Forget the Footnotes

Xmas card to LSE bosses

Christmas is a time when you look back on the year that’s been and you send Christmas cards to those you remember particularly fondly. Of course I couldn’t stop myself from thinking of my bosses at the LSE. Where would I be without you? Not the owner of a semi-famous blog and not an emotional asylum seeker in Southeast Asia..

Anyway here it is … to be delivered by the Members of the LSE Free Speech Group.

Dear members of the Free Speech Group,

My name is Erik Ringmar and I’m a senior lecturer in the government department. During the past year I was engaged in a controversy with the convenor of my department, George Philip, and with the director of the School, Sir Howard Davies. The reasons for the controversy were 1) a speech I gave to prospective undergraduate students at the Open Day event on March 22; and 2) my personal blog in which wrote about the Open Day event and other business having to do with the School. In May the controversy became a national news story.

I’m enclosing copies of two emails, one from George Philip, the other one from Howard Davies. My contention is that Philip and Davies are in breach of the LSE’s code regarding freedom of speech. As you know, the Code explicitly incorporates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, 1948, which states that…

Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his or her choice.

And as the same LSE Code makes clear:

Action by any member of the School or other person contrary to this Code, will be regarded as a serious disciplinary offence and, subject to the circumstances of the case, may be the subject of proceedings under the relevant disciplinary regulations, as promulgated from time to time.

As you will see from the emails, Philip reprimanded me for speaking to students in my own fashion and Davies issued threats against me for things I wrote in my blog. As a consequence my right to free speech has been taken away. They have, as far as I understand it, acted “contrary to this Code” and their actions should be “regarded as a serious disciplinary offence.” As members of the Schools Free Speech Group, I ask you to rule on their behaviour and to censor them in accordance with the rules of the School.

Quite apart from the details of my case it is obvious that the School needs a policy on free speech which protects bloggers and other internet users from threats, reprimands and intimidation. The current rules are not enough. There are many students, staff members and departments, that maintain blogs and we don’t know what we can and cannot say. Establishing such a code is a matter of some urgency.

yours sincerely,

Erik Ringmar


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