I’m sick of hearing about safe spaces and micro-aggressions (and have posted on this elsewhere).
Not to mention the attempts to remove the Cecil Rhodes statue at Oxford University by a Rhodes scholar Ntokozo Qwabe (talk about biting the hand that feeds you) backed by the new head of the NUS Malia Bouattia (who has been censured in the past for anti-Semitic comments).
We’ve also had feminists Germaine Greer and Julie Bindell and gay activist Peter Tatchell banned from university campuses because of their views on transgender issues. No platform is the new mantra for people trying to stop free speech or alternative views.
Now a survey of students’ attitudes towards free speech by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) “Keeping Schtum? What Students think of Free Speech” reveals the shocking truth about present-day students.
They don’t believe in free speech.
Asking over 1,000 students in 100 British Universities the Hepi found that:
- 75% would ban speakers who had views that offended them
- Two-thirds support the idea that students should be given “trigger warnings” before sensitive subjects such as rape were raised in class so they could leave if it would upset them
- More than half said they wanted to get rid of university memorials to controversial historical figures
- 48% wanted universities to be declared “safe spaces” where debate only takes place within strict rules to safeguard students of a particular gender, culture, or sexuality
- And almost half supported the idea that librarians should not stock racist, sexist, or holocaust-denial literature
- 38% said student unions should ban the sale of some tabloid newspapers
- 27% said UKIP members should not be invited to speak on campus
And women were more likely than men to accept censorship – 55% want safe spaces compared to 39% of men and 45% want to ban tabloid newspapers compared to 29% of male students.
Feminist writer Naomi Wolf said the attitudes displayed in the report were “catastrophic” and showed a “terrifying trend, especially in British Universities which for 800 years have served as lights of freedom of thought in various past times of oppression“. She thought British Universities should shudder at the report and take immediate action.
Historian Amanda Foreman said it was sad that students were fighting for the right to close their minds against new ideas. “You only have to look at the german student unions which organised the burning of 25,000 un-German books at 34 universities in 1933 to know that freedom’s enemies comes in all shapes and sizes”
The report’s author Nick Hillman said “This is the first detailed study on what the mass of UK students really think about freedom of speech and it makes worrying reading”. A bit of an understatement I think.
He thought Higher Education Institutions should redouble their efforts to discuss the challenges to free speech with their students.
And universities should urgently arrange teaching to challenge the bigotry and prejudices of their students and get them to open their minds to debate.
I feel only sympathy for academics trying to teach in this oppressive environment, being oppressed by the very people they are trying to educate.
How did we get to this pitiful state of affairs? And what does the future hold for these close-minded oversensitive souls who are supposed to be our brightest and best? Did it start with parents managing a risk-averse childhood?
Heaven help them when – or if, given that some will stay in academia and further propagate this nonsense – they have to live in the real world and interact with real people on a day-to day basis with all their different values and prejudices.