It comes amid growing concern about threats to free speech on university campuses, with students seeking to "no platform" individuals or groups whose views are deemed offensive. Earlier this month, protesters stormed a KCL event featuring a controversial anti-feminist YouTube star.
Saturday March 17, 2018
By Camilla Turner
King's College London
King’s College London (KCL) has been accused of “no platforming” its own lecturer, after his talk on free speech was deemed “high risk”.
Dr Adam Perkins, an academic who specialises in the neurobiology of personality, was due to speak to students on Friday afternoon about the scientific importance of free speech.
But the event, hosted by KCL’s Libertarian Society, was forcibly postponed by the university following a risk assessment.
The society said they see this as “no platforming”, adding: “When your university censors its own lecturer, you know things have got out of hand.
“The talk was meant to be about the scientific importance of free speech. It seems for King’s, there is no such concept of free speech.”
Police are investigating the incident, which saw masked activists reportedly assault security guards as they barged into the university building, smashed windows, hurled smoke bombs and set off a fire alarm.
The university said that following the outbreak of violence at this event, they decided that all “high risk” talks must be suspended until the end of term while they review their security procedures.
In an email sent to the Libertarian Society the day before the talk was due to go ahead, a university representative explained that Dr Perkins was deemed “high risk” because he has “attracted controversy in the past”.
In a book titled The Welfare Trait, Dr Perkins argues that children whose families are dependent on benefits tend to be even more unmotivated and resistant to employment than their parents. He recommends that policies should be altered so that the welfare state does not encourage families in disadvantaged households to have more children.
The London School of Economics (LSE) previously postponed one of his lectures, following a backlash on social media about his book.
A group of people calling themselves London Antifa stormed a talk at KCL earlier this month Credit: Matthew Fearn
Dr Perkins also said that US president Donald Trump's travel ban "makes sense in human capital terms" since “people from the banned nations tend to be over-represented in crime & unemployment stats”. He later apologised for his comments.
The university's email, seen by The Telegraph, pointed out that: "More than 400 students signed a petition organised by the KCL Somali Society demanding an apology from Perkins, calling his statements ‘shameful bigotry and stigmatisation of minority groups’.
“KCL’s intersectional feminist society also spoke out against Perkins’ comments, calling them ‘racist and ‘absurd’."
The email concluded by saying that the university does not have enough resources to ensure the event can be managed safely, adding that "the safety of staff and students will on this occasion outweigh the desire for free speech".
Dr Perkins, who has taught at the university for the past decade, said he was “disappointed” that his lecture was postponed.
"In reality universities are in favour of free speech and the majority of students are fair minded, decent youngsters ," he told The Telegraph.
"But in the past few years for whatever reason there has been a situation where a small number of authoritarian students have manged to gain extra leverage to dictate their views and shut down views they disagree with. Universities need to look at this."
A King’s College London spokesperson said that the event was assessed as “high risk” and was postponed due to the “current external environment and the recent violent protest” at the university.
“We have robust procedures in place to assess the appropriateness of events and speakers hosted on campus and the safety and security of staff, students, speakers and attendees is a priority,” the spokesman said.
“We are absolutely committed to academic freedom and respect the right to peaceful protest where people have conflicting views.”