The Daily Telegraph
How Cambridge stifled freedom of expression
Sir – Six senior Cambridge academics (Letters, June 12) insist, against some evidence to the contrary, that their vice-chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is “committed to championing freedom of expression”. My experience lies on the contrary side.
During the Brexit debate in 2019 I wrote an article criticising an alarmist anti-brexit statement issued by the Russell Group (which represents Cambridge and other universities). Cambridge had a special section of its website devoted to articles on Brexit – almost all of them hostile. An official told me that those with “current links to Cambridge” could publish on it, and I am an honorary fellow of three Cambridge colleges; but my article was refused, and my requests for a reason were met first with silence, then with the absurd falsehood that Cambridge was not represented by the Russell Group, and finally with a surly dismissive message from the director of communications, Paul Mylrea.
When I wrote to Professor Toope to complain about Mr Mylrea, he sent my complaint to be investigated by, of all people, Mr Mylrea, while refusing to answer me either then or on subsequent requests.
Only nine months later, when contacted by Charles Moore on behalf of The Telegraph, did he quickly ask his office to send me a message, which defended the tactic of silence to “shut down correspondence” and said that it would not respond further to anything I wrote.
That last statement was in some ways the most off-putting of all, as it meant that whatever points I made in reply would simply be ignored, even if they included (as they did) demonstrations of factual errors.
Silence, misrepresentation and the refusal to consider reasons or facts: these are not tactics that a university should adopt.
I sympathise with those Cambridge academics who are chafing under this yoke.
Sir Noel Malcolm
All Souls College, Oxford
Sir – I am responsible for scrutinising applications made by candidates for corporate engineer status through the Engineering Council. Recently one came from a Cambridge engineering academic. Listed as one of three main objectives for her professional development was “decolonisation activities”.
Should this be a criterion by which professional engineers are judged? Surely they should be concerned with making things work rather than pulling things down.
Professor R G Faulkner Loughborough, Leicestershire
Sir – It must be a blow for Oriel undergraduates that Professor Danny Dorling is unwilling to teach them because of the college’s statue of Cecil Rhodes (Letters, June 14).
At least he’s a man of principle, and I am confident he will spend the hours of lost tutorials reconsidering his own title – the Halford Mackinder Professor of Human Geography.
Can Professor Dorling be ignorant of Mackinder’s history – that of an unpleasant imperialist of the first order?
Dr John Garside
Thirsk, North Yorkshire
Sir – When I was at Oriel, if you missed a tutorial, you’d be hauled up before the dean. Will the same apply to the boycotting dons?