We’ve all heard the stories about the ‘Stepford Students’ at universities across the UK. We need an on-campus response to push back against these snowflakes, says Rory Broomfield.
It has been two and a half years since Brendan O’Neill and Tim Stanley were prevented from speaking at Christ Church, Oxford, on the issue of abortion. This led to Brendan to coin the phrase Stepford Students – people that look like students, dress like students, smell like students but whose “brains have been replaced by brains bereft of critical faculties and programmed to conform”.
This phrase, along with many others, helps to describe the increased level of “delicateness” that has now become pervasive within the UK university system.
The lack of independence of thought on campus needs to be addressed. As seen through recent research published by the Adam Smith Institute, less than 12% of academics support right-wing or conservative parties – way out of step with the rest of the country – and suggests that group-think is the norm across UK research institutes.
This may have helped the increase in another pernicious trend has now developed across universities. Now, seemingly not a week goes by without another instance of no-platforming, safe-spacing or the introduction of a new student code of conduct that stifles debate at one of the many universities across the UK.
The increase in this activity has been valiantly chronicled and analysed by Spiked Free Speech University Rankings – and the results are disturbing. Despite this excellent work, it is continuing.
Just this week, for example, the University of Lincoln’s Students Union withdrew social media privileges from the Conservative Society on campus for questioning the SU’s competence.
However, as it stands there is no real infrastructure to challenge anti free speech moves from Students Unions and the National Union of Students (NUS). This has allowed this safe-spacing, no-platforming trend to continue unchecked. This must end.
The Freedom Association has a few Freedom Societies across the UK at universities such as in Exeter and Bristol, however, we need to resource not just these but many more in order to help promote freedom at UK universities.
With only seven of 115 universities rated as “green” in Spiked’s survey – and 73 out of that 115 marked “red” – then there is a lot of work to do.
We need to help students who want to be challenged and want experience intellectual rigour to be heard. If we don’t, imagine what sorts of people will be entering the workforce in the next few years.
If you are interested in funding our mission of bringing back free expression and critical academic debate back to university campuses, please donate through our website at www.tfa.net, come to the Freedom Festival in Bournemouth in a couple of weeks time – where you will meet some of our student representatives – and / or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
The fightback for freedom on campus should start now. Please join us in our fight.