First a confession: I have a dog in this fight. I am a white, cisgendered (SJW speak for normal) male heterosexual who has spent far too much of his time in and around universities and other institutions of higher learning. I also have a beard. This would normally imply nothing more than many misspent years and lack of fashion sense. Sadly, people like me have aroused considerable disquiet in one of our institutions of higher learning.
King’s College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world. One would expect staff and students to be at the cutting edge of intellectual endeavour, revelling in the cut and thrust of debate, able to stand up for themselves among the rigours of robust intellectual disagreement. Unfortunately, so tender are their sensibilities the very glimpse of an image of someone like me is threatening to students and staff at King’s.
It is reported that the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s will be replacing busts and portraits of its founding fathers with figures of “ethnic minorities” after the busts of “1920s bearded white men” were deemed too “intimidating” and “alienating”.
Busts of Dr Henry Maudsley, who donated the funds that went towards founding the Institute, and Sir Frederick Mott, who created the institute’s first course plans, are only the first to be replaced. Professor Patrick Leman, the Institute’s Dean of Education, said portraits of “almost entirely white middle-aged men” hanging in the Institute’s entrance are also being targeted and will be replaced with a “wall of diversity”. The threatening images of bearded white men will be placed in “less prominent” locations in the school.
With widespread awareness of phobias amongst students this could be a case of pogonophobia or fear of beards. Unfortunately, it is much more likely to be a case of progressive anti-colonialist racism which attempts to wipe white men from history. Yesterday Nazi students burned books, today progressive students remove statues.
Not only will all current portraits of former deans be “taken down” and rehung, but teaching materials, such as diagrams of the human anatomy, will be changed to feature a “range of ethnic groups”. “We’re trying to reflect the diversity in terms of students we have, but also trying to be more inter-cultural, more international in terms of how we develop the science”, Professor Leman explained.
If this were an isolated incident we might shrug it off as being just another instance of student politicians flexing their politically correct muscles. King’s, however, has form in this regard. A portrait of Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, was removed because students objected to his opposition to same sex marriage.
We have witnessed the same intolerance of divergent views growing throughout our universities. At Oxford there were “demands” that a statue of Cecil Rhodes, benefactor of Oriel College, be removed because of his imperialism. This protest was led by a student studying at Oxford on the strength of a Rhodes scholarship.
At Oxford, a debate on abortion was cancelled because it was between two men. Dundee banned the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children from their freshers’ fair. The Sun is banned on many campuses because of Page 3.
Even progressive icons Germaine Greer and Peter Tatchell have been vilified and ”disinvited” by student groups because they did not toe the progressive line. Greer scoffed at the idea that a man who chops off his penis and wears a dress should be considered a woman. Tatchell committed the ultimate sin of arguing for free speech and supporting her right to say what she did. Cue meltdown by student organisations.
It is too easy to characterise this as over-sensitive students making demands and weak-kneed administrators crumbling. Disturbingly, there is a pattern of cultural imperialism emerging in our universities, not only from students but also from the faculties who are radicalising them. These a-historical, intolerant feminist and anti-colonial attitudes had to come from somewhere.
Dr Kelly Coates, a feminist lecturer at King’s, specialises in women’s issues and holds a leading position in the university. Yet she can write a scholarly article complaining of the “impossibility of women’s studies courses in the context of the UK higher education system”. For the committed progressive, enough is never enough; total restructuring of the culture is the end goal.
Once foundational liberal values, free speech and the propagation of divergent views are seen as dangerous by many students today. University staff who should be trying to expand student minds and encouraging them to take intellectual risks, instead give them full support in their demands for safe spaces where they might be sheltered from hearing an alternative viewpoint.
Joanna Williams of Kent University has argued that: “There are two ways of looking at the challenges to free speech on college campuses – quantitative and qualitative – and it’s getting worse on both counts.” She asserts that: “Censorship powers are being used more often and against a wider variety of targets.”
As Julie Bindel, herself a feminist, said: “This is the work of privileged, moneyed, over-educated, pampered, middle-class liberal idiots.” Sadly many of those idiots are lecturers and professors in our leading institutions.
This has an effect on students. Dennis Hayes, Professor of Education at the University of Derby and founder of Academics for Academic Freedom, says: “When students used to first come to university for freshers’ week, the first thing they saw were people arguing and debating. Now freshers’ fairs have been stripped of politics. They’re mostly about volunteering. When first-years come in, they’re still quite feisty. But by the time they get to third year they’ve absorbed the culture.”
Instead of enquiring minds our universities are producing encultured clones. They will go out into teaching, business, the media and politics, and the culture will spread. As Andrew Breitbart constantly reminded us, “Politics is downstream of culture”.
(Image: Gerry Lauzon)