Students ‘proud’ as Kent Law School academics take on Donald Trump

But can a letter signed by 253 law scholars achieve more than a petition by nearly two million?

Trump

Law academics from Kent University have written a damning letter to Theresa May about Donald Trump, and it’s made their students feel proud.

Drafted by Canterbury-based academics Dr Rose Parfitt, Dr Emily Haslam, Dr Sara Kendall, Dr Luis Eslava and Dr Emily Grabham, the letter urges the PM to reconsider her position on allowing Trump a state visit. It also asks that she “more generally” withdraws her support for the United States under Trump’s administration.

The letter certainly doesn’t pull any punches. Here’s an extract:

The alacrity with which Trump has put in place, by presidential decree, a swathe of openly racist, xenophobic, misogynistic and homophobic measures, together with the president’s total disregard for existing US commitments under international law, indicate that the British government’s decision to renew its ‘special relationship’ with the United States at this time can only lead, in the short-term, to further suffering and discrimination.

Strong words, but ones that have backing. The letter now has 393 signatures from members of the UK legal academic community, 253 of which are legal academics teaching and researching law at UK universities including Cambridge, Warwick and Birmingham.

It’s unusual for law scholars to get involved in something so inherently political (and so controversial), but they think it’s important. When we asked Parfitt — who specialises in the relationship between law, history and art — whether it’s appropriate for law academics to be writing letters like this, she told us:

Absolutely. As people who spend our lives thinking about, writing about and teaching law, it’s a central part of our job to make our opinion public when controversial questions with fundamentally important legal dimensions are being debated.

These academics will be pleased to know their actions have garnered the support of their students. Final year Shannon Quinn told Legal Cheek she’s “proud” of her university’s staff for taking such a proactive approach to the issue. She continued:

By challenging the PM they are inspiring students to stand by their beliefs while showing their support for those disadvantaged by the Trump administration.

Tom Bishop, a fellow final year student, agreed. He told us the academics’ decision to write a letter:

[I]s both good and needed. It proves to law students and the wider community that law is not just a single abstract subject but encourages us to get involved and apply in practice critical legal theory.

The university has also come out in support of Parfitt and co’s actions. Head of Kent Law School Professor Toni Williams said:

Kent Law School has a long-standing commitment to producing theoretically informed work on the role of law in social, political and economic life and in exploring critical approaches to law. In line with our firm belief in academic freedom, our staff are encouraged to share their research, ideas and expertise with a wider audience both within and beyond the world of academia.

The letter comes weeks after Leeds solicitor Graham Guest made a petition calling for very much the same. The petition has now been signed by nearly two million people, and will be debated in parliament on 20 February.

Read the letter in full here:

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48 Comments

Teacher

That’ll be going straight in the shredder.

Cute that these wide-eyed students thought that they could make a difference though.

A+ for effort.

(5)(3)
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Anonymous

Wah wah, Donald Trump said something mean about women and immigrants! Wah!

I don’t like the Donald too much, but the fact is he’s now the most powerful man in the world. America is – for the time being – the world’s only superpower. To backtrack on the offer of a state visit would undoubtedly harm Anglo-American relations. I’m not willing to do that because some non-entity professor s at a mediocre educational institution have written a letter. With a resurgent, aggressive Russia, the ‘special relationship’ is now more important than it’s been in a long time. It’s time to grow up.

(17)(33)
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Anonymous

Yes, absolutely.

We should abandon all our principles and hope to fuck that Trumps inward thinking protectionism affects everyone except us.

(18)(5)
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almosthippy

I tend to read things and try to engage my brain a bit before deciding whether an article makes any credible points or not. Rather than blurting out some half-arsed, lazy assumption based on random prejudices.

(9)(5)
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Anonymous

19/100. Above Manchester, Queen Mary’s, Liverpool, Leicester, Sheffield, Sussex, Queen’s Belfast, Lancaster. All are respectable institutions. The elitism needs to stop.

(3)(1)
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Not Amused

Thank you for upholding “[t]he resilience of an international order founded, however imperfectly, upon a commitment to the equality of individuals”

(9)(5)
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Anonymous

If Kent is dog shit, please elaborate on how you would describe the 100+ more lowly ranked institutions in the UK (including, for a lot of subjects, some Russell Group universities). Doesn’t say much for UK higher education, does it? In fact, you’re what’s wrong with it. Your posts reek of sheer elitism.

(9)(2)
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Anonymous

Of course, Britain should break its ties with the US, because the social justice warriors and the vocal minority do not like Trump. After all, it is clear that it’s virtue signalling, un-pragmatic idealism and lefty dogma that are what Brexit Britain needs the most, not strong UK/US relationship and a good trade deal.

(13)(2)
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Anonymous

The Commonwealth should rise again as a bastion of common sense. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. could easily form a union state as we have the same Head of State, and similar legislatures, legal traditions, human rights laws, standards of living and demographics.

It would be a bulwark against the twin extremes of the US and the EU

(2)(1)
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Proelia

He was elected in a democratic fashion.

