Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


At last government proposes getting tough on universities for smothering free speech!

Universities will be told by the government that they must uphold free speech and clamp down on student unions that “no platform” controversial speakers.

According to the Times, this could include powers to fine, suspend or deregister universities if they do not meet a statutory duty to commit to free speech in their governance documents, ensuring it is upheld by staff, student unions and student societies.

Jo Johnson, the universities minister, set out plans to challenge the culture of so-called safe spaces in universities and punish universities that fail to protect freedom of speech on campuses.

In recent years student unions and campaigners have banned, or attempted to ban, a number of high-profile people from speaking at universities because of their controversial opinions. In one of the most infamous cases, feminist writer Germaine Greer risked being unable to give a lecture after Rachael Melhuish, women’s officer at Cardiff University, called for her to be no-platformed for her “transphobic” views. Greer eventually spoke under tight security.

Speaking about Greer’s situation, Johnson said it was “preposterous” for her to be banned from speaking in campuses. “She has every right, if invited, to give views on difficult and awkward subjects,” he said. “No-platforming and safe spaces shouldn’t be used to shut down legitimate free speech”.

Our young people and students need to accept the legitimacy of healthy, vigorous debate in which people can disagree with one another. That’s how ideas get tested, prejudices exposed and society advances. Universities mustn’t be places in which free speech is stifled.”

Nick Lowles, director of Hope Not Hate, LGBT activist Peter Tatchell and Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, have faced being barred from speaking. The feminist activist and writer Julie Bindel has been no-platformed by the NUS for several years.

Johnson said that free speech was one of the foundations on which the UK’s higher education tradition was built. “It goes to the heart of our democratic values and is a principle universities hold dear,” he said. He also told the Times: “Freedom of speech is a fundamentally British value which is undermined by a reluctance of institutions to embrace healthy vigorous debate. Our universities must open minds, not close them”.

Johnson said: “I want the OfS to work with universities to encourage a culture of openness and debate and ensure that those with different backgrounds or perspectives can flourish in a higher education environment.”

The scary thing about this whole no platform/safe space nonsense is that students want itA survey last year found that most university students (63%) are in favour of the National Union of Students (NUS) having a “no platforming” policy.

An Analysis by Spiked magazine, supported by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, found that more than nine in 10 UK universities are restrictive of free speech. It’s just not acceptable. How can we prepare young people for the real world if they are over-protected at university?

Sir Michael Barber, chair of the OfS, said: “Ensuring freedom of speech and learning how to disagree with diverse opinions and differing views of the world is a fundamental aspect of learning at university. The OfS will promote it vigorously.

If this does get the go-ahead it might kill off this “snowflake” culture which has arisen and which helps nobody least of all students who should developing resilience. 

Just this week it’s been revealed that Cambridge University lecturers believe that the works of Shakespeare are too grisly for its English undergraduates and have issued timetables with trigger warnings and red triangles. The university says it’s not official policy and is at the lecturers’ discretion. Well it shouldn’t be.

Oxford law students are also given trigger warnings about violent cases. Glasgow medical students can skip lectures about how to break bad news to families.

Poor sensitive things – and that includes the wimpish lecturers  feeding these totally unnecessary demands. Let’s hope that when things change those highly paid (many would say overpaid) vice-chancellors might actually earn their money and stamp out this nonsense.

Sources: Guardian, Telegraph, Times

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Oxford University publishes list of micro-aggressions

In the latest snowflake newsletter from Oxford University students are warned to be aware of micro-aggressions by the university’s equality and diversity unit (an oxymoron if ever I heard one as you’re not allowed to express different views anymore).

So if you don’t look another student in the eye you might be guilty of racist behaviour. This is absolute poppycock. What about cultural differences where it’s considered inappropriate to look someone directly in the face? Or people who are shy, or introverts, or on the autistic spectrum?

And don’t ask a black or minority ethnic student where they are “originally” from. It might suggest you don’t believe they are British. Well they may not be and what if you are interested in knowing more about other cultures? Isn’t that why you go to university – to expand your mind?

And don’t joke about someone’s accent. Not even Geordie, black country (can we still call it that?) or scouse accents? (And didn’t Sir Lenny Henry make a living out of funny accents?)

