Dr Michael Spence was asked during an interview with Times Radio last week whether his commitment to free speech went as far as allowing a Holocaust denier to address UCL students. He replied: “We would have anybody to speak who was invited by an academic or by a student so long as the speech was lawful and there weren’t going to be public order problems that we couldn’t control or whatever.”
He went on to say that the University “would have a responsibility to make sure its Jewish and other students were looked after, that the event took place in an environment in which other views were expressed.”
However, on Friday, in an apology, Dr Spence said: “The point I was trying to make was that UCL will allow free speech for all staff, students and visiting speakers providing it is within the law. Personally, I doubt that the views of a Holocaust denier would be lawful, and I believe that they ought not to be if they are but that was not the question put to me. I fully acknowledge the huge emotional impact that Holocaust denial has on Jewish and other members of the community. I will do my utmost to ensure UCL remains the kind of place in which such a speaker would never be invited and our university tackles anti-Semitism in all its forms. I apologise if my response to a hypothetical question could be understood as suggesting otherwise.”
The apology comes just weeks after the University’s Academic Board voted to “retract and replace” the International Definition of Antisemitism. One academic has resigned in disgust at the advisory motion whilst others have penned a letter urging the University to retain the Definition, which it has already adopted.
If any students are concerned about antisemitism on campus or need assistance, they can call us on 0330 822 0321, or e-mail [email protected].
Image credit: UCL