Tales From The Safe Space, Part 40 – The University Of Chicago Fights Back

University of Missouri - Mizzou Hunger Strike

Yes, some things – like academic freedom – are more important than the delicate feelings of new undergraduate students. Kudos to the University of Chicago for making their incoming freshman class aware of that hard fact up front.

In a refreshing contrast to the usual depressing tales of faculty capitulations to the whining, self-involved voices of the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, the University of Chicago decided to make a bold stand for academic freedom.

From Heat Street:

The University of Chicago, one of America’s most prestigious and selective universities, is warning incoming students starting this fall not to expect safe spaces and a trigger-free existence during their four-year journey through academia.

In a letter sent to the class of 2020, university officials said one of the defining characteristics of the school was its unwavering commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression. Civility and mutual respect are vital to the campus culture, the letter states, but not at the expense of shielding students from unpopular opinions or ideas.

“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called “trigger warnings,” we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual “safe spaces” where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,” the letter states.

Expect the University of Chicago to be rewarded for their courage and integrity through greater application and enrolment numbers, as well as higher levels of achievement from the incoming undergraduate class as those delicate snowflakes too enraptured by their own vulnerability and completely unable to process dissenting opinions decide to study at other, more large-L liberal schools.

Already we have started to see a backlash against those institutions and university leaderships which are too quick to capitulate to petulant SJW demands to alter the curriculum, suppress free speech, disinvite conservative speakers and turn the campus from being a place of fearless debate to one of infantilising self-affirmation and victimhood.

The University of Missouri, roiled by campus protests last year in which marauding Social Justice Warriors forced the resignation of the university president for failing to treat black students like helpless victims, has seen its enrolment and profitability fall off a cliff. Good. If there is any justice, enrolment at Mizzou will dwindle until there is nothing left but tumbleweeds and the shrieking activists who drove out reason from a place of learning. And closer to home, the University of Oxford’s Oriel College had to frantically appease angry alumni donors who were ready to cancel their donations to the college in protest at Oriel’s limp capitulation to the Rhodes Must Fall movement.

In this very “Tales From The Safe Space” series, we have previously highlighted other examples of academic institutions standing up to their crybully students rather than rolling over and letting them seize control – the uncompromising example set by Dr. Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, is particularly encouraging.

As Dr. Piper memorably warned his students:

If you’re more interested in playing the “hater” card than you are in confessing your own hate; if you want to arrogantly lecture, rather than humbly learn; if you don’t want to feel guilt in your soul when you are guilty of sin; if you want to be enabled rather than confronted, there are many universities across the land (in Missouri and elsewhere) that will give you exactly what you want, but Oklahoma Wesleyan isn’t one of them.

At OKWU, we teach you to be selfless rather than self-centered. We are more interested in you practicing personal forgiveness than political revenge. We want you to model interpersonal reconciliation rather than foment personal conflict. We believe the content of your character is more important than the color of your skin. We don’t believe that you have been victimized every time you feel guilty and we don’t issue “trigger warnings” before altar calls.

Oklahoma Wesleyan is not a “safe place”, but rather, a place to learn: to learn that life isn’t about you, but about others; that the bad feeling you have while listening to a sermon is called guilt; that the way to address it is to repent of everything that’s wrong with you rather than blame others for everything that’s wrong with them. This is a place where you will quickly learn that you need to grow up.

And flatly reminded them:

This is not a day care. This is a university.

A long-overdue reminder for some students.

And so the University of Chicago’s stand against the SJWs did not happen in isolation; nor was it possible without a rigorous examination of the negative trends in campus life and the various ways in which academic freedom is under attack. And that is precisely what they did – back in 2014 the university commissioned a report on the state of freedom of expression at universities nationwide and reaffirming their own commitment to the timeless value of free speech over and above any passing social fashion.

From the report (my emphasis in bold):

Because the University is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn. Except insofar as limitations on that freedom are necessary to the functioning of the University, the University of Chicago fully respects and supports the freedom of all members of the University community “to discuss any problem that presents itself.”

Of course, the ideas of different members of the University community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although the University greatly values civility, and although all members of the University community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.

[..] In a word, the University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose. Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the University community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the University’s educational mission.

And it is that last part which presents such a challenge to many of today’s students – young people today are not only arriving at university unable to tolerate let alone contest ideas which they oppose, they are outraged at the very suggestion that they should learn to cope in such a way.

