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Disruption and insults at NATO spokesman lecture

Jamie Shea’s first lecture, held at the University of Sussex on 29 October Photo: Tom Wills

 

A student protest opposing the appointment of Jamie Shea as a visiting lecturer took place on Friday 29 October.
The protest, which began in Library Square, moved into Arts A1 lecture theatre where Shea was due to give his first lecture to International Relations masters students. 

The protest began peacefully in Library Square where campaigners attempted to gain signatories for their petition. But just before midday the protesters moved into the lecture theatre to listen to Shea deliver his lecture.
Shea, who was a spokesperson for NATO, delivered his 50 minute lecture to students without any reasonable disruption. A few protesters laughed when the subject of human rights was discussed and the lights were momentarily switched off half way through.
The real disruption arose at the end of the lecture when the floor was opened up to questions. Protesters booed from the back of the auditorium and some even shouted out insults such as ‘scumbag’ and ‘wanker’. 

Former Students’ Union president Tom Wills accused Shea of being a ‘thoroughly dishonest individual’.
He then questioned Shea’s assertion that the bombing of civilians during the early days of the Afghanistan campaign could be considered a mistake considering that NATO forces knew of the damage they would cause.
The initial protest in Library square involved between 30 and 40 people. Two doctorate students, Richard Lane and Steffan Wyn-Jones, who attended the protest, explained that their primary concern with the appointment was not that he had been invited but that he was offered a teaching role.
They went on to say “He [Shea] can only offer a biased view. It is all very well him coming to speak here but not as a teacher”. 

They also explained to me how he was not accountable for what he says as he did not work within the university and could not be visited by students to discuss issues brought up in his lectures.
They also believed that allowing Shea to come to Sussex set the standard for the type of people the university felt it was acceptable to invite. 

Dr. Benno Teschke, a Senior Lecturer in International Relations, explained he was disgraced that a man from an organisation who had committed war crimes was allowed to come and teach at the university.
“There were a number of procedural issues with his appointment. There was almost no consultation with members of academic staff within the international relations department”. 

Dr. Teschke was also disappointed at the prospect of Shea effectively becoming one of his collegues.
Shea’s lecture to International Relations students was concerning the conflict in Afghanistan and his future lectures will be centred on international security in a post-9/11 world. Shea was a NATO spokesperson between 1993 and 2000 after which he took up the role of Director of Press and Information for the organisation.
He currently holds the position of Director of Policy Planning.

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3 Comments

  1. Once again, a poorly thought out disruption to learning carried out by Sussex students who find themselves to be an elite and above the law.

    In February, I represented the University of Sussex and Université Laval at the Model Nato simulation in Washington DC. To explain briefly, the competition is much like MUN, where a university assumes the identity of a nation and debates for three days on new policy, such as operations, nuclear proliferation and defence planning. Loughborough Uni was among the invited schools, as well as institutions from Italy, France, Canada and the USA.

    And with all sincerity, I feel it was an honour to meet representatives of Nato and to have them mentor me and my colleagues before and during the competition. They are intelligent, sharp, and have great global, social, and political awareness. In effect, it is a privilege for us to invite a lecturer of such calibre to join the ranks of Sussex University staff.

    If our university administration cuts procedural corners in hiring staff, then that is a legitimate cause for concern, but it is a different argument altogether. It is unfair to attack a potential new member of staff so aggressively because of who he is. His opinion is as valid as mine, as yours, and as your lecturers. Nato is an organisation that has exponentially increased stability in the North Atlantic region; lest we forget, 15 years of our soldiers’ service in Eastern Europe, rebuilding lives from Poland right down to Bosnia and Kosovo.

    Should anyone have looked up the new Strategic Concept for 2010, its focus is on gradually removing troops from stable regions and focussing its efforts on local issues. Whatever “crimes to humanity” Nato have committed may have nonetheless been committed by troops from one or all Nato nations, or by other military organisations; once more, lest we forget the crimes to humanity committed on 9/11 and 7/7.

    It is with great integrity that Jamie Shea should be welcomed to our university, by staff as well as students. We will be labelled as the biased ones, should we decide to only employ Amnesty liberalists as lecturers; in other words, a variety of opinions will create the environment of healthy debate that Sussex needs. An equal perspective from all sides, to allow students to select their own views from a well-rounded education.

    Students of Sussex, you are the leaders of the future: do not allow yourself to be jaded by the thoughts of the few. Instead, absorb the ideas of many, in number and in variety, and truly build your own view of the world.

    Reply
  2. I am impressed that it is actually possible not only to lack any sense of history and historical causalities but also to be so unaware of political transformations happening around as every day.
    In this sense your comment is almost unique in the way it embraces the mainstream.

