Spiked’s University Rankings should disturb us all | Daniel Clark

Last Saturday, Spiked released their latest report on the state of free speech in British Universities for the third year running. This report made for a depressing read on an early weekend morning. Only seven universities in the whole country are a haven for liberty, whilst well over 90% liberally (no pun intended) ban things with an apparently easy conscience. 

One bizarre trend that characterised these Universities is a ban on newspapers like ‘The Sun’ or ‘The Daily Mail’. The aforementioned newspaper has been banned from various campuses for a cacophony of reasons, for its coverage of Hillsborough to its objectification of women on Page 3 (one cannot help but wonder whether the same people who wanted the newspaper banned for this reason have also booked to watch Fifty Shades Darker at the cinema.) This issue is two-fold. The first is that this banning is a purely blatant act of intellectual elitism, cutting off access to newspapers enjoyed by many of the ‘plebs’ (and, indeed, at a remarkably low purchase price, it does become the favoured publication of Theresa May’s ‘JAMs.’) The second, ironically, is that the ban is a symbol of intellectual barrenness. Rather than engage critically with a source they find objectionable these students do not even read it and – to make matters worse – decide that nobody else should either. Don’t worry though: it only gets worse.

Assault, we can all agree, is bad. But words, according to certain students and ‘intellectuals’, are just as bad – if not worse. Spiked reported that the University of Lancaster Student Union has an Equal Opportunities Policy as such: ‘Creating and promoting equality of opportunity requires a fine balance between enabling people to feel free to state their opinions without fear of sanction or reprisal while not tolerating harassment, racism, sexism, homophobia or prejudice.’ In other words: say what you like…but we might decide that we don’t like it. It is made worse upon consideration of the fact the Bullying and Harassment Policy states that harassment is ‘Any behaviour that makes the recipient feel unjustifiably viewed as a sexual object is liable to cause offence, even if offence is not intended.’ The Student Union is pushing to be in loco parentis, in a way that universities attempted to be in the 1960s.

The University of Warwick takes language policing to the extreme, deciding that people cannot add ‘-ed’ to the end of ‘transgender’ (why, exactly, is not clear) whilst the University of Durham Student Union has decided that ‘Reasons for disciplinary action shall include… displays of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, sexism or any other prejudice.’ Not once, you should note, is a definition of any of these terms provided; just upsetting gay people or bisexual people or women seems to be enough for these institutions. This is a definitive way to ensure that debate cannot take place. Want a discussion on whether sex changes should be funded on the NHS? Forget it. Wondering whether there can be a debate on whether people are born gay or not? Don’t make me laugh. These restrictions essentially decided that the truth has been decided by a mysterious entity of whom we know nothing but certainly cannot question. 

It is not just free speech, which constitutes only part of our liberty, that is at risk. Orwell’s Junior Anti-Sex League are also battling for control. The University of Durham has decided that innuendos can be classified as sexual harassment whilst mandatory consent classes are becoming a regular feature up and down the country. It seems that young people, who are expected to feed themselves, aren’t trusted to know who is and is not consenting. Sex has morphed from fun to puritanical, enjoyable to regimented. These naïve middle-class feminists somehow think that their condescending consent classes would stop an actual rapist from performing an act of the utmost depravity. It is no wonder that Camille Paglia, highly critical of what she calls ‘fainting-coach feminism, has said that ‘Female undergraduates incapable of negotiating the oafish pleasures and perils of campus fraternity parties are hardly prepared to win leadership positions in business or government in the future.’ ‘Protecting’ people now will only serve to impede them when they emerge into the real world.

As I have alluded to, there is an ingrained class aspect to the free speech struggles. The middle classes – who dare to presume that they know what the working class ‘need’, such as a working class welfare officer – perform acts of naivety every time they call for mandatory consent classes or ban a newspaper. Whilst some students grew up in poverty their counterparts wring their hands over which – entirely fictitious – gender pronoun to use for the individuals who see biological fact as irrelevant. Their decisions on which words and opinions to ban betray the fact that they are cocooned in their comfortable little bubble of The Self, unable to see anything beyond themselves and their feelings.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Some of the worst offenders of this cultural disgraceful can be found at the University of Oxford where – it is no secret – the working classes are a distinct minority. It is consistently the upper classes who want to shut down liberty of expression wherever they can. Take the example of Julie Bindel, who gave a talk at the Salford Working Class Movement Library for LGBT history month. A petition was struck up demanding that this event be cancelled or the invaluable resource of the library shut down. Why? Because she has the ‘wrong’ opinions on transgenderism, prostitution, and Islam. The aim of Bindel’s talk was about her experiences growing up as a working-class lesbian on a council estate, not pontificate about what she thought of  a certain religion. But the self-aggrandised chattering classes would rather the working class suffer lest somebody get offended. Trust me; we’re made of tougher stuff than that.

Of course, there are some occasions when the ideas being to cross over. Some middle class individuals fight for liberty; some working class individuals also hate free speech. But if we want things to get better, we must acknowledge this class divide. Stopping people from saying ‘I have a problem with women wearing the hijab’ is a nice act of virtue-signalling for people who do not want to face the fact they are doing nothing – and will continue to do nothing – to help those who actually need it.

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Spiked’s University Rankings should disturb us all | Daniel Clark Spiked’s University Rankings should disturb us all | Daniel Clark Reviewed by Student Voices on 19:25 Rating: 5

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