And not entirely through their own fault, for mine is a snowflake generation raised to believe that we are special, unique, perfect and above any reproach which might damage our self-esteem. We are taught not that sticks and stones may break our bones but words will never hurt us, but rather that sticks and stones may break our bones but words can kills us stone dead.

From early childhood education on upward we are taught that hurting someone’s feelings is just as bad – if not worse – than physically assaulting them. And all the while we are told to present our tear-stained faces to the relevant authorities the moment that somebody upsets us, so that they can receive their just punishment. We are not taught self sufficiency, resilience and the power of reason, but rather are encouraged to exalt in our weaknesses and wear our fragility like a badge of honour.

Little wonder, then, that when my generation reach university and fall under the intoxicating presence of the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics (student protests always appearing edgy and cool, but this incarnation representing a dangerous shift in attitude and tactics) so many of us immediately buy in to the idea that our personal worldview and beliefs are never to be questioned.

The University of Chicago alone cannot do anything about the way that people in the English-speaking Western world raise their children or educate them at a young age. They cannot challenge the toxic rise of baby-centred parenting, where parents and adults contort themselves to conform to the whims and sensitivities of their historically pampered children rather than promoting respect, deference and anti-fragility. The University of Chicago is but one academic institution facing a tidal wave of consequences from years of bad parenting, educational and child-rearing trends in society.

But what the University of Chicago can do – what they did do, admirably – is boldly restate who and what they are as an organisation, and what they stand for as an institute of higher education. They can boldly restate their commitment to the timeless values of academic freedom, and the fostering of personal and intellectual growth through robust debate and the free exchange of views. They can tell their incoming freshmen that no matter how accustomed they are to getting gold stars simply for participating, or demanding positive affirmation of even their most questionable decisions, the days of coddling will end the moment they set foot on campus.

This is what the University of Chicago did. This is what every university in America, Britain and the entire English-speaking world needs to do now if they are to avoid regressing into nothing more than adult daycare centres where the Play-Doh and puppy videos are piled high while challenging books burn in a pyre outside the library.

 

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Top Image: Sports Illustrated, Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 34 – Harvard University No Longer Prepares Students For The Real World

Harvard University - Holiday Placemat for Social Justice

Harvard University now makes it a point of pride to turn out fragile, unresilient graduates with little hope of functioning well in society

There was a time not long ago when universities used to take pride in turning out well-rounded graduates, young adults who were not only skilled in their chosen discipline but who could also hold their own in debate and ably relate to those from other walks of life or bearing different opinions.

But in 2016 it is increasingly evident that with their overwhelming focus on social justice – no longer a side issue but a common thread running through a contemporary student’s entire experience on campus and in the classroom – American universities in particular are actively harming the life prospects of their students by fostering such a therapeutic climate of social justice groupthink that the slightest intrusion of the rough real world is in some cases enough to provoke a real mental and emotional crisis.

Take this incredibly overwrought essay in the Harvard Political Review, which has apparently fallen so low that it now readily publishes weepy accounts from shellshocked students who happen to encounter hurtful words while on campus.

Student Aidan Connaughton writes:

I have heard hate speech in many situations in my life – so much so that I have become accustomed to it, even grown to expect it in some instances. Throughout middle and high school, I heard it so often that I knew the patterns, knew the lead-ins, and knew when I had to brace myself for the sting. Today, however, I did not brace myself.

“Faggot.” “Stop being a faggot.” “What is he? Some kind of faggot?” These all-too-familiar words continue to echo in my head. These are the words I have shielded myself against for years, the words I have learned to block out, coming from the people I have learned to avoid. These are the words that people use when committing hate crimes, and the words that were used for decades to oppress people just because they loved differently.

I never expected these words at lunch in Annenberg from a group of Harvard freshmen.

My guard was down, because I had forgotten what it felt like to hear these words. I know better now. I will not repeat that mistake.

Okay, so from this we can deduce that Aidan Connaughton is gay, and that he heard other students use the word “faggot” in what he felt was a derogatory way. Fair enough. As Connaughton makes clear, he has had this word directed at him from tormentors many times in his childhood, and quite understandably finds it upsetting.

But what follows is a damning indictment of how Harvard University, in a presumably well-intentioned effort to shelter people like Aidan Connaughton from ever encountering the rough and unpleasant views of the outside word so long as they are on campus, is actually retarding the ability of its students to withstand the unfair bumps and scrapes of real life. No gay person deserves to be called a faggot. But neither do young gay students deserve to be stripped of the ability to function and thrive in an imperfect world where hate and prejudice still exist.

