A professor is at the centre of a free speech controversy yesterday after losing a university role because he described the use of the Welsh language on road signs as ‘potentially dangerous.’
Professor Nigel Hunt’s social media post outraged some Welsh language supporters, with the academic branded ‘xenophobic’ and ‘disrespectful’.
Now the academic, who was a visiting psychology professor at Wrexham University, has received a letter from the university’s vice chancellor, dismissing him from the honorary position.
Professor Hunt, from Derbyshire, said he was ‘disappointed’ by the university’s ‘knee-jerk’ reaction, branding it a ‘free speech issue.’
‘They were saying they were going to do an internal inquiry into it,’ he told the BBC. ‘There doesn’t seem to have been an internal inquiry.
‘I was driving back from Wales when this all blew up and the following morning I received the letter saying my contract was terminated.’
Professor Hunt first aired his views on a Facebook group called the Department of Petty Rage where he posted a picture of a bilingual sign from Wales and said they should just be written just in English.
He claimed that bilingual signs could endanger road users as they contain ‘irrelevant and – to most people – unintelligible information’.
Despite losing his post, Professor Hunt stuck to his view, insisting it was based on science, not any feelings against the Welsh language.
‘Having complicated, dual-language signs is actually detrimental to driving,’ he claimed. ‘I really believe that academics ought to be able to put their point of view forward without having a negative reaction from their employer.’
In her letter to Professor Hunt, seen by the BBC, the university’s vice chancellor, Maria Hinfelaar, said there had been ‘several complaints’ about the social media posts, with the university being tagged more than 100 times online.
‘The university acknowledges you have the right to freedom of expression,’ she wrote.
‘However, we consider that the affiliation to our university within the media posts has brought our name into disrepute. Therefore a decision has been taken to withdraw your visiting professorship association forthwith.’
Professor Hunt, who is undergoing treatment for cancer and is based at Nottingham University, said it had been some time since he had taught at Wrexham because of his condition.