He is honest as he operates form his own narcissistic perspective and cares not one iota what anybody else thinks as in his mind he is always right.

His directness and honesty in this regard clearly appeals.

Nobody is going to pay heed to the demands of these academics. By all means, voice your opposition, you are entitled to do so, but do not think it is going to make any difference.

(1)(1)
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C

I can’t believe something so asinine would be put forward by supposedly intelligent academics. Yes Trump is a buffoon and his policies deplorable but Britain needs a relationship with the USA, especially at a time when future of our nation is in dire need of a trade deal with them in the wake of Brexit.

This absolutely reeks of the same populism that got Trump elected (albeit on the other end of the political spectrum). There are far worse governments in this world than the Trump administration. For example we sell billions of pounds worth of weapons to the Saudis despite the facts that they literally execute people for being gay, why haven’t these academics written a letter to Theresa May regarding that?

(3)(1)
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Not Amused

I don’t think it is right to say that we ‘desperately bee’s a trade deal with the US. The US is a huge trading partner already without such a deal. The EU just ballsed up their own deal without Germany (another big trader with the US) imploding.

You must forgive my grumpiness, but I find that I am nearing the limits of my patience over Brexit. The headline Remainers were wrong. They were wrong in a particularly arrogant manner. Never have I been so frequently lectured on economics by people who did not understand even the basics.

Indeed I am much more concerned about what happens in Greece in 5 days than I am about a US trade deal. You should be too.

(0)(5)
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Anonymous

In other words:

“Look at us, aren’t we such virtuous people. We hate racism, xenophobia, misogyny and homophobia. Oh aren’t we marvellous.”

Virtue-signalling at its worst.

(3)(1)
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Just Anonymous

I hate this.

Universities should be bastions of free speech and rigorous intellectual inquiry.

You can believe that Trump is fundamentally wrong about everything. But even if that’s true, that does not mean he should be silenced, or that we should behave like children and refuse to acknowledge his existence. The way to deal with bad ideas (if indeed Trump’s ideas are bad) is to engage with the argument and prove them bad through evidence, logic and rational discussion.

And, for the avoidance of doubt, screaming “RACISM!!!!!!!!!!!!!” does not qualify as rational discussion.

(5)(0)
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Academics need not apply

Academics = trying to be relevant.

As someone else said, why no letter about justice and human rights in Turkey, Saudi, the Philippines and on and on.

Some perspective please.

(2)(0)
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Chancery tenant

Oh ffs- this is what really annoys me these days about how the UK public just want the best of everything. They all voted for brexit/ downed the bottle of vodka and 40 paracetamol and NOW they want to also scupper chances to make something good out of this (trade deals) by refusing to have their stomachs pumped because Trump hurts their feelings.

We lost the ability to be choosy when the English decided to abandon the EU and opt to go it alone. I’m sorry but part of that is tolerating foreign countries and their undesirable practices/politicians. If you wanted to be high and mighty should have stayed in the club which enabled us to do that whilst maintaining economic prosperity.

Don’t pick the “Scrabble around” route then refuse to engage with the only powers who can help us out of this. Jesus why don’t we just isolate ourselves totally and starve to death – but no that wouldn’t be enough for most English voters, they aren’t happy with anything that isn’t proactively suicidal let’s just drop a fucking ICBM on ourselves instead because Trump said things we don’t agree with

(4)(1)
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Anonymous

Basically and we All made this happen by being elitist patronising snobs – stunts like these are exactly why people fucking hate sanctimonious intellectual people who don’t engage and yet condescend from their echo chamber

(5)(0)
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Chancery tenant

Yep it is the leave vote is our (eg many remain voters) responsibility built up by years of virtue signalling, prohibiting, censoring and self congratulatory approach to dictating how people shoul think and feel

It pisses people off and I’m not surprised. Why does he have to be BANNED!!!!! BANNED!!!

Insanity is trying the same thing…. Etc etc blah blah

I think we just need to be ruthlessly and entirely economically pragmatic as a nation – we’ve made our choice to go with unprincpled casino capitalism so just get with the programme

(2)(0)
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UKC Law Graduate

As a UKC Law Graduate, it is sad to hear the department is still stuck in 1970s gesture politics mode. I bet Trump is quaking in his boots!

(1)(0)
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W

How utterly embarrassing. Academics by and large are regarded as eccentrics who don’t belong in the real world. Writing a letter like this does their reputation generally, nor the reputation of Kent University, which is widely regarded as a tenth rate non institution, no favours. It should sadden everyone that kids pay £9k a year to go there. I went to a top rate university and was taught by some very left-wing individuals – I had to outright lie about my views in the exams on any given public issue (take unfair dismissal in e’ment law) to get a first class degree. There’s nothing necessarily wrong in having dissenting opinions from a dyed in the wool ex-communist, but my tried and tested experience was you made it a lot harder for yourself in a timed, pressurised and stressful environment to do so.

(1)(2)
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