Dear Members of the Board of Governors of Middlesex University
I have over the many years of a long career in institutions of higher learning been privileged to teach and research in many universities around the world including many in the United Kingdom and on the African continent. At whichever university I have worked there has always been a bottom line – heavily inculcated by the British University liberal tradition – in which the right to peacefully protest in favour of the intellectual project has been a recognised right. Of course that right has never been simply a gift and has often had to be defended. Nevertheless in all cases, university administrations, academic staff and students have together recognised that despite their frequent disagreements, they all work for something common, namely intellectual integrity, academic sophistication and the right to disagree. After all what is a university all about if such values are not upheld? How can knowledge advance and truth be achieved if there is no debate around contentious issues? When disagreements arise between these three constituents it is therefore recognised that it is the duty of all parties to engage in mutual discussions in order to arrive at a solution to which all can commit, or else their common institution will suffer to the detriment of all.
In this context I find it quite astonishing that what seems to have been a unilateral decision by the Administration of Middlesex University to close down an intellectually vibrant and financially viable Philosophy Department is now being followed by the suspension of certain staff and students for merely exercising their right to peacefully protest such closure. This is not likely to encourage the kind of discussion and common understanding around which an intellectual project can be built and sustained.
I therefore implore you, as members of the Governing Body of the University, to exercise your powers to return the situation to one where reason – an eminently philosophical category – can prevail or else I am fearful that you may have to preside over what many of us never thought they would see, the destruction of the intellectual project and ultimately of the academic ethos of a major British University.
Professor Michael Neocosmos (PhD)
Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Humanities Research,
University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa;
Honorary Professor in Global Movements
Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.