Tales From The Safe Space, Part 37 – Whisperings Of A Revolt

NUS Disaffiliation Campaign

Has the NUS finally gone too far?

All tyrants, petty or otherwise, eventually go too far and overextend their vast authority. Maybe they get cocky. Maybe they surround themselves with so many Yes Men that they lose the pulse of the people. But inevitably, somehow or other, they will at some point find themselves overextended, and see their exalted position threatened as a consequence.

It is delightful to see such a thing now happening to the National Union of Students, that censorious, moralising platform for embryonic leftist politicians and demagogues, which long ago gave up any pretence at advocating for students, preferring to exercise paranoid control over them instead.

Now, some students are fighting back. A number of smart, more liberty-minded students have realised that since most Student Unions derive their democratic “legitimacy” from a vanishingly small slice of their respective student populations, it should be relatively easy to mount a small insurgency of their own to topple the Social Justice and Identity Politics cultists in charge, and make their local unions work for the students rather than simply trying to control their thoughts, behaviour and speech.

Hence the brilliant NUS disaffiliation campaigns now springing up at campuses around the country.

Spiked’s Tom Slater reports in The Spectator:

In a move that has left student union politicos across the country clinging to their therapy dogs, the University of Lincoln Students’ Union has voted to disaffiliate from the NUS. Springing from the new, anti-NUS sentiment that is brewing on campuses across the country, Lincoln students voted 881 to 804 to leave.

This was a big breakthrough, putting wind in the sails of disaffiliation campaigns currently being fought at York, Oxford, Exeter and Manchester. And though this was all sparked by the election of new NUS president Malia Bouattia – the overgrown student fond of waxing lyrical about the ‘zionist-led media’ – the gulf between NUS leadership and its members has been growing for years.

After Lincoln’s vote, outgoing NUS president Megan Dunn said she was ‘sorry this decision was made by such a small number of students’. Which was a bit rich, seeing as she was elected in 2015 by a whopping 413 NUS delegates, and turnout at campus NUS elections – which select those delegates – is notoriously low.

Lincoln’s vote is significant. Not least because so many felt so detached from the NUS they didn’t even turn out to vote. And, in an interesting twist, Lincoln SU’s own president appeared to approve of the move, telling the Independent that ‘for some time… the NUS has been far removed from the issues our students tell us are important’.

And now Newcastle University has followed suit:

Newcastle University Students’ Union (NUSU) has become the second to announce it is to disaffiliate from the National Union of Students (NUS) following a controversial National Conference in Brighton last month.

The move has come as a double blow for the national student campaigner after Lincoln University announced on Monday it, too, will be breaking away from the NUS at the end of the year.

NUSU confirmed on Thursday that 1,469 total votes had been cast in the referendum by Newcastle University students, with a majority of 67 per cent voting in favour of disaffiliation.

Brilliant. While this blog contends that the power and influence now wielded by the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics can only be truly broken when those with most authority – professors and university administrators – finally rediscover their backbone and begin to defend academic freedom and free speech rights, it is heartening to once again see students in the vanguard of the resistance.

For in truth, it is in the interests of almost no students – save the Identity Politics priests who derive power and influence from policing the culture of their institutions and the behaviour of their peers – to allow the NUS to continue along its present, authoritarian path. As Tom Slater argues in The Spectator, students deserve local unions which fight for their interests as students, rather than a union which wastes its time fighting a culture war and playing off different groups of students against one other based on an arbitrary judgement over how “oppressed” they happen to be.

The growing NUS disaffiliation movement should be encouraged and helped to spread like wildfire, burning through the rotten foundations and (ideally) causing the whole organisation to topple. And now is the time to strike, when the enemy is dangerously overextended, making very specific and highly controversial claims (pro-censorship and the identity politics agenda) on behalf of all students when in fact they speak only for a small but noisy illiberal minority.

First Lincoln, then Newcastle. Who will be next to throw off the puritanical, totalitarian shackles of the National Union of Students?


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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 23 – Manchester University Students’ Union To Debate Banning Conservatives

Manchester University Students Union building

Activists at the University of Manchester Students’ Union are to debate a motion which would essentially ban conservatism and enshrine one particular leftist worldview as the only acceptable political thought on campus

The students’ union at Manchester University never had a particularly strong commitment to democracy and free speech, preferring to act as one of those authoritarian talking shops where activists percolate in their own ideological certainties.

The university is rated Amber while the students’ union has consistently been rated Red in the Spiked free speech rankings, meaning that together they preside over a chilling and hostile climate for freedom of speech on campus.

But the current set of illiberal policies are nothing compared to a new student-initiated union debate which could see David Cameron – and theoretically, by extension any conservative politician or personality – banned from campus on the grounds that they may harm or manipulate weak and vulnerable students with their dangerous right-wing ideas.

