The right-wing press has latched on to an interview with Prof Malcolm Gillies of London Metropolitan University in which he reportedly said he wants to create alcohol free areas on campus out of "cultural sensitivity".
The Mail went with: "London university considers stopping sale of 'immoral' alcohol on campus because it offends their Muslim students." The Telegraph reported: "A university Vice-Chancellor is planning to ban the sale of alcohol in parts of the campus because some Muslim students believe it is 'evil' and 'immoral'."
See "Sensationalist reporting on London Metropolitan University 'alcohol-free zones' consideration", ENGAGE, 13 April 2012
Also worth noting is the following statement by the London Met branch of the University and College Union:
1. London Met Uni has some 25,000+ students studying in over a dozen buildings – all of which have alcohol-free coffee bars/student areas, across two distinctly separate campus areas in North and East London, with only a single student bar at each campus (the only places that serve alcohol at the university).
2. There have been no complaints or demands from students directly or via the students union for alcohol to be either banned, or partially-banned, on campus.
3. Gillies is currently selling off large sections of the university estate, including 'The Hub' –the student union facility (inc student bar) at the City Campus. The VC's comments need to be seen in that light – i.e., they are simply a convenient cover for reducing student social facilities.
4. The language adopted by the VC in this regard is extremely divisive and is already stoking tensions where none had previously existed between the multiplicity of London Met's student constituencies. The fact that the EDL (English Defence League) and other extreme Right and fascist groups have latched on to this is a major concern.
5. If Gillies were serious about student welfare and wider social and cultural equality and fairness, why has he personally defended the following university management decisions:
i) direct links with the Uzbekistan regime – noted for the torture of its opponents (primarily Muslim incidentally), and forced sterilisation of woman (see this week's BBC report on the issue – www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01fjx63)
ii) cutting of most of the university's student chaplaincy service – including the forced redundancy of the Imam;
iii) the drastic reduction in the opening hours of the Women's Library (down to only 1 day per week), and its eventual closure;
All of this is happening at a time of huge cuts to student courses/modules – including the majority of the 'critical' subjects – such as philosophy and history, and mass redundancies amongst staff – both academic and student service related.
At best, Gillies utterances are a crass example of the disconnect becoming more and more evident at London Met between university management and the staff and students they supposedly represent. At worst, it is a quite cynical attempt to stir-up a divisive atmosphere in order to deflect attention from the far more serious issue of the deliberate destruction of a once proud inner city ethnically mixed and vibrant modern university.