Philosopher Refuses to Hand Over Passport; His Talks Cancelled

The other day, Jonathan Webber, a philosopher at Cardiff University, sent out a series of tweets detailing how the University of Hertfordshire, at which he was supposed to give a pair of talks, required he provide a scan of his passport in advance.

He refused, and the university cancelled his talks.


In Times Higher Ed, Webber explains his position:

“I have given many talks all over the country and have never been asked for any documentation like this,” said Dr Webber, who is president of the British Society for Ethical Theory. The UK academic, who has held lectureships at the University of Sheffield and the University of Bristol, said that he had refused to hand over a copy of his passport on principle.

“They do not have the right to ask for my passport – they are not my employer; so why should I have to hand it over?” Dr Webber told Times Higher Education. “They were not paying me for the talk – it was just a normal academic talk that people give all the time at universities,” he added.

Asked what reason Hertfordshire had given for the cancellation of the talk, which was due to take place on 3 November, Dr Webber said that “the only information they sent me was that I had not met their current practices”. The requirement to send a scan of his passport was only added several weeks after the talk was arranged, he added.

“You are not even required to have a passport in this country,” said Dr Webber, who added that this liberty was “part of what it means to live in a free liberal democracy”.

A spokesperson for Hertfordshire described the requirement as part of “minimal internal processes.”

A twitter a commentator asks of the school: “Did they acquire borders?”

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