Feeds

Crusading veggies steamroll university into web censorship

'Why vegetarians should be force fed with lard'

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

A provocative essay has been pulled from servers by Newcastle University authorities following complaints from vegetarians.

Nikolas Lloyd, who was granted IT services as a visiting fellow in evolutionary psychology, has had all his pages taken down and his email access rescinded.

Forum members on a vegetarian dating site took exception to the title of the piece “Why vegetarians should be force fed with lard”. It was one of a series of deliberately incendiary treatises, which included “Why banning hunting is wrong”, and “A woman's place”.

In his vegetarianism article, Lloyd argues against pro-veggie reasoning in tongue-in-cheek style. A typical passage reads:

Most vegetarians are women. In Britain, a person is doubly likely to suffer from vegetarianism if he is female...when men split up from their veggie girlfriends, they near invariably start enjoying meat again. This goes to prove amongst other things that men really will do ANYTHING for sex.

The full tirade has been rescued from Google's cache and is available here.

Not seeing the funny side, tofu fanciers on veggieromance.com fired off complaints to university postmaster Quentin Campbell. He temporarily suspended Lloyd's access while the gripes were investigated under the university's usage policies.

Campbell then replied in an email: “I am mindful of the obligation of the University, under section 43 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986, to protect the freedom of speech of its staff.”

The section of the Act he refers to says:

Take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the establishment and for visiting speakers.

He concluded: “You may not agree with the personal opinions that Nikolas Lloyd publishes on our staff website here, but as his views do not appear to break the law of the UK, the university cannot without proper cause prevent him from expressing them.”

In a later, more detailed official statement, he told the vegetarians the pages would stand, since the Education Act trumps the institution's own rules regarding material “intended to annoy”. The email dialogue is in the veggieromance.com thread here.

That was back in January, and seemed to put an end to the bean curd-induced humour vacuum.

Last week though, a letter dropped on Lloyd's doormat from university Registrar John Hogan telling him that all his IT privileges, conferred a decade ago, were to be removed with immediate effect.

According to university authorities, Lloyd's downfall was that, as a visiting fellow, he was not an official member of staff and so lacked the protection of the legislation. They contend their own regulations meant the university was obliged to crumble under the weight of complaints from the offended cabbage regarders. The decision was taken at the very highest level of the university administration.

Lloyd's access via the Department of Psychology was sponsored by evolutionary psychiatry academic Dr Bruce Charlton, who uses some of Lloyd's respected work on evolutionary debates in his teaching.

Charlton says the suspension of IT services is a big blow to Lloyd, who pursued his interest in the field on a low income, and a “malicious, frivolous” attack should have been resisted by authorities. He added that it is an “ominous” sign that people with “hurt feelings” can bring about a crisis meeting in the upper echelons of management.

He also pointed out that the action sets a worrying precedent for the institution; people can take offence at anything, so the regulations offer no protection to anything on the site.

Some of the meat-shy posters had the mettle to stand up for Lloyd's rights of free speech, however. In the spirit of the debate, one joked: “Personally, I believe that nobody should be allowed to publish or say anything that offends me, and I will always campaign to get it removed so that no one else is allowed to read it...I plan to go over to Nikolas Lloyd's house and set fire to it.” ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Premier League wants to PURGE ALL FOOTIE GIFs from social media
Not paying Murdoch? You're gonna get a right LEGALLING - thanks to automated software
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Ballmer quits Microsoft board to spend more time with his b-balls
From Clippy to Clippers: Hi, I see you're running an NBA team now ...
Online tat bazaar eBay coughs to YET ANOTHER outage
Web-based flea market struck dumb by size and scale of fail
Kate Bush: Don't make me HAVE CONTACT with your iPHONE
Can't face sea of wobbling fondle implements. What happened to lighters, eh?
Amazon takes swipe at PayPal, Square with card reader for mobes
Etailer plans to undercut rivals with low transaction fee offer
Call of Duty daddy considers launching own movie studio
Activision Blizzard might like quality control of a CoD film
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.