Oxford University students AGAIN make a mockery of free speech

‘Our two greatest universities are no longer seats of learning but of indoctrination and woke fanaticism’: As Oxford University students AGAIN make a mockery of free speech, a recent Cambridge graduate despairs

For 200 years, the Oxford Union has played host to prime ministers and presidents, pop stars, prodigies and polymaths. Once, it was a matter of honour that this august debating society invited speakers to challenge the comfortable views of cosseted students.

But times have changed.

A visit to the chamber by academic Kathleen Stock has prompted an outpouring of distress, with the Union forced to offer ‘welfare resources’ to help the little darlings cope.

What monstrous opinions does Stock hold? She has ‘gender-critical views’ — she questions the typically Left-wing orthodoxy that biological sex is not at all important, and what gender an individual feels they are is the only thing that really matters.

Because of these views, shared by millions, Stock was ‘cancelled’ and quit her professorship at Sussex University in 2021. Now she faces a fresh campaign from undergraduates determined to prevent her from speaking.

(File Photo) For 200 years, the Oxford Union has played host to prime ministers and presidents, pop stars, prodigies and polymaths

The row exposes a terrible truth. Former Conservative prime minister Harold Macmillan called the Oxford Union ‘the last bastion of free speech’. But that bastion has crumbled, as Oxford’s shrill students try — and often succeed — in silencing anyone whose opinions differ from their own.

I graduated from Cambridge in 2020. During my three years at the university, I gazed open-mouthed at the increasingly ridiculous parade of hypocrisy and virtue-signalling that now rules university life.

So I am not even slightly surprised by the Stock affair. What shocks me, instead, is that she was invited in the first place: few people holding even remotely controversial views are permitted to air them nowadays in our top universities.

A raft of leading names have been banned from speaking at Cambridge in recent years, from rock star Canadian philosopher Professor Jordan Peterson to historian Andrew Graham-Dixon and even veteran feminist Germaine Greer.

Only last Friday, a rabble of Cambridge students protested the visit of Simon Fanshawe, the co-founder of the gay-rights group Stonewall, who also has gender-critical views, by walking out of his lecture while brandishing the transgender flag. Outside, others did their best to disrupt Fanshawe’s speech by banging drums and shaking the doors to the building.

Increasingly, everything that once made Oxbridge respected the world over is at risk from this woke fanaticism. Of course, to disagree with ‘gender-critical’ views is fine, but banning speech and debate is not the way to go about it.

I’ve seen how these two universities are increasingly no longer seats of learning, but of indoctrination. The brainwashing is systematic: all students are made aware of it from the day they arrive. I had my first warning a week before I matriculated, when a friend who was also beginning university life attended a compulsory ‘consent workshop’ and another on ‘unconscious bias’.

These courses are distasteful and humiliating: dry and condescending chats on sexual protocols and racism.

Some find this merely frustrating. I felt insulted to be treated as a potential sex criminal or racist, even if some aspects were interesting.

Yet I am lucky I didn’t feel inclined to protest. My friend did — and was immediately suspended. For writing an article in a small periodical that dared to assert both that he would never dream of forcing his attentions on a woman and that questioned how the courses had been run, he was barred from college for a week.

It was a wretched start to his university career.

Far from being an arena for free debate, I soon learnt that Cambridge was a town where the wise kept their opinions to themselves.

I loved the social side of university life, the opportunities for sport and the chance to be friends with so many people. But wrongthink was a very real crime. Emboldened by what I saw as a battle to help reclaim free speech, I joined the Cambridge University Conservative Association and by my second year became chairman.

I did not anticipate the furious reaction. Walking around Cambridge, it was often hard not to feel that my card had been marked.

Once, in a nightclub, I was attacked by a woman I didn’t know. Unprovoked, she hurled a drink over me and called me various unprintable things as well as the worst insult she knew: ‘Tory!’

Then she slapped me full in the face, hard enough to send me staggering. My crime, in her eyes, was merely holding centre-Right views.

What infuriated me most was that this woman believed she had the right to attack me. Indeed, she was convinced that her act of violence made her a good person.

Needless to say, the dishonesty of the hard Left is not restricted to Oxbridge. But in the minds of the privileged, pampered, highly educated young, it takes on an ugly new light. Convinced above all of their own rectitude, they believe all tactics are justified.

I have no doubt there are plenty of students at Oxford who disagree with the pitiful attempts to stop Kathleen Stock from speaking. But they are too afraid to speak up.

And it’s not just the trans debate. Other skirmishes in the culture wars, often imported from America, play out at Oxbridge in occasionally ludicrous forms.

For example, the British Left has a loathing for firearms. While a source of great contention across the pond, of course, thankfully the debate barely registers here.

Rifle shooting, which is subject to stringent safeguards, is an Olympic sport. I was a keen target shooter, and offered to promote the club at a Freshers Fair in my second year.

The Cambridge Union’s officers, who oversee the fair, were horrified when we brought a decommissioned rifle as part of our display. This wasn’t a working gun — its firing pin had been removed, and in any case we had no ammunition. The rifle was bolted to the table: it was as dangerous as a broomstick.

But we were forbidden from unpacking it. Why? We were told undergraduates who saw the rifle might suffer from the effects of ‘microaggression’. The club chairman was informed, without irony, that he should have supplied ‘a trigger warning’.

Kathleen Stock, recently resigned from her Professorship at Sussex University after controversy over her views on gender and trans issues

I recall a friend having invited a former MEP, a Brexiteer, to address the Conservative Association. (He has asked me not name him.)

With 24 hours’ notice, the college due to host the MEP told me the event couldn’t go ahead unless I hired a team of security guards to keep attendees safe.

Safe from what? I was told that students had claimed the MEP’s politics were tantamount to inciting ‘violence’. His ideas were physically dangerous, in other words.

The officials knew what they were doing. I had no hope of employing a security team at such short notice, even if the Association had had the funds. The talk had to be cancelled — which was their intention all along.

The medieval cloisters of Oxford and Cambridge are meant to be serious seats of learning. But YouTubers, social media influencers and Love Island contestants have all found themselves welcome to address the two Unions recently, while only last Thursday, a former porn star spoke at the Oxford Union without any student protest or any need for ‘welfare resources’.

The students need to grow up. In trying to silence Kathleen Stock, they have convinced themselves they can never be wrong.

That’s how cults work, and they have Oxbridge in their grip.

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