Connaughton continues (my emphasis in bold):

Fair Harvard, the bastion of liberal values, a progressive environment where activists stand up against hate and students fight for progress in the belief that they can change the world. It is the place where workers and students unite to fight for health care, where students write plays about Black Lives Matter, where they organize rallies and marches to support survivors of sexual assault. It is the place where mental health is important and QSA is an established organization and where social justice is an integral pillar of student life. The students at Harvard have taught me how to embrace progressive movements and how to fight against administrative oppression. They have supported me, so much so that sometimes I can forget that the world outside of Johnston Gate does not care about social justice in the same homogeneous way as Harvard students. We fight against the Harvard administration to eradicate the structural oppression that continues at our school, and students may clash with each other over whether or not a classroom should be a safe space, but these disagreements seem to be more intellectual than hostile.

In other words, Harvard University is creating a very artificial environment in which their young adult students are expected to mature and grow into robust, well rounded people. By Connaughton’s own admission, the political climate on campus is so sterile and homogeneous that he is able to go for long stretches of time without encountering a contrary opinion, let alone an actively hostile one. This is a young man who has been consciously made fragile by the application of an ideology which preaches that words can cause real harm, and whose “immune system” to hearing non-affirming things has steadily atrophied in an environment where it has scarcely been needed.

And this is the result:

My little group of like-minded friends and I have frequent discussions on activism, politics, and campus issues, yet we usually come to a consensus on whatever issue we debate. I had grown so used to being understood and having my friends agree with me. I was no longer afraid to believe in social justice, the way I had been in my conservative hometown during high school. I had grown accustomed to a student body that was well informed and shared my beliefs. I thought that, at the very least, Harvard students are respectful and above making purposefully insensitive comments.

This is a young man whose idea of a debate is talking with his existing friendship circle, all of whom hold the same beliefs as him, and then (astonishingly) reaching a consensus. The only wonder is that they only “usually” come to a consensus, considering the homogenised intellectual atmosphere.

Worse still – for our democracy, at least – is Connaughton’s notion that this uniformity of thought exists because all of his fellow students are “well informed and shared [his] beliefs”. The obvious corollary to this is that anybody who does not share the worldview of Connaughton and his friends must be ignorant and wrong. There is no room in this worldview for the possibility that those who do not concur with each and every article of the Social Justice Catechism might do so from a position of honest, principled disagreement, and as the honest result of holding a different value system.

The article then builds up to the incident itself, in dramatic fashion:

But today, at table A11, as I sat down with my plate of red spiced chicken breast and broccoli, I overheard that word for the first time since leaving Colorado Springs to come to Cambridge. Two tables away, Dean Khurana was sharing a meal in Annenberg with a group of excited, overeager freshmen. But here were three Harvard students using this hate speech, laughing in their matching Harvard Men’s Lacrosse jackets, unaware that just three seats away, I was listening.

I said nothing to them. I was too shocked to think of anything to say. I held it in, reverted back to middle school, because I didn’t want to believe that I was hearing this word from one of my peers yet again – that I hadn’t left that behind.

So the word “fag” was not even addressed to Connaughton directly. While it was still undoubtedly unpleasant to hear, the suspense which builds throughout the piece makes it seem as though he was the victim of a direct homophobic diatribe, directed at him while he tried to enjoy his red spiced chicken breast (which hopefully, despite its name, was not a culturally appropriative dish). But this is not the case. Connaughton’s trauma – and this entire article – were prompted merely by overhearing the word being used in a conversation between other people.

If alarm bells are not already sounding at the evident mental fragility of this student, what follows is most concerning of all:

I thought that, at least at Harvard, we had won that battle. The culture of Harvard makes us believe that the world shares our views, and that what we believe in is right. Puncturing the bubble of liberalism at Harvard is painful, but it is as easy as hearing a single derogatory word from across the table.

This is almost childlike in its plaintive naivety. But one thing is crystal clear: the culture of Harvard University, now so fawningly tailored to the loud demands of the social justice warriors, is actively harming those who study there. For not only does pandering to the Cult of Identity Politics create a stultifying groupthink atmosphere on campus, it also encourages the utterly unrealistic belief that the rest of the world will be just as careful not to cause offence or tiptoe around any delicate sensibilities.

