On Wednesday 22 November, Peter Sutherland KCMG, chairman of BP, president of the Federal Trust, former director-general of the World Trade Organisation and a former European Commissioner, gave a public lecture on Europe's Place in the World in the 21st Century at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). The transcript is available.
Regrettably, the lecture started late as around a dozen students disrupted the beginning of the lecture by sitting on the stage. It appears from handout material that this was a protest by a small group expressing concern that the chairman of BP has been appointed as next Chair of LSE's Council from 1 January 2008.
Mr Sutherland appeared on stage and offered to talk with them and answer their questions but they refused and continued the protest. The lecture was then moved to an alternative venue for those students, staff and members of the public who had come to hear his lecture on Europe.
To clarify the student protestors' claims,
* the Court of Governors approved Peter Sutherland's appointment as Chair of LSE Council from 1 January 2008 by acclamation in March this year. There were no votes against. Student representatives were on the Selection Committee, the Council and the Court, and consulted throughout. Student sabbatical officers also met him in advance of the Court of Governors meeting.
* LSE invited Peter Sutherland to consider becoming Chair of the Council. It is a non-executive position, and the principal duties are to chair one meeting of the Court of Governors a term and three meetings a term of the Council.
An LSE spokesperson said: 'While claiming to be "right behind freedom of speech", this protest set out to undermine the speaker's right to express himself. As such, it was very much contrary to LSE's tradition of free speech.'
See Chairman of the LSE Council and Court of Governors from 2008
23 November 2006