Letter from Vice-Chancellor John Joughin of University of East London in Response to our letter about the cancelled talk by Richard Falk
Dear Ms Rofel
Thank you for your email and letter regarding the cancellation of Professor Richard Falk’s book launch at our campus.
It was obviously disappointing to have to cancel this event at such short notice. Unfortunately, we were left with no other choice because we were only made aware of the event the day before. Given the protests likely to occur at the event, there was a clear need to assess and manage the risks involved. However, the lack of notice provided by the organiser meant that we were unable to do so.
This has obviously caused disappointment for both staff and a range of external stakeholders who were booked to attend. As you will have seen online, it has also provided a platform for certain interest groups to claim that we cancelled the event at their request. This is emphatically not the case and we would happily consider welcoming Professor Falk to our campus on another occasion.
UEL has long hosted a wide variety of events and speakers on our campus, often sparking fierce debate and discussion. I feel very strongly that universities must remain a place of debate and free speech and this is a critical part of what we offer to our students, staff and wider society. However, we cannot do this unless we ensure the appropriate procedures are followed which allow us to exercise due diligence and prioritise the safety and wellbeing of those involved. We don’t seek to prevent protests, but we must take reasonable steps to manage their potential impact.
Thank you again for taking the time to write to me about this important issue.
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