The most depressing thing in this case is that the student, Aidan Connaughton, is very aware that he is living in a bubble. He calls it a bubble of liberalism, which is obviously incorrect – for there is nothing liberal about maintaining an oppressive atmosphere where controversial or hurtful things can never be said. But the tragedy is that while he is aware that he is living in a bubble, he has no desire to escape and deal with the world as it really is. Living in the bubble has robbed him of the mental armour required to deal with the bumps and scrapes of life, and so rather than puncture the campus bubble and be free he seeks in vain to expand the bubble to encompass his whole world.

I don’t know how it can possibly be made clearer: social justice, identity politics and the idea of the university as a safe space are working together to gravely retard the emotional and intellectual development of today’s students – even Harvard students, who may be among the brightest minds of their generation, but many of whom will graduate incredibly ill prepared to function in the real world.

Harvard has failed Aidan Connaughton. But the failure was not that university administrators allowed a solitary hurtful phrase to be uttered within his earshot; the failure was that in their desperation to appease the demands of the social justice and identity politics movement, the university stripped away any and all of the means by which Connaughton might possibly have developed the intellectual robustness and emotional anti-fragility to deal with what could potentially be an everyday occurrence in the cold, harsh outside world.

 

Postscript: No wonder Harvard is in such a mess. This is now the declared mission of Harvard College (my emphasis in bold):

The mission of Harvard College is to educate the citizens and citizen-leaders for our society. We do this through our commitment to the transformative power of a liberal arts and sciences education.

Beginning in the classroom with exposure to new ideas, new ways of understanding, and new ways of knowing, students embark on a journey of intellectual transformation.  Through a diverse living environment, where students live with people who are studying different topics, who come from different walks of life and have evolving identities, intellectual transformation is deepened and conditions for social transformation are created.  From this we hope that students will begin to fashion their lives by gaining a sense of what they want to do with their gifts and talents, assessing their values and interests, and learning how they can best serve the world.

Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

 

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 33 – SJW Students Meet Conservative Provocateurs At UMass

Monday 25th April 2016

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

This is what the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics hath wrought.

Context, not that it is needed.

 

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 32 – Student Artist Willingly Re-Educated In The Ways Of Social Justice

Vietnam War Protest - Hippies Flower Rifle Gun

Artistic freedom, like academic freedom, is at risk from the social justice / identity politics takeover of our universities

What is a poor social justice warrior student to do when confronted with a piece of campus artwork which causes them mental discomfort harm?

Simple! Just send a snivelling email to the entire student body complaining about how your feelings have been hurt and how you have been made to feel unsafe in your own community. And if you attend one of those academic institutions which has already completely capitulated to the identity politics/social justice coup, you need do nothing else – the offending artwork will be removed or modified at once, without so much as a hearing. And what’s more the artist will be glad to be corrected, just as Dmitri Shostakovich was so very thankful for Pravda’s denunciation of his opera “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk”.

This time we are back in California, specifically Pitzer College, one of the liberal Claremont Colleges, and the “triggering” artwork was an homage to the famous Vietnam war protest image of a hippie placing a carnation into the barrel of a national guardsman’s rifle.

The Claremont Independent reports:

Early Monday morning, Gregory Ochiagha (PZ ’18), a Student Senator at Pitzer College, sent out an email to the student body criticizing a mural recently painted on campus. The mural, painted by Selena Spier (PZ ’19), depicts a handgun with flowers coming out of the end and was approved by the Pitzer College aesthetics committee.

“It’s truly in bad taste to have a large depiction of a gun in a dorm space—especially when students of color also reside there,” states Ochiagha. “Now let’s imagine there were countless videos of white teenagers, white teenagers that look like you, or your brother or your sister, get shot to death by police officers. Imagine scrolling down Facebook everyday and seeing a new video of the same thing, over and over again. Really put yourself in that headspace. Then ask yourself whether it’s the brightest idea to have white teenagers, who have a very real fear of getting shot, see a large gun every time they want to get food from the dinning [sic] hall.”

Ochiagha continues, “My Black Mental and Emotional Health Matters. I shouldn’t be reminded every time I leave my dorm room of how easy my life can be taken away, or how many Black lives have been taken away because of police brutality. This is emotionally triggering for very obvious reasons. And if you want to belittle or invalidate by [sic] black experience, I live in Atherton, come thru, let’s have that idiotic conversation.”

