David Seymour praises University of Auckland's inaction over white supremacist materials

David Seymour is heaping praise on the University of Auckland for refusing to remove posters from a group that calls for young white men to re-take control of the country.

Craccum first reported on the posters on Tuesday, after Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon elected to let them stay up.

"The particular posters I have seen... are not of themselves hate speech, they are not illegal, they are not inciting people to violence," Dr McCutcheon told the university's student magazine, Craccum.

"I tend to have the view that we should promote free speech wherever we can."

Seymour backs Dr McCutcheon, saying the material may be offensive, but he would like to see the posters stay up due to freedom of speech.

"The way to deal with objectionable material is not censorship but debate in an open society, especially on university campuses," he told Newshub. 

Seymour said the material is objectionable but should be debated rather than removed from sight.

"Stand up for freedom of expression so that bad ideas can be rejected by sunlight rather than censored where they will tend to fester underground."

The university is facing an open revolt from its staff though, many of whom have signed an open letter saying the university is "no place for racism".

"The language of rights is complex and nuanced, recognising that such displays create an environment that brings harm to segments of our community, fraying the cultural tapestry that provides our diverse campus community with vitality and energy," the letter says. 

"We also note that by virtue of their race, gender, class, country of origin, religious affiliation, sexual or gender identity,  many people empowered to judge conduct on university campuses are less likely to be the focus of hate speech, and may be slower to recognise its impact on its intended targets.

"However, 'speech' has many forms, including gesture and nonviolent protest. If these posters constitute 'free speech', the same can be said of the actions of individuals who remove those that they encounter."

More than 500 members of staff, including four distinguished professors, have signed the open letter.

Acting vice-chancellor John Morrow, who is in charge while Dr McCutcheon is overseas, said the vice-chancellor would applaud the letter.

"Universities are established to be society's critic and conscience and this is what we would expect from our community," he told The Spinoff in an email.

"The open letter demonstrates our staff members' exercise of their right to academic freedom and makes a welcome contribution to ongoing debate on matters that are central to the university's values."