Confusing victims with bullies 1

November 15, 2002

It is extraordinary that Michael Cohen and Colwyn Williamson should criticise the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology's investigation into Mona Baker's behaviour on behalf of the Council for Academic Freedom and Academic Standards when she has breached Cafas's fundamental principles ("Umist should abandon boycott 'witch-hunt'", THES , November 8).

Baker removed two Israeli academics from the editorial board of an academic journal not for what they had said, written or done but because she disapproved of the policies of the country of which they are citizens. Cafas was established to oppose such political intrusion in academic decisions. If anyone's academic freedom needs defending, it is that of the two Israelis.

Cohen and Williamson say Cafas defends the freedom of academics "to question and test received wisdom and to put forward controversial or unpopular opinions without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs".

Quite. But Baker did not just express an opinion. She took an action and, moreover, one that is anti-academic and anti-freedom. In defending the perpetrator and not the victims, Cohen and Williamson are turning their organisation into the Campaign for the Prevention of Academic Freedom.

Leslie Wagner
Vice-chancellor
Leeds Metropolitan University

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