment.

Greenwich has an ethnic population of about 32 per cent, rising to almost 50 per cent on its largest campus.

The Natfhe spokesman said: "The preferred option is that he (Mr Rustem) should be removed from the course. We will support any member who, as a matter of individual conscience, refuses to teach him."

The union also said that the campus had become a focus for general racist campaigning, although it was not accusing Mr Rustem. It called on university managers to take stronger action.

The BNP said it would take Natfhe to court if it persisted with its campaign.

The BNP's spokesman, former university lecturer Phil Edwards, said: "This is supposed to be a free country. Lecturers have a duty of care to the students. What example does this send out when staff pillory a politics student for holding legitimate and legal political views?

"Most lecturers are moral cowards, spineless, leftist Marxists. They try every dirty trick in the book to silence our people. We will go to the court of human rights if they continue with this."

Greenwich's campus director, Paul Stigant, said that it would be against all principles of natural justice to exclude any student or staff member simply because they belonged to a political party, no matter how objectionable it might be to most people.

But he added: "If any student or academic is ever caught behaving in a way that may be construed as racist, or intimidatory, or discriminatory, we would fully investigate and come down very firmly on anyone found guilty."

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