university calls on the Minister of Universities to defend her freedom of expression | Freedom of expression
A Cambridge University scholar called on the universities minister to defend her freedom of speech, after claiming that her invitation to speak to officials was canceled due to a tweet criticizing Priti Patel, the minister for Interior.
Professor Priyamvada Gopal, a fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge and respected author on British colonial history, was invited to address Home Office officials this week on the links between departmental policies and history recent colonial rule, including the Windrush nationality scandal.
But Gopal said the invitation was withdrawn over the weekend. The right-wing political blog Guido Fawkes claimed the credit for cancellation after highlighting the tweet, originally posted in February.
The February tweet read: “Priti Patel also recalls that many Asians in British Africa had fiercely anti-black attitudes and were used by colonial administrations to hold black populations in their place. An attitude that she brings to the government.
The Home Ministry adviser’s cancellation message made no mention of the tweet. Gopal has said she has the right to be defended by the Education Ministry and ministers, based on their high-profile campaigns and statements supporting academic freedom and lamenting the lack of a platform.
Gopal said she appealed to Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, to look into the reasons for the cancellation. “I said, I was canceled because of pressure from a partisan group, I understand you are invested in free speech, please help me,” Gopal said. “I would like her to defend academic freedom in a consistent manner.”
Donelan wrote this week a comment for the Times defending Kathleen Stock, the Sussex University professor who has been the target of protests for her views on gender identity. “Without freedom of speech and the right to offend, how long would we have had to wait for emancipation for all, religious freedom or equality before the law? Donelan wrote.
Gopal said she was sad to have lost the opportunity to talk about her work at the Home Office. “I don’t think the Home Office is a monolith, and there are people who work there who have genuine interests as human beings and as workers. I think it’s a shame, and I just hope whoever made the invitation, and persisted in bringing me in, isn’t in trouble, ”she said.
A government spokesperson said: “Due diligence checks are always carried out on all speakers and it is important to note that speakers who attend these events are not always representative of the government’s point of view.”
Earlier this year, Gopal participated in a research group and seminar series assessing the historical legacy of Winston Churchill, which drew criticism for his examination of Churchill’s support for colonialism and his views on race.