The text of the motion, due to be debated this Thursday (14 April), reads:

Ban David Cameron from the Students’ Union building

David Cameron is a dangerous Tory whom has continually attacked the welfare state with the intent of destroying it since the Tory government assumed absolute power in a so called “democratic” vote.

David Cameron and his right-wing Tory government were elected by a minority of the electorate, and zero students voted Tory, therefore we must make a stand against this undemocratic regime by banning David Cameron and his Tory government from our democratic Students Union and our University Campus.

In addition, David Cameron has continually violated the Safe-Space policy by implementing changes to Junior Doctors NHS contracts. We must fight back against the Tory steamroller which is destroying the NHS and destroying the United Kingdom and also Europe. Also David Cameron has said that we should vote to stay in the EU, but he is a Tory and therefore he must have lied, therefore to prevent him being able to manipulate venerable [sic] students at the University we must ban him.

The motion is so childish in its demands and so illiterate in its expression that only a year ago one may have wondered whether it was a clumsy parody. But life on campus in British and American universities has now indeed become such a sick joke that the motion was almost certainly submitted in earnest – and could well be adopted by authoritarian student activists regardless of the motive behind it.

This, after all, is the same students’ union which had an anti Safe Space petitioner dragged out of a student senate meeting by campus security for daring to criticise and speak over the Women’s Officer during a debate about abolishing the union’s Safe Space policy.

(Curiously, the motion to abolish the Safe Space policy was recorded as being rejected in the senate meeting minutes, although there were 38 votes for the motion, 3 against and 4 abstentions – I have contacted the students’ union for clarification on that rather surprising decision, and am awaiting their response).

University of Manchester Students Union

But consider the type of childish, underdeveloped mind which could seriously propose a motion to ban David Cameron from the students’ union (thus wrecking the prime minister’s plan to hang out there extensively in the near future).

The motion begins with the accusation that David Cameron is a “dangerous Tory”. Well, by that logic, so are the 11.3 million British citizens who cast their vote for the Conservative Party in the 2015 general election. Is this entire segment of the population also dangerous – or are they either evil and greedy people voting to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor, or “venerable” people conned into voting the wrong way?

Laughably, the motion describes the Conservative Party’s return to power as being the result of a “so-called ‘democratic’ vote”. Now one can criticise the UK’s electoral system legitimately and with good reason, but Manchester University Students’ Union was not exactly the scene of hunger strikes or self-immolations when the Labour Party won the 2005 general election with 9.5 million votes and 35% of the national vote, which strongly suggests that this is politically (not constitutionally) motivated.

The author of the motion then goes on to claim, ludicrously, that “zero students voted Tory”, which speaks volumes about this particular student’s limited social circle and cheerfully ignorant closed mind. As it happens, some students do vote Conservative – in fact, there has been a slight rise in 18 to 34 year olds voting Tory, particularly women. The fact that many of these right-leaning students keep their political views so quiet is because to talk about them openly would be to invite hostility, ridicule and social ostracisation from the sanctimonious Left.

Slipping the surly bonds of earth and touching the face of insanity, the pompous student motion continues:

In addition, David Cameron has continually violated the Safe-Space policy by implementing changes to Junior Doctors NHS contracts. We must fight back against the Tory steamroller which is destroying the NHS and destroying the United Kingdom and also Europe.

So now, taking a position in an industrial dispute which does not directly affect a single member of the students union is still a grave violation of the Union’s safe space policy. The author of the motion asks us to believe that government running the country and making decisions which anger the Left and the public sector actively makes students unsafe.

And the motion wraps up with the naive and childish statement that David Cameron “is a Tory and therefore he must have lied” about wanting Britain to stay in the European Union. In fact, David Cameron did lie inasmuch as he falsely presented the negligible and non-binding results of his abject capitulation as a bold renegotiation that would result in some kind of reformed EU.

But it was David Cameron’s own lack of character and patrician disregard for democracy which caused him to lie – not the fact that he is a Tory. One could just as easily seek to ban all Labour politicians and personalities from Manchester University by claiming that Tony Blair lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – and yet one can be certain that if Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn set foot on campus tomorrow, these students would drop whatever they were doing and follow him around like he was the Messiah.

University of Manchester - Occupied

One would hope that Manchester University Students’ Union will reject this babyish motion out of hand when it is earnestly debated at this Thursday’s Senate meeting, on the grounds that it makes everyone who touches it look stupid.

One would hope that there are enough liberty-loving students at Manchester to prevent the adoption of a measure designed to infantilise them and treat them as delicate snowflakes incapable of so much as being in the presence of people who disagree with them (though such sensible people tend to be repulsed by student politics and stay well away).

