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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


Student “Snowflakes” need protecting!

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


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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Are our students the most illiberal and wimpish ever?

group_of_protesters_1600_wht_9442I’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.