Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell has refused Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris’ request for a list of names of the academic staff who teach European politics and Brexit at The University of Sussex.
The Brexiteer and MP for Daventry in Northamptonshire sent a signed and stamped letter to the Vice-Chancellors of UK universities asking for “the names of professors at your establishment who are involved in the teaching of European affairs with particular reference to Brexit”.
He added: “If I could be provided with a copy of the syllabus and links to the online lectures which relate to this area I would be much obliged.”
Earlier this week on Tuesday night, the Vice-Chancellor tweeted a screenshot of his response to the MP which read: “I’m afraid that I am unwilling to comply with your request to supply you with the names of staff teaching at the University of Sussex who focus on European matters.”
“Your request has been widely interpreted, including by Downing Street, as an interference in the freedoms that universities have enshrined in law to promote and protect free speech.”
Many academics have subsequently accused Heaton-Harris of practicing “McCarthyite” type behavior, referring to the American politician Joseph McCarthy who led a witch-hunt style campaign of those he suspected to be communist sympathisers.
Tory MP and Commons leader Andrea Leadsom maintained Mr. Heaton-Harris had not sent a “threatening letter” to universities,
although she could not shed any light on his intentions.
Labour, on the other hand, have accused the MP of seeking to draw up “what looks like a register of Brexit heretics” and described the government’s response to it as a “shambles”.