SOAS staff ‘appalled’ by colleague standing for far-right AfD

Employees and students have organised a protest, with some calling for academic to be dismissed 

May 17, 2019
Soas University of London

Staff and students at SOAS University of London were set to stage a protest in response to an academic at the institution standing for Germany’s far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party in the forthcoming European elections.

Members of the School of Law issued a statement stating that they were “deeply dismayed” and “appalled” that Gunnar Beck, a reader in the department, had “chosen to associate with this party”, which they said was “widely recognised as a far-right, anti-immigrant, Islamophobic, and reactionary party”.

“We would like to express our vehement opposition to this party and its policies, and distance ourselves entirely from those who advocate and support them,” the statement says. “We are speaking out because we recognise the importance of not being complicit in the normalisation of reactionary, right-wing populism.

“We regard the AfD’s views as utterly incompatible with our basic values of equality, acceptance, and non-discrimination, and with our commitment to ensure dignity and respect for all students and staff at SOAS.”

protest was due to take place at the institution on 17 May. A Facebook event for the protest calls for Dr Beck to be dismissed and for SOAS to provide an explanation for its “role in facilitating his far-right politics”.

Paul Cottrell, acting general secretary of the University and College Union, said he was “shocked that a member of academic staff from SOAS could be involved with a party like [the AfD] which stands for policies utterly incompatible with the values of diversity, tolerance and internationalism at the very heart of SOAS as an institution”.

In a statement, SOAS said that it finds “the policies of the AfD on a range of matters to be abhorrent” and it recognises the “anxiety caused to staff and students as a result of this situation”.

But it said that “as an academic institution, we are committed to the rights of academic freedom of speech within the law, despite the painful choices to which it gives rise”.

“We encourage members of our community to tackle these issues through robust debate,” the university added.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (2)

1959: "I disagree with x." 2019: "X is a peddler of hate and must be stripped of all dignities and titles. Only the official teachings will be tolerated." Liberalism has become puritanism. What independent thinker is safe from the collectivized outrage of poorly read students (and academics) who are capable of nothing but low-resolution thinking?
Political belief is also a protected characteristic under the Equality Act in the UK. If the employer fails to address the hostile work climate towards this academic, I will not be surprised if this academic would consider legal action against the university. Just sayin'...

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