This being a Claremont college stuffed to the brim with students who live and breathe identity politics 24/7, of course where was zero pushback to Ochiaga’s demands. In fact, Selena Spier (the artist) willingly consulted with the offended party to agree changes to her creation that would keep him happy, all the while chastising herself in repentance for her privilege:

Spier plans to modify her mural. “I spoke with Gregory earlier and we agreed on a modification that preserves the integrity of the original piece while avoiding any potentially triggering content—it’s a change I was absolutely happy to make in the interest of creating a safe and inclusive environment for everyone in my community,” Spier told the Claremont Independent. “I have absolutely no right to decide whether or not my artwork is offensive to marginalized communities—nor does anyone else in a position of privilege, racial or otherwise.”

In other words, Spier offered her version of a “Soviet artist’s creative response to justified criticism“.

Re-education is not even necessary at Spitzer College. The student body is so perfectly drilled in the lore and language of social justice that everyone knows the correct protocol to follow when accused of unfairly exercising their privilege – they are to throw their hands up in surrender, accept the criticism unquestioningly, gratefully thank their accuser for sharing their pain and immediately modify their errant behaviour.

At no point, according to this new regime, is there to be any critical discussion as to whether the objection is valid or the offence warranted – as Spier herself confesses, “I have absolutely no right to decide whether or not my artwork is offensive to marginalized communities”. In other words, Spier is content for anything which she creates at any point in the future to be summarily labelled heretical by some wobbly-lipped social justice crybaby, and then either removed or altered to comply with her accuser’s demands.

Rod Dreher is equally unimpressed with accuser and artist:

I don’t know whether to pity Spier or to be revolted by her supine eagerness to satisfy and completely unreasonable request made by someone, simply because of the color of the complainer’s skin. It’s one thing for a gutless campus administration to silence free speech and expression on campus, but when the speakers and artists can be talked into silencing themselves, you know things are pretty damn hopeless. Conformists to the marrow, the lot.

But even an unwilling artist would likely have been forced against their will to bend to the demands of this social justice victimhood power play. In Social Justice Land, offending artists (together with campus conservatives) are given little practical choice but to conform or stay silent, hiding their true opinions and suppressing their creativity.

Imagine that instead of sitting down with this petty student tyrant, Spier had instead told him to go jump into a running jet engine, and that under no circumstances would she modify her piece of artwork from the original conception. If the artist had stood unrepentantly behind her own creation in this way, it is not difficult to see how this situation would have quickly escalated to a Twitter campaign, a sit-in at the dean’s office, a protest outside her own dorm room…

The Soviets used the threat of exile or execution to keep their artists in line. The Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics borrows from the same playbook, using the threat of social ostracisation, protest and even intimidation to force willing cultists and heretics alike to bend the knee.

And so it is worth remembering that academic freedom is not the only thing at stake in this attempted social justice coup of our universities. Artistic freedom is also very much at risk from a movement which values “lived experience” over objective truth, and in which the limits of one’s free speech are determined by the position one supposedly occupies in the social justice Hierarchy of Privilege.

 

More “Tales from the Safe Space” here.

 

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 29 – The Surreal NUS Annual Conference

NUS annual conference

Down with the National Union of Students

We know that they are highly averse to clapping and that many of their affiliate university students’ unions have been entirely conquered by the Cult of Identity Politics, but what is life really like at the NUS annual conference?

Jack Grove has been into the lion’s den (or should that be sheep’s pen?), and reports in the Times Higher Education:

On arrival at the registration desk at the Brighton Centre, I was able to choose from a range of stickers that would indicate to delegates if I’d prefer to be addressed along the lines of “he/him/his” or perhaps “they/them/theirs”. Later in the day, delegates elected a full-time sabbatical officer to deal with trans issues – a major financial commitment for a union that can’t afford a paid post dedicated to postgraduate issues.

When Ms Bouattia was elected as president – the union’s first female black Muslim leader – her supporters were chided by the panel chair for clapping and cheering as this may cause distress to other delegates and trigger a trauma episode.

Instead, delegates were asked by a sincere delegate not to whoop or holler, or clap at all, but use “jazz hands” to show appreciation (people were asked to wiggle their fingers) as the noise created was “ableist” and had indeed caused the delegate in question to have a panic attack on previous occasions.

While Spiked’s Tom Slater reports:

The National Union of Students conference is over. But we’ll still have the memories – the jazz hands, the whingeing and the casual anti-Semitism. For this was the year when this tyranny of crybabies, this politburo of plonkers, truly outdid itself. Not only did delegates call for social-media apps to be banned (people are saying nasty things on them) and for Holocaust Memorial Day to be scrapped (apparently it’s not ‘inclusive’) — they also elected as the new NUS president Malia Bouattia, someone who thinks condemning ISIS might ‘send the wrong message’ and is wont to wax lyrical about the ‘Zionist-led media’.

