Freedom still reigns

June 19, 2008

I was interested in your article "The Nottingham Two and the War on Terror: which of us will be next?" (5 June) but surprised by the interpretation of events that was offered.

Inevitably, any arrests of individuals on campus stimulate conjecture and speculation. For that reason, I authorised release of factually accurate statements of relevant events to the entire university community (including to the authors of the article) on May and 3 June.

The second statement provided as full an account of events as was possible, given that some matters were (and still are) subject to legal process. Your readers can access the full statement entitled "Arrests on Campus" at https://my.nottingham.ac.uk/

No amount of scenario analysis of what might have been, aimed at reinterpreting events as an "academic freedom" issue (for whatever reason) can alter what actually happened. The incident was triggered by the discovery of an al-Qaeda training manual on the computer of an individual who was neither an academic member of staff nor a student and in a school where one would not expect to find such material being used for research purposes. We became concerned. The university had to make a risk assessment - no panic, no hysteria, just a straightforward risk assessment. Our responsibility to university students and staff, and our public duty to the wider community, led us to the conclusion that there needed to be an investigation. So our concerns were conveyed to the police as the appropriate body to investigate (no judgment was made by us). The matter has now been properly investigated and outstanding issues are before the courts of the land.

Much has been said on the matter of academic freedom. The University of Nottingham has always fully embraced this principle and continues to do so. Claims to the contrary in the Nottingham Two article are freely expressed and unconstrained. But they are careless, entirely false and bear little relation to the facts.

Sir Colin Campbell, Vice-chancellor, University of Nottingham.

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