Freedom of speech

One of the points of free speech, I think, is that it allows people to identify problems and so cause them to be rectified. One of the reasons, I think, for protecting free speech is that this rectification may cause problems for people at the top, who are able to act against speech they dislike.

Enter Erik Ringmar, stage right.

Without wanting to restate the facts (which can be found at Erik's blog at, I find it very hard to justify the LSE's position.

Everything that Erik said in his speech was, based on five years as a government department undergrad, accurate. Nor was it a tirade against LSE:

"What I can promise is that our ‘occasional teachers’ are in a league onto themselves. These are the people in charge of your classes. The people you will interact with most closely."

Because all undergrads are always lectued by Nobel laureates, frequently on a one-to-one basis.

If giving that speech, despite all that LSE said, was inappropriate, someone higher up the cursus honorum could have dropped an email. They could even have not invited him to give the speech again.

However, they did not. What they ended up doing was threatening an employee with disciplinary action because of something done in that employee's private life. We are in a sad situation indeed if someone cannot openly talk about their workplace, particularly an academic institution that proclaims its attachment to free speech.

One of the claims made from the administration was that Erik's comments damaged the LSE. Maybe yes, maybe no. I contend that coverage in the national press about an academic institution restricting freedom of speech is rather more damaging.



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