Union dancing to racists' tune 1

June 13, 2003

Your editorial on higher education unions and the British National Party is welcome ("Unions should know not to tangle with BNP", THES , June 6): a clear and measured reminder of the way that extremist organisations thrive on publicity.

Their members are particularly delighted when they can reverse the very politics they espouse and present themselves as the victims of intolerance and exclusion.

The presence of BNP members on campus presents a dilemma for any university community. Their politics are repugnant and many would find it unpleasant - to say the least - to deal with students believed to be racist.

But, as our very raison d'etre is free debate and open inquiry, it is especially difficult to argue that membership of a legal political party should disqualify some students from education.

The test, of course, is not what students may or may not believe - but how they behave.

And, as you point out, "universities have procedures for removing students when there is evidence of racism or violence".

For the record, the first incident described in your related article ("Is it right to refuse to teach a racist?") has not been reported to the university. Nor were police called to the university in connection with a lecturer's details being posted on a website.

If racially motivated offences are committed, we will take disciplinary action. Our robust equal opportunities and harassment policies are our guarantee that we will not tolerate racism in any form on campus.

Rick Trainor
University of Greenwich

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