This year’s shitshow has led to students around the country calling for their unions to disaffiliate from the NUS. About time. The NUS is a censorious, anti-democratic husk, propped up by right-on middle-class cliques. Though it claims to fight for students’ rights, it doesn’t have much truck with their right to speak freely, their right to conduct their sexual lives as they see fit, or even their right to party. In 2013, the NUS signed up to minimum pricing: this is a students’ union that thinks beer is too cheap.

It’s time to smash the NUS and start anew. Students need a union that truly looks out for them, that allows them to make common cause on the issues that matter. But, above all, they need a union that treats them as morally autonomous adults, that takes them seriously, that believes students can change the world rather than just be triggered by it.

I cannot emphasise enough that this is no longer a niche phenomenon. This is not a few isolated incidents, or a few overenthusiastic students on a few of the more liberal university campuses. This is not only nationwide, but also transatlantic.  And it is here to stay.

Here is a National Union of Students whose theoretical purpose is to represent the academic and pastoral interests of all students in the country, but which feels the need to lavish resources on a full-time Trans Issues officer at a time when they do not even have a paid officer to represent the different needs of postgraduate students. In other words, here is a union which has left behind any pretence of doing what a union should do, and instead devoted itself wholly to the furtherance of the identity politics agenda.

We would never witness this dereliction of duty in pursuit of secondary objectives in any other trade union, even (or especially) the most militant and prone to industrial action. The RMT union – and one has to hand it to them – seeks to grind out the best financial settlement possible for its members, and uses strikes or even just the threat of strikes to paralyse London, bring an elected Conservative mayor to his knees, and win key concessions for already well-paid tube drivers on the London Underground.

You would never see the RMT being half-hearted in its negotiations with Transport for London because its leadership was too distracted instituting a new Safe Space policy or agitating for mandatory social justice re-education courses for workers. They focus, with undeniable effectiveness, on fulfilling their primary duty to their members – namely, achieving the best possible employer settlements on wages and conditions.

And this is the key point. The National Union of Students not only no longer represents the majority of university students, it now pursues aims and objectives which are irrelevant to many of them and are even sometimes directly antagonistic toward them (particularly in the case of conservatives, small-L liberals or assorted others who simply value free speech). They no longer even claim to act for all students. They act primarily for those students bound up in the social justice movement.

It is now ten years since I graduated, and during my time at Cambridge and Warwick universities the NUS was never anything more than an annoyingly persistent leftist buzzing in my ear. Sure, it was stupid when the Warwick Students’ Union wasted time debating a motion to express their objection to George W. Bush making a state visit to Britain, but they did not actively go out of their way to interfere in my life. This is no longer the case. Now, the Warwick Students’ Union is rated Red in the annual Spiked university free speech rankings, and actively seeks to control what every student in campus is allowed to read, buy, think, hear or say.

In other words, a lot has changed in a decade. In just the last few years in particular, identity politics cultists and assorted Social Justice Warriors have made an unprecedented power play within students union, against university administrators and against any of their peers who do not subscribe to their own worldview. Those who graduated a decade or more ago and do not pay close attention to what is happening in our universities may well see this as alarmism at first glance – “surely things can’t be that ridiculous?” goes the common refrain.

But they are. And it is going to get worse. We are already at a point where holding conservative views on campus attracts outright ridicule and hostility. In a few more years, this opprobrium will spread to those who merely fail to sing from the social justice hymn sheet loudly and sincerely enough. And to date there has been almost zero fightback from the supposed adults in the room, the university faculties and administrators. Liberty-loving students have been left to face the onslaught alone.

Now, nobody can predict exactly what will be the consequence of a growing number of identity politics-infected young people graduating and joining the labour market and becoming involved in party political activism. Some will doubtless be jolted to their senses by their collision with reality, and come to look back in shame on their illiberal student ways. But many others will survive the impact, and when they regroup they will begin to look for ways to recreate their university Safe Space environment here among us. It has already begun.

So calling attention to the identity politics/social justice takeover of universities is not a fringe interest or a massive overreaction. This new focus by writers – including this blog’s own “Tales From The Safe Space” series – provides an unsettling preview of what life will be like in another decade, unless those who object to this therapeutic, victimhood culture begin to get organised and fight back.

But if you are happy for your future workplace to gradually turn into a never-ending NUS conference, then by all means continue burying your head in the sand.

 

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Top Image: Lancaster University Students’ Union

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