    To begin with, I find it quite intriguing that it is enough to be sharp and intelligent to honour other people with ones presence. There are enough historical personalities that come to my mind that were known for their intelligence and that however were not working for the advancement of humanity. So, should we admire Thatcher for her sharpness, or Putin for his intelligence regardless of the content of their politics? This appears to me rather dangerous and, inter alia, one of the basis of populist fascist regimes. Thus, I am happy you enjoyed playing NATO, however I would urge you to think about content when dealing with the ´real world´.

    Secondly, it is not just naïve but utterly wrong to assume that there is no relationship between budget cuts and the appointment of a NATO official as security lecturer. First of all it is rather obvious that the university management prefers not paying a lecturer for his work. This is the case with Shea and ultimately points to a vision of university where actors of the private sphere provide education, functional for a specific job to create an uncritical mass of employees. I would like you to think about the impact of this development on academia as a place of critical reflection and secondly about the space for academics that are not sponsored by private institutions and thus need some sort of salary. Will they still be ´needed´ if the Jamie Sheas of the world, paid by NATO for instance, offer a much cheaper alternative for the university management??

    Concerning NATO I wished you had done some more research before sharing your views so openly. I do not want to bore you with the details (even though sometimes they are quite enlightening) but it seems important to investigate the background of NATOs foundation before dwelling on its strategy in 2010. But maybe you could tell me the basis on which an organisation founded during the cold war to contain communism in the East, is deploying troops in Afghanistan in 2010? To put 9/11 and 7/7 without further explanation in this context is not only inadequate but also highly populistic.

    I do not agree that Jamie Shea should be welcomed to our university. He represents an organisation that is responsible for the deaths of civilians in Kosovo and Afghanistan. He described his own taks at NATO as “keeping the journalists always busy and occupied, feeding them with constant briefings so they don’t have much time to go out and find the facts for themselves.” He does not have any academic record and he is still being in an official position for NATO while teaching at Sussex. If you had attended his lecture you would have heard the great pluralism provided by Shea´s propaganda. But since you perceive yourself as a leader of tomorrow maybe you should get in touch with him I am sure he would appreciate your views.

    Reply
  3. It is a shame that the author of the article found the disruptions to be the most important disgrace of that day. Calling air drone attacks on civilians simply a ‘mistake’ and lying about them is obviously much less of an issue than a few undergraduate students struggling to hold in their emotions.
    Organizing debates, meetings, researching the issues and protagonists, informing students and staff to the best of our ability, talking to passers-by, communicating with practitioners and academics outside the university, all this amounts to nothing in the face of the scandalous disruption of turning the light off and shouting out a swear word to such an ‘honourable’ man as Dr Shea. Incredible.
    To reiterate again what has been argued by ‘the few’ (who seemed to be a majority in the lecture hall that day) in open forums where all were welcome to participate, none of us are denying the need for plurality and the importance of NATO as an organisation, requiring its presence on students’ agenda. We are not against Dr Shea’s presence on campus as a speaker, we are against his presence as a 3 year Visiting Lecturer. This position gives him a particular platform and accreditation, for which his employment to an organisation involved in contested military operations casts doubts in relation to basic principles of academic teaching and procedures of appointment. Our campaign has been playing an active part in making sure this plurality remains by informing people on campus about NATO, Kosovo and Afghanistan in a way that counter-balances Shea’s controversial and obviously biased views. This is someone who worked actively at ‘selling wars’ because ‘they don’t sell themselves’, and for whom ‘it’s very difficult to be an effective priest if you don’t believe in God.’ (Observer, 5th March 2000).
    This is not about having only ‘Amnesty liberalists’ lecturers; this is about having lecturers who one can trust to not lie about civilian casualties, or about the lives of Afghan women who have deteriorated since the invasion, or about the role of the media (and probably academia now) in supporting and ‘selling’ military organizations.
    I also find it very difficult to talk about someone like Shea and NATO as holding the flag of plurality in the world of IR and security studies. Their realist power-politics conceptions have dominated the field for years, and if the more liberal ‘human security’ perspective does now hold an important place, it still remains essential to maintain bastions of critical scholars who are neither liberal nor realist, as Sussex has been and, we hope, will remain.
    As fellow students, we should embrace this opportunity to discuss NATO, Afghanistan and the links between academia, military organizations and governments. We regret that this opportunity, in the form of a more balanced format and less controversial and divisive appointment, is something we have had to fight for and organize ourselves, as students. The aim of our campaign is to maintain plurality, and protect what people at Sussex have been trying to build for years, i.e. a space to study international relations with a different agenda than that of organizations such as NATO.
    Our campaign will be holding a teach-in event this week on Afghanistan, with a speaker from Stop the War, on Friday at 1.30pm (venue TBA). We are also organizing a debate between Jamie Shea and Jon Bennett, a practitioner who has “led the evaluation of the UK’s government aid programme in Afghanistan and was alarmed at the close link it has with military objectives.” (date and venue TBA).
    Please sign the petition if you support our campaign: http://www.gopetition.com/petition/39920.html

    Reply

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