Free Speech: University Students Need a Wake Up Call

By: Daniel Clark | @DanielClark132

Once upon a time, in a land called ‘Reality’, students used to campaign for the right of female students to be treated in the same way as male students. When they achieved that, they turned their attentions to Apartheid. Once that was a win, they fought for rape in marriage to become a legally recognisable crime. Now, for some unknown reason, they’ve moved on from all that, ignoring the violence in Aleppo and focusing instead on – erm – gender pronouns.

Nobody knows this better than Professor Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist at the University of Toronto. When the Canadian government’s proposed Bill C-16, which proposed to outlaw harassment and discrimination based on gender identity and expression, he expressed valid concerns that this could curtail freedoms of expression. He also remarked that, actually, no; he isn’t prepared to use gender-neutral pronouns such as ‘zhe’ and ‘hir’, which is what the laws would make compulsory.

The reaction was swift and merciless, with calls for his immediate resignation or firing, as well as claims that he was transphobic (despite him expressly saying that he doesn’t have a problem with people who medically transition.) The University agreed to establish a debate, in which Professor Peterson would take part. Bizarrely, in this debate about free speech, he was ironically asked by the University to not repeat his resistance to using gender-neutral pronouns. I don’t know about you, but I see quite a problem there.

It’d be nice to think that England is free from this madness but, alas, the Sunday Times reported last week that some students at the University of Oxford (you know, the one where the really clever ones go) want ‘he’ and ‘she’ to be dropped, and new pronouns like ‘ze’ to be used instead, to make things more ‘intersectional’. Already, referring to somebody with an incorrect pronoun is an offence at the University, so soon enough somebody will end up being excluded for asking if ‘she’ would like a cup of tea instead of ‘ze’.

Interestingly, the veteran human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has ‘welcomed’ the move, though insisted that it shouldn’t be compulsory for people to be seen through the gender neutral lens. He also argued (here’s the really important part) that “this isn’t about political correctness.” He’s right of course; this is much darker than political correctness.

To police a person’s language is a totalitarian act, a suppression of the independence of the will, and a blatant attempt at uniformity. What sorts of universities are being created, where people lazily dismiss the poverty on their door step as ‘Tory policy’, and focus instead on how they can curtail an individual’s freedom of expression? This has also been put on show through the disgraceful ‘no-platforming’ policy of the NUS, which has claimed Julie Bindel, Milo Yiannopoulos and Germaine Greer as its victims. George Orwell must be turning in his grave.

Something, somewhere, has gone very wrong indeed. Either transgender activists are demanding that we willing accept their demands, or feminists are demanding that men nod along in obedience when they’re called toxic, or members of the alt-right are demanding that we respect their beliefs because it’s ‘all just good fun’. Having a belief is fine – after all, we all possess them – but when people expect others to accept them, no questions asked, a problem occurs. If we don’t have the freedom to question, our freedom means nothing.
Free Speech: University Students Need a Wake Up Call Free Speech: University Students Need a Wake Up Call Reviewed by Student Voices on 16:19 Rating: 5

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