Given the absence of any explanation from the University of Warwick for Thomas Docherty’s suspension (“Employer gags critic of ‘authoritarian’ sector”, News, 19 June), the suspicion must be that he is being disciplined for expressing his views.
What I find incredible is that the university’s powers now apparently extend to determining with whom an academic may or may not socialise with off campus (“It is understood that as a condition of Professor Docherty’s suspension he is not allowed any contact with his students or colleagues”, the article states).
What is the legal basis for this? And why hasn’t anybody challenged it or remarked on its oddity? Have we all become so fearful that we will suffer any humiliation in order to keep our jobs, including letting our employers dictate the company we keep?
I spoke at the conference Warwick University Ltd: Lessons from 1970 and the Higher Education Sector Today, which Thomas Docherty was prevented from addressing. The event offered a number of interesting echoes of Warwick University Ltd: Industry, Management and the Universities [E. P. Thompson’s edited work on university-business links], but the lesson is one for now.
The most important freedom is the liberty to criticise power, and it seems that at Warwick, and in many other universities, being critical of management is a freedom too far.
The sorts of management strategies being used across the sector now reflect the assumption that universities are businesses. Freedom of speech becomes subordinated to commercial interests. In other words, you are free to say anything as long as you agree with us.