The newsletter says that subtle everyday racism can appear trivial but “repeated micro-aggressions can be tiring and alienating (and can lead to mental ill-health”).

It says some people who do these things may be entirely well-meaning and would be mortified to realise they had caused offence. “But this is of little consequence if a possible effect of their words or actions is to suggest to people that may fulfil a negative stereotype or do not belong”. Or they might just think “get over it”.

The coordinator of the Free Speech Ranking project that highlights censorship on university campuses, called it ridiculous. “This is all part of a chilling desire on the part of university authorities to police not just opinions but everyday conversations between students. It’s not only deeply authoritarian, it has a chilling effect on how students interact with one another“.

The university defended the advice saying that “the equality and diversity unit works with university bodies to ensure that the university’s pursuit of excellence goes hand in hand with freedom from discrimination and equality of opportunity and the newsletter is one way of advising and supporting staff towards achieving these aims

What about freedom of speech and encouraging students to think for themselves? All this advice is tiring and irritating to those of us who live in the real world.

Update 28/4/17 from BBC website

Oxford University has apologised for saying that avoiding eye contact could be “everyday racism” after it was accused of discriminating against, and criticised for being “insensitive” to autistic people who can struggle making eye contact.

It said it had made a mistake and not taken disabilities into account. In a series of tweets, the university replied: “We made a mistake. Our newsletter was too brief to deal adequately and sensibly with the issue. “We are sorry that we took no account of other reasons for difference in eye contact and social interaction, including disability.

“Oxford deeply values and works hard to support students and staff with disabilities, including those with autism or social anxiety disorder.”

Some academics argued the guidance was “trivialising racism“. Emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent, Prof Frank Furedi, said the newsletter’s authors “need a reality check“.

It was basically a misguided PC argument put out by ill-informed people at what is supposed to be one of our top universities. Despair.


Cambridge snowflakes complaining about food

chef_stiring_pot_anim_500_wht_6703Have students nothing better to do than accuse a college chef of cultural appropriation or misrepresentation and micro-aggressions by (mis)naming food?

Among their targets at Pembroke College Cambridge are: Jamaican Stew, Chinese Chicken, Indian Fish pie, African stew with sweet potato, and a Tunisian rice dish.

Various students have complained that these dishes don’t exist in their home countries.

It started when a student posted on a Facebook page called Grudgebridge “Dear catering staff, stop mixing mango and beef and calling it Jamaican stew; it’s rude“. Not to be confused with “rude boys” presumably i.e. those wild Jamaican boys who like reggae and ska?

The complaints then built up citing the other dishes as micro-aggressions. There was only one student, an Indian, who suggested that the catering staff should at least be given credit for trying saying “I urge people to look around and realise there’s a lot more to life than complaining about fruity chicken“. Well said!

To which a black student complained about  being constantly invalidated when flagging up specific issues and claiming that micro-aggressions are a reality of everyday existence for people of colour. Well maybe if you are always looking for them.

Of course the college is leaning over backwards to appease the students and the college bursar said that the college encouraged catering staff to take the views of students seriously.

The current generation of students are a real timorous bunch who should be thinking hard about their futures and how employers will perceive all this petty PC behaviour.

Don’t the students realise that we have a habit of messing about with foreign cuisine here in the UK?


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UK undergraduates – fear for their futures

graduation_hat_tassel_flip_anim_500_wht_14455Fear for their first interaction at work, their first outing in the real world.

Of course they could enter closed orders, live and work inside a gated community, stay in their bedrooms in their parents homes forever –  or work in a university

Why am I so pessimistic? Because this generation of university students, sometimes referred to as snowflakes (and with good reason), is the most risk averse, inward looking, intolerant, over-sensitive, bunch of self-righteous wimps I’ve ever come across.

The evidence for this?

94% of university campuses have some kind of censorship, up from 80% in 2015

Among things that have been banned by students’ unions are:

  • Fancy Dress parties especially if you plan dressing up as the Village People, Tarts & Vicars,  chavs, gangsters, Pocohantas, camp men, Arabs or Mexicans. Presumably dressing up as a toff and burning £20 notes is OK in some quarters?
  • Posters showing women’s bums or cleavages (a disciplinary offence).
  • Wolf whistles, innuendos, or making offensive sexual noises.
  • Some tabloid newspapers (I think those with page 3 pictures back in the day but maybe others)
  • Speakers with outspoken views – the so-calle no platform policies. including total bans on islamist, fascist or racist speakers
  • 24% have safe space policies which censor free speech.

