Watch: “I don’t have the power to halt freedom of speech” – UM Rector

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The University of Malta’s (UM) Rector stated that he neither has the power nor the interest to halt freedom of speech and the right to protest. He was commenting on the incident regarding the censorship of political masks on campus.

Newsbook.com.mt was interviewing Professor Alfred J. Vella, when he commented on the incident that happened during Freshers’ Week.

Last September, security guards at UM confiscated a mask of Transport Minister Ian Borg being worn by a Moviment Graffiti (MG) activist as part of a costume. The University of Malta (UM) had then stated that Freshers’ Week is not an appropriate platform to voice any sort of protest.

Updated: UM security confiscates political mask; “inappropriate platform”

The Rector stated that he has always encouraged staff and students to be vocal, particularly since anything uttered by the UM’s academics is of national interest. He added that it is not part of the University’s DNA to engage in censorship, and that the person who decided that such incidents should not occur on campus is misguided.

He went on to say that such incidents show certain students’ interest in national matters, thus opposing the label of “apathetic”.

Academics being vocal

The Faculty of Social Wellbeing Dean, Professor Andrew Azzopardi, frequently issues public statements to be published. The Rector said that he is far more vocal than many of his other colleagues, adding that he does not know why other Deans choose to remain silent. He then said that this may perhaps be due to workload which does not allow them the time to express themselves, while adding that Azzopardi is far from the only vocal academic.

When asked whether there is anything that could be done from his end to encourage academics to speak up, the Rector maintained that he does not feel that he should be some sort of “cheerleader”. Whenever he feels that things need to be addressed via a statement, he does so, while adding that not everything interests him.

Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia had said that the University is a space for ideas, discussions, and creativity, not censorship. Ian Borg himself had stated that students ought to be allowed to create masks of whoever they want.

University is a place for ideas not censorship – Delia

In another part of the interview with Newsbook.com.mt, the Rector had discussed Barts’ Medical School and its situation regarding the medical students.

Watch: UM Students kept in the dark over introduction of Barts students at Mater Dei

Video: Miguela Xuereb