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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: More than 100 members of staff at the University of Manchester have signed a letter opposing an attempt by its leadership and a pro-Israel lobby group to force the director
of the university-run gallery out of his job.
They said attempts to get rid of Alistair Hudson, director of the Whitworth Art Gallery, are a “grave violation of academic and artistic freedom of expression.”
Last year, UK Lawyers for Israel made a series of complaints about Hudson after he chose to run an exhibition that included a statement of solidarity with the Palestinian “liberation struggle.”
UKLFI told The Guardian it had “suggested that the university should take appropriate
disciplinary action” against Hudson in September.
In a statement shared with The Guardian, university staff and members of Forensic
Architecture — whose exhibition at the gallery is at the heart of UKLFI’s protests — said
they are “gravely concerned and outraged at the attempt to force out” Hudson.
“We demand that he be reinstated and an apology issued by the UoM to this grave violation of academic and artistic freedom of expression,” the letter said, adding that it is “damaging and dangerous” that the university “supported the idea that a statement against Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinian people was an act of antisemitism, and forced its removal.
“Forcing out the WAG director six months after the event is therefore not only punitive, but also shows that the UoM will not support and defend its staff when and if under pressure from outside organizations.”
The controversy dates back to August 2021, when a statement was removed from an
exhibition exploring how pollution, chemical attacks and the aftermath of explosions affect marginalized people in places around the world, including Palestine.
UKLFI protested various elements of that exhibition, including a statement of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.
University staff are demanding “that the UoM reinstate Alistair Hudson and apologise to
WAG, the wider UoM staff, and UoM students for this grave violation of the principle of
academic and artistic freedom.
“We also extend our solidarity to the Palestinian people for the right to live with freedom and in dignity.”
A UoM spokesperson refuted claims that it had suppressed academic or artistic freedoms, and in a previous statement said staffing matters “remain strictly internal to the university.”
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