Letter to the Society of Legal Scholars

On 9th of September the Society of Legal Scholars invited the conservative British politician Michael Gove to address the dinner of its annual conference. In opening his talk, Mr Gove commented: ‘I feel rather like the grand wizard of the KKK giving an address to the AGM of Black Lives Matter.’ On Sunday 11th September, following the circulation of the comments on social media, the SLS issued an apology, seeking to distance itself from the statement. On 12th September, over one hundred academics from across the country responded as follows:

Professor Andrew Burrows
President
Society of Legal Scholars
All Souls College, Oxford

Professor Imelda Maher
Vice President
Sutherland School of Law
University College Dublin

By email only

12 September 2016

Dear Professor Andrew Burrows and Professor Imelda Maher,

Re: Comments of Michael Gove MP at SLS Dinner 

We are writing to you to express our concern about the inappropriate and misjudged comments made by the speaker at the SLS conference dinner on Thursday 9 September this year.

The comments made by your guest in relation to Black Lives Matter and the KKK are deeply offensive and divisive. We understand that Mr Gove commented ‘I feel rather like the grand wizard of the KKK giving an address to the AGM of Black Lives Matter.’ That the very real struggles of Black and Minority Ethnic communities in this country and around the world against racism, discrimination and violence should be made light of at a gathering of eminent lawyers is staggering.

We believe that the comments will be viewed as repugnant by the majority of the UK legal academic community. For BME colleagues throughout the legal academy, they are extremely concerning.

There has never been a more important time for academics in this country to be outward looking. The values of diversity and internationalism which law schools purport to promote stand to be very seriously damaged when a leading Learned Society allows comments such as these to go uncensured.

On Sunday 11 September, SLS issued a statement in which it purported to apologise for the offence caused by the comments of its guest. The Society stated that it wishes to distance itself from the comments of Michael Gove and sincerely regrets any offence caused.

In our view, this statement was clearly inadequate. The statement fails to mention the very damaging words used by your guest. Regardless of intentions, it will give the appearance to many BME colleagues of attempting to exonerate him. Nothing is said, in particular, about what the Society might do to address the legal academy’s lack of diversity. SLS has distanced itself in an insufficient manner which fails to respond to the seriousness of the comment and its implications for BME scholars in the legal academy, including the Society’s own members.

We urge you and the Society to reconsider and to lead with a forthright and unambiguous statement addressing the pressing issues of representation, equality, inclusiveness and diversity raised by this incident. We further urge the SLS to press Mr Gove to issue a full personal apology to all those offended by his remarks in the academy and beyond.

