Surprise, surprise: a new report has confirmed what many of us have long-known about universities; they have become incubators for censorious, quasi-religious worldviews.
Compiled by the leading centre-right think tank Policy Exchange and titled ‘Academic Freedom’, the document provides shocking figures into the extent of conformity on UK campuses.
For one, 41 per cent of students think that Cambridge University should have rescinded Jordan Peterson’s fellowship (versus 31 per cent who disagree and 28 per cent who don’t know). Forty-four per cent also agree with Cardiff University’s decision to ban “transphobic” Germaine Greer from speaking (versus 35 per cent who disagree and 21 per cent undecided).
Depressingly, women came out as more sensitive than men in Policy Exchange’s analysis, reinforcing sexist stereotypes that our brains might explode during debates.
Another bleak comparison was around Brexit stances, with Remainers rating themselves as much more comfortable in expressing their position than Leavers.
These statistics are important as they support what critics of ‘woke’ campus culture have been saying for years; that free speech is very much under attack. Such concerns have regularly been dismissed – often by the same newspaper, the Guardian, which suggests the free speech crisis is some sort of conspiracy theory invented by the Right. In one article, Martha Gill writes “Free speech isn’t under threat. It just suits bigots and boors to suggest so”. Really?
According to the dictionary, “bigot” means “a person who is intolerant towards those holding different opinions”. So it actually sounds a lot like the teenage campus zealots who think they know best about who deserves to speak.
Many of them behave like the Ayatollah in 1989 when he picked up a copy of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, and accused him of blasphemy. The 2019 generation acts as if Germaine Greer had sinned against their religion, the Divine Wokeness.
Banning her and Jordan Peterson is, frankly, utterly pathetic. And have these kiddos even read The Female Eunuch or watched Peterson on Youtube? Or are they too busy uploading Instagram selfies of their bums? It’s much easier to block things than engage in complex intellectual arguments as to why they are wrong.
In all of this, students have never clearly explained what’s effective about blocking speakers like Greer, who’s hardly Abu Hamza. Presumably the offendatrons will claim it’s because they’re protecting others from harmful views, or that the 80-year-old is going to create some sort of fascist uprising. Nothing would surprise me, so ridiculous is the state of woke politics.
Policy Exchange’s report isn’t all depressing. It tries to be proactive, with recommendations as to how universities can combat this culture. My own view is that they should play the censors at their own game. As part of the recruitment process, the admissions team should test applicants to see how offended they get and reject the candidates who say things like “words are violence”. It may sound extreme, but it’s for the best: these souls need some more time in the real world where there are no safe spaces.
One way or another, we cannot continue this way – not least because universities play such a big part in wider society, providing the next generation of judges, doctors and politicians, among other professionals. Do we really want censors running the country? The obsession with offence has already fed into our debates, culminating in repeated cases of celebrities and MPs whose old tweets are endlessly dug up and judged. No one can say or think anything interesting, so grave are the repercussions. Our brains deserve so much better than the state of affairs facilitated by universities.