There are only three universities where that which is banned is actually illegal. Which means the rest is down to sheer intolerance. And yet no doubt these are the people crying over Brexit because it means we are being horrid to foreigners!

Oxford university encourages students to report inappropriate fancy dress parties (learning from the Stasi) and discourages cross-dressing as it upsets trans-identified students.

It also banned  a student magazine called No Offence which celebrated free speech.

Clearly you don’t want to leave Oxford more open-minded than went you went in!

At some universities students can be disciplined for not addressing transgender students by their correct name or correct gender pronoun.

With the wide spectrum thrown up by gender fluidity it raises the question of how you would you know what the correct gender pronoun was. Should students wear badges or tattoos declaring how they identify themselves? Oh, didn’t the Nazis try that kind of thing?

The editor of Spiked, which has monitored free speech in universities for the last three years says “Campus censorship is about more than the so-called snowflake generation throwing its weight around, a coddled cohort treating the university like an oversized creche.

In truth the students’ union censors are the product of a society, and an academy that affirms their outlook, that sees free speech as dangerous, people as fragile, and the unfettered pursuit of truth through reason  as a risky business

Its just that after decades of liberalism in our universities we suddenly have students unions dictating how people should behave.  Just like the extremists they are frightened of.

51eyrsosk1lAnd a lot of this started in America. The University of California’s Berkeley campus was where the free speech movement demanded that the university lifted a ban on political activity on campus. Fifty years later they suffered violent riots as students sought to ban a gay Brit, Milo Yiannopoulos,  who was a pro-Trump conservative from speaking at all.

They succeeded but also succeeded in propelling his book Dangerous up the best-sellers list. He is critical of Islam and rude about feminists and the left but there is no evidence he is a white supremacist or a fascist. Sounds OK to me.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to ban all the things mentioned above but the idea of cultural appropriation for example is often twisted out of proportion. For example East Anglia bans a mexican restaurant from giving out sombreros.

Go to Mexico and all the street markets sell them to tourists. So how does that work? Is the Mexican restaurant actually abusing its position and stealing from a minority group? Should only Mexicans be allowed to cook mexican food, Chinese to cook chinese food and so on?

And other european countries don’t seem to have been infected by snowflakes yet. Have a look at this poster for a weekly party for Erasmus students!


Student “Snowflakes” need protecting!

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

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University students upset by lectures covering “sensitive topics” could be given deadline extensions, exam resits or exemptions from set work to ensure they are not disadvantaged.

Guidance drawn up by Newcastle University warns that students could be so distressed by material dealing with such issues as rape, violence, racism and misogyny that it could affect their academic performance.

If this happened, the case could be referred to a committee of tutors with the power to make “adjustments” to how these students were examined, such as excusing them from completing some of the assessed work.

Academics across the country are already issuing “trigger warnings” to give students advance notice of “sensitive material”, including images in video games, war photography and topless models, as well as discussions of underage sex, homelessness and religion.

While some professors defend their use, others have criticised them for putting pressure on tutors to self-censor what they…

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University of East Anglia is daftest campus in UK

ulearn2bu

graduation_hat_tassel_flip_anim_500_wht_14455And not in a good way. The students there have already banned Tate & Lyle sugar from the campus shop, blocked six nations rugby being screened in the union bar, boycotted Starbucks and Nestlé, banned the dale of red-top newspapers (page 3) stopped sombreros being given out (cultural appropriation), and tried to ban UKIP from speaking there as it would make students feel less safe and secure.

I understand some of these e.g. companies who avoid paying tax or discourage breast-feeding in poor countries (I boycott Nestlé products myself for that reason).

Fossil fuel extraction and global warming is  matter of opinion and I’m for anything Emma Thompson and her luvvie friends are against on principle.

The university has provided day-time sleeping berths for hungover students. Why you might ask.

And their latest idea? Asking students not to throw their mortar boards in the air on graduation photos in case anyone…

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