Last week’s sudden cancellation of Dr. Matthias Kuentzel’s invited lecture at the University of Leeds has prompted a number of newspaper reports, letters of inquiry from academics and others from around the world and official letters and statements of Leeds University.
Here is Matthias Kuentzel’s official response to the response by Leeds University to inquiries about the cancellation, also printed here. It takes the form of a letter to Professor Charles Small of the Institute for Social and Policy Studies Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at Yale University where Dr. Kuentzel had made a similar presentation earlier in the year.
This is printed with permission of both Dr. Kuentzel and Prof. Small followed by the official response from the University of Leeds to inquiries about the cancelation, including the letter from SPME President Edward S. Beck to Leeds. Dr. Beck has not heard from Leeds University as of this writing.
SPME wishes to those of you who wrote to express your outrage with this episode and is responding to those of you who sent us your copies of the official letters of response. This publication is Dr. Kuentzel and SPME’s response to Leed’s University’s fabrication and distortion of the actual events surrounding the cancellation of Dr. Kuentzel’s talk.
We invite you to share this article with colleagues as clearly Leeds University has embarrassed itself with its behavior, its arrogant position that the truth of the matter might not become known and its delusion that the it is not under an intense microscope of the world academic community for its lack of integrity, honesty and decency.
You may share your public thoughts with the community of scholars that is SPME by writing [email protected] . They will be shared with our over 9300 scholars and friends world-wide. We also encourage you to share your views with the University of Leeds through J.R. Gair at [email protected] . Please copy SPME at [email protected]. Thank you.
Letter by Matthias Kuentzel
Dr. Charles Small,
Institution for Social and
Hamburg, March 20, 2007
Dear Dr. Small,
Thank you very much for asking me about my opinion with regards to the standardized response of Roger Gair, the University of Leeds Secretary, to your and other complaints against the cancellation of my talk about on March 14.
First of all I have to emphasize that I never got a written or even verbal explanation by Mr. Gair or by the office of the University’s vice-Chancellor as to why my talk on Islamic antisemitism had been canceled on the very day I arrived in Leeds.
No one responsible for the cancellation ever apologized.
The University of Leeds did not and does not treat me like an invited guest speaker, but like someone unwelcome who just makes mischief – quite an unpleasant experience.
Against this background, I was confronted with conflicting information with respect to the two seminars scheduled as follow-up events to my public talk. A press officer told me that only my public talk was cancelled. Faculty members of the German department told me that these seminars were cancelled as well. I finally gave these seminars at a location off the University grounds. Many faculty members and students of the University nevertheless participated. The statement by Roger Gair “The other two events [the seminars] are going ahead as planned” (see Times, March 16) was simply not true.
Roger Gair’s statement of March 19 is as inconsistent as his press release of March 15.
1. His comparison of my talk with the talk of an Israeli diplomat is completedly misleading, since I am not a diplomat (with all the security requirements that such a status implies) but an academic.
2. He admits that the University in my case “received no threats, and only a handful of complaints”. Why then has my “lecture been cancelled on safety grounds … to protect the safety of participants in the event” as his press release says? Why then did Mr. Gair demand that “around twenty people in total” or – in his press release four days earlier – “around 30 people in all” had to be in place just for security reasons?
3. His assertion that the organisers of my talk “did not give us enough notice” to provide for this amount of security staff is misleading, since my talk in Leeds had been scheduled four month earlier and the publicity for it had been out of weeks.
4. It was not my lecture which came to the University’s “attention less then 36 hours before it was due to take place” – as his press release asserts – but rather some E-mails by Muslim students who asked the University only on March 13 to “provide a solution … by cancelling the lecture all together” and to “apologize to the Muslim Community as a whole, for suggesting such a topic.”
That is why I cannot find the Secretary’s claim that my public lecture “was cancelled neither for any reason of censorship nor because of pressure from any interest group” convincing. Instead, there are many indications that the University anticipated potential protests before they ever happened and thus practiced self-censorship.
Letter by SPME President Edward S. Beck
Dear University Secretary Gair,
I wrote to Vice Chancellor Arthur in my capacities as President of the international academic group of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East of which Dr. Kuentzel is a Board Member, with over 9300 involved with us. I expected something other than a form letter in return and have many questions as a result of what has and hasn’t happened and so I expect answers, which I will share with the international academic community.
1) It is my under standing that Mr. Kuentzel’s speech had been arranged weeks, if not months in advance and was part of a university series sponsored by the Department of German at the University of Leeds. If this is so, how can you claim that the University was not given enough prior notice.
2) What arrangements have been made for Mr. Kuentzel to give his lecture at another date and what amends is the University making to him and his sponsors for this lack of administrative preparation.
3) You are claiming that he gave two academic presentations. We have mixed reports that they were given off-campus and were not university sanctioned.
4) It was reported that a University of Leeds official hung up on a Jerusalem Post reporter trying to get similar answers to similar questions.
The fact of the matter is that given what you are saying, I see this as an administrative failure resulting in suppression of an properly scheduled academic event. Please advise us and we will share your response with our constituency to try to clarify the many questions and inconsistencies raised by your response, press reports and both formal in informal reports we have received from the international community. I can be reached at 717.576.5038 in the United States.
Edward S. Beck, Ed.D., CCMHC, NCC, LPC
Walden University, School of Psychology
President Scholars for Peace in the Middle East www.spme.net
Cc: SPME Board of Directors
Official Response from the University of Leeds
As the responsible officer, I write in response to your message to the Vice-Chancellor.
Dr Kuentzel’s proposed public lecture last Wednesday evening was cancelled neither for any reason
of censorship nor because of pressure from any interest group. It was cancelled because the
organisers did not give us enough notice to provide the normal level of portering, stewarding and
security (around twenty people in total) for such an event.
It is simply not true that we somehow capitulated to threats or complaints. As a matter of fact,
we received no threats, and only a handful of complaints – fewer indeed than for a talk delivered on
our campus the previous evening by an Israeli diplomat. The talk by the Israeli diplomat went ahead;
the difference was that the organisers (the University’s Jewish Society) told us about that talk the week before and worked with us to make the necessary arrangements.
Assuming that we are given enough notice, and appropriate logistical information, I know of no reason
why Dr Kuentzel should not deliver his lecture in Leeds at a future date.
For the record, and despite press reports to the contrary, the University did not in any way seek to prevent
two other talks by Dr Kuentzel on (I believe) the same theme: as internal academic seminars, they did not
require the same level of support as a large public meeting.
I would refer you to a statement on the University’s website (http://www.leeds.ac.uk/media/news/kuentzel.htm ).
PA to J R Gair
The University of Leeds
LEEDS LS2 9JT
Tel: 0113 343 4011
Fax: 0113 343 4123
E-mail: [email protected]