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Academic Freedom Under Threat: What is to be done?

Monday, 18 November 2019 - 2:45pm

Academic Freedom Under Threat: What’s to be Done?


On 9-10 May 2019 the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics, and Public Life held a conference at Pembroke College, Oxford, to discuss the threats posed to freedom of speech and research in universities, to analyze their causes, and to begin to articulate the remedies. The fourteen speakers were drawn from the UK, the US, Canada, and South Africa, and their audience included journalists from the BBC, the Financial Times, the Times, the Guardian, the Spectator, the Oxford Magazine, and Quillette.

Find the conference highlights here.

A YouTube playlist link with the complete list of videos from the conference can be found here or at the conclusion of each video.

For individual videos, see the following links below:









The following provides links to the presentations in full, which were delivered during the conference.

Session 1

Video 1.1. Nigel Biggar introduces the conference; Eric Kaufmann, "PC Politeness and Campus Outrage: The Two Faces of the Cultural Left"

  • Eric Kaufmann is Professor of Politics, Birkbeck College, University of London, author of Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? (2010) and Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities (2018), and commentator on identity politics.

Video 1.2. Heather Heying, "Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy: A Conflict at the Core of Education"

  • Heather Heying is an evolutionary biologist and “professor-in-exile” who came to prominence after she and her husband, Bret Weinstein, stood up to supporters of an enforced 'Day of Absence' for white staff and teachers at Evergreen State College, Washington, USA.

Session 2

Video 2.2. Gillian Evans, "Are the Rules Protecting Academic Freedom in England Still Working?"

  • Gillian R. Evans, Emeritus Professor of Mediaeval Theology and Intellectual History in the University of Cambridge, writes on higher education policy with particular reference to governance and regulation, and has provided informal support to students and academics in many disputes in UK universities.

Session 3

Video 3.1. Noah Carl, "The Lack of Viewpoint Diversity in British and American Universities"

  • Noah Carl is a British sociologist and intelligence researcher who was dismissed from his position as a Toby Jackman Newton Trust fellow after his research on race and intelligence was denounced by over 500 academics, and the author of a report for the Adam Smith Institute about the lack of viewpoint diversity in British academia.

Video 3.2. Bruce Gilley, "How to End Left-wing Dominance in Higher Education: A Toolkit for Activists and Policy-Makers"

  • Bruce Gilley, Professor of Political Science at Portland State University, attracted in a world-wide furore after publishing over his article, “The Case for Colonialism”, in the Third World Quarterly (2017).

Session 4

Video 4.1. Amy Wax, "The Threat to Academic Values from the Quest for 'Diversity' and Equal Results"

  • Amy Wax is a University of Pennsylvania Law School professor and author of an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, "What Can't be Debated on Campus”.

Video 4.2. Joanna Williams, "Academic Freedom and Identity: Can We Speak Freely About Gender?"

  • Joanna Williams is Head of Education and Culture at Policy Exchange, author of Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity (2016), and former Director of the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Kent.

Session 5

Video 5.1. Frank Furedi, "The Politicisation of Identity and the Crusade Against Moral Judgment"

  • Frank Furedi is a former student radical and founder of the Revolutionary Communist Party, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent, and author of What's Happened to the University? (2016).

Video 5.2. Nigel Biggar, "Where's the Virtue in Universities?"

  • Nigel Biggar is Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology, and Director of the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics, and Public Life, in the University of Oxford. His project “Ethics and Empire” became an object of post-colonialist suppression. He is the author of “Don’t Feel Guilty about Our Colonial History” (Times, November 2017) and “Vile Abuse is Now Tolerated in Our Universities” (Times, April 2018).

Session 6

Video 6.0. Francesca Minerva, "The Journal of Controversial Ideas"

  • Francesca Minerva is a research fellow in the Department of Politics and International Studies, The University of Warwick

Session 7

Video 7.1. Musa al-Gharbi, "Institutions and the Means of (Knowledge) Production"

  • Musa al-Gharbi, a graduate student in Sociology at Columbia University, is an active member of the Heterodox Academy, and occasional essayist for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Atlantic Magazine, and Foreign Affairs.

Video 7.2. Nicola de Jager, "The Age of Conformity: Reflections on Academic Freedom in South Africa"

  • Nicola de Jager, Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Stellenbosch University, is a specialist in South African politics, author of “South Africa is in danger of becoming a radicalised society – again” (The Conversation, November 2015), and observer of the #mustfall campus movements.

Session 8

Video 8.1. Anthony O'Hear, "'D'ou parles-tu?' Reflections on Power, Truth, and the Open Society"

  • Anthony O'Hear is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Buckingham, Editor of 'Philosophy' since 1985, and former Director of the Royal Institute of Philosophy.

Video 8.2. Neema Parvini, "The Orwellian Language Game: Winning the War Against Linguistic Terrorism"

  • Neema Parvini is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Surrey and author of “The Incentives for Groupthink” (Quillette, April 2018).


Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash