Just a black-and-white issue? 3

April 7, 2006

As a black member of staff at Leeds University, I find it heartening that the majority of students and academics seem to hold the view that responsible race relations and acade-mic freedom "are not mutually exclusive".

I strongly support freedom of speech, but surely we must ensure that one person's freedom of speech does not disadvantage another's human rights? We must be careful not to place bigotry under the guise of academic freedom. All students have the right in their academic development to aspire to their full potential.

Although institutions may have practices and procedures that facilitate fairness of student assessment, these cannot ensure equality of student tutelage. The latter depends totally on trust and professionalism: students trust that their tutor will exercise, in a professional manner, the responsibility of fairness in student learning and development. I find it difficult to believethat academics with the views of Geoffrey Sampson ("Sussex urged to reopen its race row case", March 31) could ever practise equality in developing non-white and white students. Hence, institutions that are not seen to be addressing this thorny problem run the risk of perceived tacit acceptance of such discriminatory views.

The obvious result must be that students opposed to these views will demonstrate their academic freedom by "voting with their feet (fees)" and seek institutions with a demonstrable policy of equality and diversity.

Carl Lawrence
Leeds University

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