Two University of Southampton lecturers have lost a high court battle over the university’s decision to cancel a controversial conference on Israel.
Professors Oren Ben-Dor and Suleiman Sharkh took the university to court after numerous conditions were placed on an attempt to re-launch this year’s conference, which was cancelled last year due to concerns over security after a petition opposing the event launched by The Zionist Federation UK gained more than 6,700 signatures.
Conditions placed on the organisers by the university this year included a £25,000 fee to cover security and policing costs and refusal to grant use of university premises for a lunch. The organisers argued that ‘academic freedom was at stake’ if the conference was not allowed to go ahead.
High Court judges in London rejected the professors’ claims. Mr Justice Whipple told the court that there was ‘no large principle at stake’ and ‘freedom of expression and freedom of assembly at the university were alive and well’.
A University of Southampton spokesperson told the BBC:
The university has an excellent track record of supporting free speech and remains committed to its legal obligation to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for all of its staff, students and visiting speakers.
They added that the judge ‘could see no reason why, where funds are available, the conference should not fund its own security costs’.