United Kingdom

Edinburgh University lecturer at centre of freedom of speech row backs law to protect it

An academic at the centre of a freedom of speech row has welcomed plans for a new law to protect it on university campuses.

Dr Neil Thin, 60, a senior lecturer in social anthropology who has become the latest target for woke students, is being investigated after being branded racist and 'problematic' for criticising the University of Edinburgh's move to rename a tower honouring philosopher David Hume over his links to slavery.

Two years ago, he accused an anti-racism event called Resisting Whiteness of segregation because it had an area only for ethnic minorities.

Social anthropology lecturer Dr Neil Thin (pictured), who is at the centre of a freedom of speech row, has welcomed plans for a new law to protect it on university campuses

Last night, he said the planned Higher Education (Freedom of Speech Bill), which was announced in the Queen's Speech and would see universities in England face fines for failing to protect free speech, was a positive step.

It is intended to combat so-called 'no-platforming' on campuses, prevent staff from being penalised for expressing controversial opinions and allow visiting speakers, academics or students to seek compensation if they suffer loss from a breach of free-speech obligations.

'We need to protect people's right to air diverse, reasonable viewpoints and protect people from malicious attacks,' said Dr Thin, whose case prompted claims that the university was 'acting like Communist dictator Chairman Mao'.

He said the most important challenge was 'to persuade our student bodies and academic staff that open-minded discussion, moral curiosity and airing of diverse political viewpoints are crucially important to academic life and if we lose those values we lose the value of universities'.

Dr Thin, 60, is being investigated after being branded racist for criticising the move to rename a University of Edinburgh tower honouring David Hume (pictured) over his links to slavery

Now, he said the planned Higher Education (Freedom of Speech Bill), which was announced in the Queen's Speech, was a positive step. Pictured: The University of Edinburgh

In an open letter to colleagues, Dr Thin said he had been called racist, a transphobe, bigot and misogynist, adding: 'What has changed, dramatically, is the tendency for students with certain kinds of political views to seek to impose them on everyone else, and to try to censor anyone who questions them by claiming they are vulnerable and easily 'triggered', and need to be shielded from viewpoint diversity in 'safe spaces'.'

He said the university 'should not have launched an investigation. It should have been obvious that I had said nothing reprehensible'.

The father-of-three said the effect of the investigation had been 'catastrophic on me and my family', but he had been 'heartened by hundreds of emails offering overwhelming moral support' from academics, students and the public.

A university spokesperson said: 'We have a responsibility to take all complaints seriously and investigate them. We will not prejudge the outcome of this investigation.'

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