Letter From Research Students To Vice-Chancellor of The University Of Nottingham

Dear Sir Colin,

As research students at the Universities of Oxford, London, Manchester, Kent, Westminster and of the London School of Economics, we have been gravely disturbed by the treatment of Rizwaan Sabir, a fellow student at your institution, and Hicham Yezza, one of your administrative employees. Following their wrongful arrest under anti-terrorism laws on 14 May and their subsequent release after six days in detention, Hicham Yezza faced a total of 31 days in detention in various immigration facilities, threatened with deportation, before being released a few days ago.

The response of your institution to their treatment is of deep concern to anyone who believes in academic freedom.

Rizwaan Sabir was arrested for doing no more than downloading an al-Qaeda training manual, freely available on US government websites, as part of his academic research, and Hicham Yezza for receiving the file for printing. Any concerns Nottingham had about this file could easily have been
cleared up by speaking to the individuals concerned, and their supervisors. Nottingham’s reaction was instead to immediately report them to the police, essentially dropping the two like hot potatoes, rather than to support the right of students to pursue the truth and conduct research free from harassment and intimidation.

Nottingham’s panicked response appeared to favour a culture of risk aversion over its central responsibility to engage in the harder task of defending academic freedom. This is all the more tragic given the current political and cultural climate, which demands both more research on terrorism, and the staunch defence of the freedoms necessary to undertake that research. Nottingham’s reaction is likely to have a chilling effect on your own research community and indeed wider academic life in the United Kingdom.

We urge Nottingham University to respond positively to the Letter from Concerned Employees submitted to you in late May, signed by dozens of Nottingham academics, which urges you to support Rizwaan Sabir and Hicham Yezza to the fullest extent possible, and to engage with faculty to devise measures to avoid future invasions into academic freedom and individual liberty in the future.

In closing, we would like to stress that our signatures were gathered hastily in a few days in order to convey our concerns as quickly as possible. In our view, they represent merely the tip of the iceberg of students’ alarm at these events.

Yours sincerely,

Lee Jones
Dept of Politics & International Relations
University Of Oxford

Co-Signatories

Alastair Fraser – Dept of Politics & International Relations, University of Oxford
Alex Sutherland – Dept of Sociology, University of Oxford
Anneke Haddad – Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford
Ben Britton – Dept of Materials, University of Oxford
Caitlyn Schwartz – Faculty of English Language & Literature, University of Oxford
Chris Bickerton – Dept of Politics & International Relations, University of Oxford
Christina Ward – Dept of Politics & International Relations, University of Oxford
Eireann Cosgriff – Dept of Materials, University of Oxford
Elina Kilpi – Dept of Sociology, University of Oxford
Elton Barker – Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford
Evrim Altintas – Dept of Sociology, University of Oxford
Keith Stanski – Dept of Politics & International Relations, University of Oxford
Maria Grasso – Dept of Sociology, University of Oxford
Mark Taylor – Dept of Sociology, University of Oxford
Martin A. Rust – Dept of Materials, University of Oxford
Michael Urban – Dept of Politics & International Relations, University of Oxford
Nathan Sperber – Dept of Politics & International Relations, University of Oxford
Oisin Suttle – Dept of Politics & International Relations, University of Oxford
Scot M. Peterson – Dept of Politics & International Relations, University of Oxford
Stefan Goetze – Dept of Politics & International Relations, University of Oxford
Sundas Ali – Dept of Sociology, University of Oxford
Urvashi Aneja – Dept of Politics & International Relations, University of Oxford
Vidya Kumar – Faculty of Law, University of Oxford

Alex Hochuli – European Studies Department, Kings College London
Brian Hole – Institute of Archaeology, University College London
Christopher L. Pallas – Centre for Civil Society, London School of Economics
James Heartfield – Centre for Study of Democracy, University of Westminster
Joanne Kalogeras – Gender Institute, London School of Economics
Malcolm James – Sociology Department, London School of Economics
Marisa Minunno – School of Oriental and Asian Studies, University of London
Philip Cunliffe – War Studies Department, Kings College London
Robert Ford – Dept of Politics, University of Manchester
Ros Barber – Centre for Continuing Education, University of Sussex
Tiffany Jenkins – School of Social Sciences, University of Kent at Canterbury

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