Brighton Voices: Are Rights Universal?

Our second Brighton Voices event took place on Tuesday 15th May, again at the Sallis Benney Theatre, this time focussing on the question: “are rights universal?”

In the current climate when the rights of some have started to be eroded, the impact of this potentially affects us all, regardless of circumstance, background or status.  Growing numbers of people are disadvantaged by complex rather than binary issues such as estranged adults, affected by issues of sexuality, ethnicity and so on. As our rights are interdependent and interrelated, it is vital now more than ever that we stand together.

Professor Katherine Johnson (Director of the University of Brighton’s Centre for Transforming Sexuality and Gender) was joined by our alumni panellists, Tony Kalume (Chair of Diversity Lewes), Becca Bland (CEO, Stand Alone) and Adam Pearson (actor, presenter and award winning disability rights campaigner) to share their perspectives on the topic of universal rights in today’s world, before opening up the discussion to the audience of students, staff, alumni and local community members.

A range of elements were discussed including the impact of culture and religion on rights and how different generations view rights in different ways.  There was a lot of emphasis on the importance of education when considering rights and ensuring information was available to all.  The audience asked the panel how they dealt with instances of ignorance and examples were shared by all the panellists about times when they simply couldn’t make a difference and had to walk away.  As visible spokespeople for their minorities, they felt they were in a privileged position in terms of trying to help individuals and groups change their mind, but admitted that at times, it wasn’t easy to reach everyone.  Adam Pearson summed up his views on this in simple terms: “Be the best you can be, don’t worry about trying to get people to be the best they can be.”

Following the success of our first two Brighton Voices events, we will be organising more in the coming months focussing on other important and timely topics.  If you have any suggestions for topics we should cover and/or if you would like to be a panel member for a future event, please contact alumni@brighton.ac.uk.

Brighton Voices: is free speech possible?

On the evening of 14th May, the Sallis Benney Theatre played host to the first edition of Brighton Voices – a new series of events allowing the University of Brighton to bring together our outstanding academic experts with some of our amazing former students who are working in important fields and making significant advances in their areas of passion and interest.

The objective of each event is to encourage discussion and debate on timely societal issues, demonstrating that the University of Brighton and its wider community of alumni and friends can provide constructive and meaningful contributions on matters we all care about.

This first Brighton Voices event focussed on the question: “is free speech still possible?”.

Freedom of speech and expression has a long history that predates modern international human rights instruments – as early as the late 5th century BC. 70 years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted and stated: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Today, freedom of speech is recognised in international and regional human rights law and also that this should include via any medium, including the internet or through art forms.

But with the prevalence of social media, has there been an increase in open intolerance and what are our responsibilities to reflect and resist? Also, is it acceptable for writers to tackle any topic today or are some now off-limits?

Dr Jess Moriarty (principal lecturer in Creative Writing) chaired the event and was joined by our alumni panellists, Munroe Bergdorf (model and activist), Graham Duff (scriptwriter, producer and comic actor) and Tanaka Mhishi (poet, playwright and performer) to share their perspectives on the topic of freedom of speech in today’s society, before opening up the discussion to the audience of students, staff, alumni and local community members.

A range of elements were addressed including the changing language used to describe different statuses and how sometimes language can divide as well as unite us, the importance of using the right sort of opportunities to address bigotry, how creating abhorrent characters within fiction can help raise awareness and eradicate discrimination and how although we have a legal right to free speech, we also have a moral obligation in the way we use our rights.  The audience asked the panel members for their thoughts about the future of free speech and also whether there are still challenging times to navigate before Utopia could be reached.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening of lively and insightful discussion with a few laughs along the way!

More Brighton Voices events will be organised in the coming months to showcase the impact and expertise of our academics and alumni.

Brighton Business School celebrates 25 years of university status!

On 28th April Brighton Business School hosted a 25th anniversary gathering. Over 100 staff, students and alumni attended the event which took place in Mithras House.  The day began with a keynote speech by Business Studies with Finance alumna Laura Carlton (Director of Commercial Credit Integration at American Express). Laura reflected on the changes and innovations in the business world. This was followed by a panel discussion. The panel was chaired by Peter McCullen (Deputy Head of Brighton Business School (Quality)).

The panel comprised of three graduates and one student. They were:

Laura Carlton (Director of Commercial Credit Integration at American Express)

Ranjeet Kaile (Director of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust – MBA Public Service Management, 2011)

Stefana Brown (Operational Risk Manager Legal & General. BA (Hons) International Business, 2003, MSc Business Process Management 2004.)

Audrey Charowa (Student, International Business)

They discussed important changes in different areas of business.  There was a focus on innovation in technology which now allows organisations to run more smoothly and internationally and also discussion about constantly learning and testing new ideas. Audrey was able to take part in the discussion from the perspective of a current student which created an interesting contrast with the graduates who are all working in industry.

After the panel discussion, guests had the opportunity to choose their next activity.

They could try their hand investing in the stock market in the trading room.

If they wanted some relaxation, they could attend Aroma Chillax with Zoe Swan (Law Course Leader) where they had the chance to support their well-being with pure oils, self-massage and guided relaxation.

For the beer enthusiasts there was Craft beer tasting from Bison Beer and Sussex cheese to compliment it.

The students who attended the event then had the opportunity to speed network with alumni for half an hour before everyone took a coach to Brighton Museum for the evening reception.  At this point guests had a quick introduction from museum staff and then the opportunity to explore the exhibits as they wished.

Alumni, staff and students had a great time at the event and there was a wonderful celebratory atmosphere to mark 25 years since Brighton achieved university status.

New York, New York alumni 25th Gathering

On Friday 13th April a group of graduates gathered in New York to raise a glass to celebrate 25 years of Brighton achieving university status. Alumna Nabila Aydin, who works for FDM Group in New York, organised the meet. By chance, Vice Chancellor Professor Debra Humphris was visiting New York at the time and was able to go along and join the group. Nabila said:

“It was pleasure to host this event on behalf of FDM Group for University of Brighton Alumni in New York. I am an alumna myself and have such fond memories of my time in Brighton. FDM Group was originally founded in Brighton and we have lots of alumni still working at the company including the COO, Sheila Flavell. It was an honour to have the Vice Chancellor, Debra Humphris in attendance too – she’s an inspiration and role model to all of us.”

If you would like to host one of our 25 gatherings to celebrate Brighton achieving university status, please send us an email to alumni@brighton.ac.uk and we can provide you with goodie bags for the event and help you invite other alumni in your area!