One would hope that the idea of passing a symbolic motion banning the democratically elected – not to mention remarkably dull and centrist – prime minister from setting foot on union property would be laughed out of the house by student leaders who realise that demonising over a third of the country for their perfectly legitimate political views makes honest political debate impossible, and (most dangerously) enshrines one particular left-wing ideology as the only “acceptable” political opinion.

One would like to think a good many warm and positive things about the generation of Stepford Students currently passing through our academic institutions, both here in Britain and in America. But every day we are given ten times as many reasons to despair as causes to hope.

And now we have the ludicrous spectacle of Manchester University students earnestly debating whether or not they need to protect themselves by placing a de facto restraining order on David Cameron and his Evil Tory brethren.

As Manchester goes, so goes every other major university in the country. Never has a group of students been so in need of a robust, small-L liberal education, yet so thoroughly unprepared to receive one at university.


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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 19 – Cardiff Students Hold “Inner Child Day”

Cardiff University Students Union - Inner Child Day - Infantilisation - Safe Space

Good mental health does not mean regressing back into childhood

One of the most insidious things to emerge from the Cult of Identity Politics taking over Anglo-American university campuses is the false equating of good mental health with a state of childhood.

Safe spaces, campus speech codes and trigger warnings all serve to infantilise students, in the belief that if only these young adults are coddled like children and protected from ever encountering a dissenting opinion or a negative word, it might just be possible to preserve their fragile mental equanimity.

One of the most overt recent manifestations of this trend is the “Inner Child Day” recently held at Cardiff University (the same institution whose students were so traumatised by the hateful presence of Germaine Greer on campus last year).

The ad promoting Inner Child Day encouraged Cardiff students to “embrace your inner child with a whole day of free fun in Y Plas in Cardiff University’s SU! Think inflatables, games, face painting and some 90s classics!”. Because apparently university is no longer a place to emerge into adulthood, but rather place to regress back to the habits and mentality of a toddler.

Johanna Williams paints an excruciating picture of the event in an article in Spiked:

It took place in the nightclub of the students’ union building and featured such mental-health managing strategies as biscuit-decorating, dog-petting, face-painting and jumping about on a bouncy castle. Students were able to work towards the holy grail of positive mental health by practising their forward rolls and uploading pictures of their newly ornamented biscuits to social media in return for the approval of their peers.

The nightclub was suitably decorated. There were balloons everywhere to appeal to the six-year-old children just waiting to burst out of the students’ twentysomething bodies. A giant screen at the front of the room showed a woman cradling a miniaturised version of herself as someone would cradle a child. Apparently, the phrase ‘Can your inner-child come out to play?’ was meant ‘to offer hope to sufferers’.

Watching this event unfold was like walking into a perverse version of Alice in Wonderland. Twentysomething adults were catapulting themselves towards a healthier state of mind on the bouncy castle with an abandon that would get them banned from any normal event involving bouncy castles.

This all sounds disturbingly similar to the Safe Space room set aside during a debate at Brown University in Rhode Island, in which students who felt “triggered” by what they heard during a voluntarily attended meeting were offered infantilising consolations such as puppy videos, snacks, soft furnishings and Play Doh, as well as an army of trained counsellors.

Williams concludes:

This attempt to fight insanity with insanity is worrying. The trend towards medicalising everyday moods, to treat, say, the homesick student as someone with a mental-health problem, has led to the creation of a bogus epidemic of mental ill-health on campus. This means that people who suffer from a genuine mental illness, such as schizophrenia, are missing out on support because too much attention is focused elsewhere.

These childish events will do nothing to help students who are genuinely unwell. What’s worse, they’ll make today’s pampered students even less likely to grow up.

Williams is right. This is dangerous stuff, inflating good mental health with a regression to a sanitised version of childhood, with face painting and cookies and puppy dog videos. And whatever transitory benefit it may provide to students who are not really mentally ill but are simply stressed or homesick, it will do nothing for – and in fact diverts attention and resources away from – the far smaller number who are genuinely in need of help.

True mental health comes about by building a healthy resilience to the kind of everyday emotional bumps and scrapes which characterise adult life. In the real world, people sometimes have completely contradictory views about fundamental issues, but must nonetheless live, shop and work together.

Safe space policy makes that harder by sending the message that students should not have to so much as glimpse opposing ideas, while the entire cult of Identity Politics is built on the notion of a backbiting Hierarchy of Privilege, where everybody is an oppressor and nearly everyone (except for cis white men at the top of the pyramid) is also oppressed.

This culture does not produce resilient, well-rounded adults. Rather, it is producing a generation of self-involved, narcissistic adult babies who worship at the altar of their chosen “identity” and demand that everybody else admire their idiosyncrasies, acknowledge their pain and massage their egos on pain of censorship or disciplinary action.

