University defends controversial speakers on campus

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By Maddy Russell, Second Year Politics & International Relations

The University of Bristol has defended its commitment to allowing controversial figures to speak on campus, following concerns raised by a seminar hosted by allegedly racist speaker Eric Kaufmann.

In a statement made to Epigram, the University has defended its commitment to allowing controversial speakers on campus.

A spokesperson for the University said: 'The University of Bristol is fully committed to freedom of speech and to the rights of all our students and staff to discuss difficult and sensitive topics, and to being a place where all feel safe, welcomed and respected, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, disability or social background.'

The statement follows a large scale walk out of students during a seminar hosted by Professor Kaufmann in partnership with the University of Bristol Centre of Ethnicity and Citizenship.

Professor Kaufmann has previously been labelled a 'racist' and 'white nationalist' for his academic work, including a recently publish book entitled Whiteshift, which linked far-right politics in Europe with immigration and increased diversity.

In response to Kuaffman’s academic work, Omar Chowdhury, incoming head of the BME network said: 'White genocide and the idea that white people are being 'replaced' by immigrants is far right, racist rhetoric that is not based in fact.

The standards for extremism are much higher for white people than ethnic minorities, especially Muslims.'

Up to 30 students are believed to have walked out of the seminar in protest of Kaufmann’s controversial views.

'We thought it would be best to take up seats in the room and then leave peacefully to show our solidarity with BME and international students.'

One of the main organisers of the walk out and head of Bristol’s Stand Up to Racism, Sophia Beach, told Epigram: 'The student left chose to do a walk out during his talk as we did not want to protest the event or no platform him.

'We were aware that the event would be small, so we thought it would be best to take up seats in the room and then leave peacefully to show our solidarity with BME and international students.'

The walk out came a week after the University and Bristol SU recommended the Bristol Free Speech Society cancel their event, following ‘security concerns’ over an allegedly Islamophobic speaker.

Undergraduate Education Officer, Nasra Ayub, has also expressed her discontent with Kaufmann’s seminar, stating on Twitter: ‘Bristol Uni is not the place or time to be having a discussion that harbours a racist ideology.’

In its statement in response to the controversy, the University said it recognised the concerns raised by Kaufmann’s academic work, but that it remained committed to intellectual freedom and debate as fundamental to its mission and values.

Featured image: Epigram/ Cameron Scheijde


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