Professor Ambreena Manji, Cardiff Law School
Professor Diamond Ashiagbor, SOAS University of London
Dr Sam Adelman, Associate Professor, Warwick Law School
Dr Donatella Alessandrini, Reader in Law, Kent Law School
Sita Balani, Doctoral Researcher, Kings College, London
Katie Bales, Lecturer in Law, Bristol Law School
Professor Lizzie Barmes, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London
Dr Heike Bauer, Birkbeck College, University of London
Professor Upendra Baxi, Warwick Law School
Dr Kate Bedford, Reader in Law, Kent Law School
Ceylan Begüm Yıldız, Visiting Lecturer, Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London
Professor Alan L Bogg, Professor of Labour Law, Hertford College, Oxford
Professor Bill Bowring, Birkbeck School of Law
Dr Eddie Bruce-Jones, Birkbeck Law School
Professor Nicole Busby, Head of School, Law School, University of Strathclyde
Professor Liz Campbell, Durham Law School
Professor John Coggan, Bristol Law School
Dr Cathryn Costello, Andrew W. Mellon Associate Professor in International Human Rights and Refugee Law, University of Oxford
Professor Nicola Countouris, Professor of Law, Faculty of Laws, University College London
Professor David Cowan, Professor of Law and Policy, Bristol Law School
Professor Sharon Cowan, Professor of Feminist and Queer Legal Studies, Edinburgh Law School
Dr Katie Cruz, Lecturer, Bristol Law School
Dr Bleddyn Davies, Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Law, Liverpool John Moores University
Dr Hazel Dawe, Lecturer, Birkbeck, University of London and Oxford Brookes University
Dr Andreas Dimopoulos, Brunel Law School
Professor Ruth Dukes, Professor of Law, School of Law, University of Glasgow
Dr Nadine El-Enany, Senior Lecturer, School of Law, Birkbeck University of London
Dr Mairead Enright, Senior Lecturer in Law, Birmingham University
Adam Fabry, Postdoctoral researcher, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios sobre la Cultura y la Sociedad (CIECS)-CONICET, Argentina
Professor Peter Fitzpatrick, Birkbeck Law School
Dr Ruth Fletcher, Senior Lecturer, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London
Professor Valerie Fogleman, Cardiff Law School
Professor Marie Fox, Liverpool Law School
Professor Sandra Fredman FBA QC Hon, Professor of Law, Oxford University
Professor Judy Fudge FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada) Professor of Law, Kent Law School
Professor Adam Geary, Birkbeck School of Law
Professor Anna Grear, Professor of Law and Theory, Cardiff Law School
Dr Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, Birkbeck Law School
Dr Nikki Godden-Rasul, Lecturer in Law, Newcastle Law School, Newcastle University
Dr Priyamvada Gopal, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge
Dr Emily Grabham, Reader in Law, Kent Law School
Professor Rosie Harding, Professor of Law and Society, Birmingham Law School
Professor John Harrington, Cardiff Law School
Dr Lydia Hayes, JLS Research Associate, Cardiff Law School
Kevin Hearty, Research Fellow, Warwick Law School
Dr Christian Heitsch, Lecturer, Brunel Law School
Dr Jen Hendry, University of Leeds School of Law
Professor Marie-Andrée Jacob, Professor of Law, Keele University
Dr Suhraiya Jivraj, Senior Lecturer, Kent Law School
Ozan Kamiloglu, Associate Lecturer, Birkbeck School of Law
Dr Sarah Keenan, Lecturer in Law, School of Law, Birkbeck University of London
Philipp Kender, PhD student, Birkbeck Law School
Dr Kojo Koram, Lecturer, Essex Law School
Dr Andreas Kotsakis, Senior Lecturer, School of Law, Oxford Brookes University
Dr Jane Krishnadas, Senior Lecturer, School of Law, Keele University
Dr Vidya Kumar, Senior Lecturer, School of Law, University of Leicester
Kumari Lane, Birkbeck Law School
Daniella Lock, Doctoral researcher, University College London
Dr Claire La Hovary, Research Fellow, School of Law, University of Glasgow
Chris Lloyd, Senior Lecturer in Law, School of Law, Oxford Brookes University
Dr Julie McCandless, Assistant Professor of Law, London School of Economics and Political Science
Professor Jean V. McHale, Professor of Health Care Law, Birmingham Law School
Dr Jurgita Malinauskaite, Senior Lecturer in Law and Associate Dean Equality and Diversity, College of Business, Arts and Social Sciences, Brunel University
Dr David Mangan, Lecturer in Law, City, University of London
Qudsia Mirza, Birkbeck Law School
Flora Muir, Birkbeck Law School
Dr Tara Mulqueen, Assistant Professor, Warwick Law School
Dr Daniel Newman, Lecturer in Criminal Law, Cardiff Law School
Professor Tonia Novitz, Professor of Labour Law, Bristol Law School
Dr Paul O’Connell, Reader in Law, School of Law, SOAS University of London
Dr Emilia Onyema, Senior Lecturer, School of Law, SOAS University of London
Sara Paiola, doctoral researcher, Birkbeck Law School
Professor Abdul Paliwala, Warwick Law School
Dr Robin Pierce, Senior Lecturer in Law, Brunel Law School
Dr Nina Power, Senior Lecturer, Department of Humanities, University of Roehampton
Professor Nicky Priaulx, Cardiff Law School
Sanaz Raji, Independent Scholar & Activist, Justice4 Sanaz & Unis Resist Border Controls
Dr Bernadette Rainey, Senior Lecturer, Cardiff Law School
Ali Raiss-Tousi, Birkbeck, University of London
Professor Arad Reisberg, Professor and Head of Brunel Law School
Dr Isobel Renzulli, School of Law, University of Greenwich
Dr Katie Richards, Cardiff Law School
Serene Richards, Doctoral Researcher, Birkbeck School of Law
Dr Sharifah Sekalala, Assistant Professor, Warwick Law School
Dr Tanya Serisier, Birkbeck School of Law
Professor Sally Sheldon, Kent Law School
Sarah Singh, Lecturer/Senior Lecturer Law, Liverpool John Moores University
Professor Stijn Smismans, Cardiff Law School
Dr Celine Tan, Associate Professor, Warwick Law School
Dr Anastasia Tataryn, Lecturer in Law, University of Liverpool
Dr Sivaramjani Thambisetty, Associate Professor in Law, London School of Economics and Political Science
Dr Dania Thomas, Lecturer in Business Law, University of Glasgow
Dr Sharon Thompson, Lecturer in Law, Cardiff Law School
Simon Thorpe, PhD Candidate, Warwick Law School
Dr Sarah Turnbull, Lecturer in Criminology, Birkbeck, University of London
Professor Charlotte Villiers, Bristol Law School
Professor Celia Wells, Emeritus Professor, Bristol Law School
Professor Toni Williams, Head of School, Kent Law School
Professor Chris Willmore, Bristol Law School
Professor Daniel Wincott, Cardiff Law School
Beke Zwingmann, Lecturer in Law and German, Cardiff Law School

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  1 comment for “Letter to the Society of Legal Scholars

  1. Alessandra Asteriti
    13 September 2016 at 2:45 pm

    Since I find Gove repugnant, I am not surprised by his statement. But I have to say that the rightful indignation flavour of this response leaves me almost equally cold.

    It is a well known fact the university pension funds in the UK have the habit of investing in a morally questionable way. My own alma mater invests in BAE System, provider, in their own words of ‘support and service solutions for current and future defense, intelligence, and civilian systems; designs, develops and manufactures a wide range of electronic systems and subsystems for both military and commercial applications; produces specialized security and protection products for law enforcement and first responders; and designs, develops, produces, and provides service support of armored combat vehicles, artillery systems, and munitions.’

    I am pretty sure that the lives of African American young men have not been enhanced by BAE’s expertise in products for law enforcement, shall we say. I dare suggest BAE Systems has a more detrimental effect on them than hapless Mr Gove. How many legal academics are ready to put their money where their mouth is and withraw from their university’s pension scheme until their university stops engaging in such questionable investment practices? Or even, just draft a similar letter to be made public to criticise their own university’ USS scheme?

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