And if none of that stirs you to anger, then at least be outraged by Cardiff University Student Union’s cynical, tawdry trivialisation of mental health, and the suggestion that ten minutes on a bouncy castle and a spot of face painting are the cure for those students who suffer from genuine mental health issues.


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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 18 – At Edinburgh, The Revolution Eats Its Own

Imogen Wilson - Edinburgh University - Students Union - Safe Space Policy - Identity Politics

Censured for raising her hand and shaking her head in a student council meeting, but don’t feel sorry for her – this student fully supports the draconian Safe Space policy which saw a complaint raised against her

Edinburgh University has long been one of the dodgiest academic institutions in the country when it comes to tyrannical student activism and the suppression of free speech.

The university has consistently scored Red in the Spiked Free Speech University Rankings, with the student union’s bizarre rules banning “hand gestures which denote disagreement” or applause when a motion fails to pass marking the institution as a particularly insufferable place to take a degree.

(It’s amazing that they tolerate applause at all).

Therefore, in such a sanctimoniously authoritarian atmosphere, it was only a matter of time that the Identity Politics revolution which currently subjugates Edinburgh University claimed one of its own revolutionaries. And in this case, the victim is a student union officer (vice President of academic affairs) named Imogen Wilson, someone no doubt more used to doling out punishment for thought crime than being on the receiving end.

Wilson’s crime? Raising her hand to speak during a meeting of the student council, and then later – pass the smelling salts! – shaking her head in disagreement with something which was said.

The Daily Mail reports:

A student was almost kicked out of a meeting after she violated a ‘safe space’ by raising her arm at Edinburgh University.

Imogen Wilson wanted to make a point at Thursday’s student council session when she was told off by officials.

The vice-president for academic affairs at the university’s Student Association was accused of failing disabled students by not responding to an open letter.

She immediately raised her arm to disagree but was made the subject of a ‘ludicrous’ complaint and told not to make the gesture again.

Imogen was also warned for shaking her head during the meeting as it again breached the ‘safe space’ which is part of the university’s Student Association rules. 

But before you feel too sorry for Imogen, bear in mind that she is an enthusiastic proponent of Safe Space policy and the whole range of illiberal, stultifying policies which are crushing freedom of thought and expression at her university.

The Huffington Post explains:

Wilson later shook her head whilst someone was speaking, and was threatened with another safe space complaint.

“I completely understand the importance of our safe space policy, and will defend it to the ground, but I did not think that was fair, and had it gone further I would have either left or argued against it,” she said.

So Wilson was more than happy for the speech and behaviour of others to be strictly regulated and censored while on campus, but is now throwing a petulant tantrum when she herself accidentally steps on one of the very Identity Politics landmines that she and her student tyrant comrades have been busy laying throughout the political and social discourse, and in the students union rulebook.

This is also hilarious:

A fourth-year student at the meeting, who wished to remain anonymous, told HuffPost UK: “The whole thing was a ludicrous abuse of the entire intent of safe space.

“We were having one of the most emotionally tense councils of the year, with the vote on the BDS movement and people speaking who live in Palestine or are Israeli on both sides of the issue.

“There was ample risk of there being an actual safe space issue taking place—an anti-semitic or islamophobic comment for instance—but the whole debate was actually remarkably civil despite how emotional it was.

“So for someone to have abused the very legitimate purpose of safe space rules to get at someone they politically disagreed with was pretty low.

Gosh, so there was a real danger of an “actual safe space issue” occurring – the possibility that someone might have said something a bit crass or offensive about Palestinians or Israelis, thus immediately shattering the fragile psyches of the adult babies studying at Edinburgh University. How terrifying.

(And as always, it is great to see a students union spending its time debating the issues which really affect the day-to-day life of students on campus – like the BDS movement, whose principle agents will surely be quaking in their boots awaiting the verdict of a bunch of jumped-up student activists in Edinburgh).

But funniest of all is the fourth-year student’s complaint that in targeting Imogen Wilson, her accusers had “abused the very legitimate purpose of safe space rules to get at someone they politically disagreed with”.

Well, who would have thought that such cynical behaviour might be a consequence of laying so many verbal and behavioural traps everywhere? Who could have anticipated that by making so many rules governing who is allowed to speak and what they are allowed to say, it might provide an irresistible temptation for students to manipulate those rules to their own benefit, or to spitefully punish someone with whom they disagree? Who could possibly have foreseen such a shocking development?

Clearly not the adult babies of Edinburgh University, who – when they are not high-mindedly resolving the Middle East peace process on behalf of grateful Israelis and Palestinians – are so busy trying to entrap one another with their precious Safe Space / Identity Politics rules that they totally lose sight of why they are at university in the first place.


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Top Image: Daily Mail

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