An ipetition for the memory of Chris Freeman (1921 – 2010).

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Dear colleagues and friends of Chris Freeman,

A few weeks ago I wrote to many of you expressing concern about the imminent stripping of Chris Freeman’s name from the iconic building on the University of Sussex campus that it has graced for the past ten years. I noted that many of Chris’s former colleagues and students are disturbed by this proposal, and consider the removal of Chris’s name from an important university building to be insensitive and highly disrespectful to the memory of that great scholar who made such a significant contribution to the University and to the field of science and technology policy.

Many of you have since written to the Vice Chancellor and academic members of the University of Sussex Council expressing your disappointment and disapproval at the University’s action, and urging the Vice Chancellor to reconsider his decision. Expressions such as “a disgrace”, “appalled”, “dismayed and angered”, “the equivalent of stripping a soldier of his rank”, are but a few of the sentiments expressed.

The response from the Vice Chancellor to this outcry was brisk, dismissive, and disingenuous, adding insult to the existing injury to Chris’s memory. The Vice Chancellor claimed that the decision to (a) strip Chris’s name from the iconic Freeman Centre building and (b) replace this with “a plaque” to be located in “an appropriate part of the new academic building [the Jubilee building]” was “developed in discussion with the School” and “welcomed by Gordon MacKerron, the Director of SPRU”.

Following confirmation from several of those directly involved in the discussions, I am able to confirm to you that SPRU was in fact presented with a fait accompli. To suggest otherwise, as the Vice Chancellor Professor Michael Farthing has now done in his reply, is clearly self-serving. As for the claim that the University’s position regarding the use of Chris’s name was “welcomed by Gordon MacKerron, the Director of SPRU”: Gordon is quite clear that this is a misrepresentation of his position.

The aforementioned commemorative plaque was, last week, installed on the third floor of the University’s new Jubilee Building. Amongst those that have seen the plaque, comment thus far as been unanimously of further disappointment, if not outrage, at the lack of respect with which the Vice Chancellor and his senior managers have treated Chris’s memory and contribution to the University. You can judge for yourself from the assigned photos.

Many of us who knew Chris feel deeply that this falls far short of an appropriate memorial to Chris’s contributions and achievements. But it is not too late to do something about it, and I urge your further help by engaging in the following:

Chris’s name has yet to be physically removed from the original building and many of you have suggested that an e-petition be organised to prevent this action occurring. If you feel as we do, please respond to the e-petition listed below and send this email on to others who you think might be of a like mind. It is our intention to distribute the petition widely and make public the results in the hope that even at this belated point, the Vice Chancellor of University of Sussex will see sense and reverse their decision.

Howard Rush