Our humanity at CERN

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Diversity and respect are defining aspects of CERN and something that I am very proud of. Our institution is the closest to a true meritocracy that I have ever experienced in my long career, and as such is a valuable role model for the world. It is a place where everyone is welcome, and where anyone can succeed, regardless of his or her ethnicity, beliefs or sexual orientation. It is therefore with some disappointment that I have learned of a spate of recent events concerning posters put up around the Laboratory by our LGBT community.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. One needs to look no further than the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for common-sense clarity on this issue. It states that: ‘everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’. In line with that, I fully support the right of all recognised groups at CERN to be heard, and I therefore unequivocally condemn acts of defacement to the LGBT community’s posters, or indeed to posters put up by any recognised CERN group. Such acts are clearly in breach of our Code of Conduct, and the perpetrators, if identified, will be dealt with accordingly. 

It is also universally acknowledged that along with rights come responsibilities. At CERN, these are enshrined in the Staff Rules and Regulations and the Code of Conduct. To give one rather obvious example, freedom of expression does not extend to the incitement of hatred in any form. To give another, we all have a responsibility to ensure that CERN does not become one vast billboard on which an escalating bill-posting and defacement campaign is played out. Such action can have only one outcome: to promote animosity between colleagues. 

It is with these thoughts in mind that I am establishing a policy for poster use at CERN. It’s important that recognised groups at CERN have a voice, and can put up posters about their activities. We will therefore establish a series of dedicated poster display areas in strategic positions around the Laboratory for people to use, subject to certain guidelines derived from the Code of Conduct. Posters outside these areas, with the exception of people’s own office doors, will not be allowed. This approach will allow us to respect freedom of expression, while also recognising the duties and responsibilities that come with it. Look out for that policy, but in the meantime, I encourage you all to show respect to your neighbours, regardless of their individual differences. Doing so is part of CERN’s identity. It is part of our humanity.