This Oxford Don Dared Speak out on Immigration. Nowhe's Being Hounded out by Protesters Funded by, You Guessed It, the Big Lottery Fund
Byline: FIONA BARTON
THE RIGHT is enshrined in the simplest terms by Parliament.
Clause 202 of the Education Reform Act (1988) states: ' Academic staff have freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom and put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs.' But it is a concept which has apparently failed to register with some of the brightest young minds in the country.
The members of Oxford Students Action for Refugees (STAR) have demanded the sacking of one of their university's eminent academics.
Professor David Coleman of St John's College's crime? It is to be an acknowledged and widely published expert in demographics, cofounder of the think tank MigrationWatch, which monitors immigration statistics, and to express views on the subject with which the young bloods of Oxford disagree.
They claim that because he opposes the idea of mass immigration as ' contrary to the interests of all sections of society', he is stirring up racial hatred.
And they go further. The students and their supporters also claim that by being a member of the Galton Institute, a scientific charity formerly called the Eugenics Society, he is following in the footsteps of Hitler's use of inhuman experiments to establish a 'master race'.
It is an ugly accusation which Prof. Coleman vehemently refutes, saying the society is an internationally respected body concerned with controversial developments in genetic technology.
He said: 'There are some aspects of eugenics that are regularly practised by the medical profession today, for example the abortion of foetuses that show signs of severe disability. Of course, other aspects are deplorable.' But the undergraduates do not want to debate the issues. They want Prof. Coleman silenced and stripped of his chair at the Department of Social Policy and Social Work.
The 40-strong membership of Oxford STAR is circulating a petition among Oxford's 17,000 students, calling on the vice chancellor, Dr John Hood, to 'consider the suitability of Coleman's continued tenure as a Professor of the University, in light of his well-known opinions and affiliations relating to immigration and eugenics.' The row has engulfed the world of academe and raised questions about the use of public money for political 'witch hunts'.
For the Coleman petition was organised by a branch of the national STAR charity which is funded by The Big Lottery and the Department for Education and Skills.
And it follows hard on the heels of the case of Dr Frank Ellis, a lecturer at Leeds University. Dr Ellis said in a newspaper article that ethnicity could influence average intelligence levels and 500 students called for his sacking. He was suspended, and resigned before a disciplinary hearing could take place.
Meanwhile, Andrew McIntosh, professor of Thermodynamics and director of Truth In Science, has been disowned by his employers, Leeds University, for his controversial views on creationism and the true age of the Earth.
The effect of all this on free debate is now considered so grave among university staff that influential dons have formed the pressure group Academics for Academic Freedom to protect their rights.
But for 60-year-old Prof. Coleman, the issue is a much more urgent matter.
This is a man who is a leader in his academic field, whose expertise in the field of demographics, immigration trends and the migration of ethnic minorities is unsurpassed.
He has been Professor in Demography at Oxford for five years and has been a special adviser to the Home Office as well as housing and environment ministers. He has also worked as a consultant to the United Nations.
The STAR petition, he says, is 'a most shameful attempt, of the most intolerant and totalitarian kind, to suppress the freedom of analysis and informed comment which it is the functions of universities to cherish. …