According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s ‘Freedom of Expression’ guide for higher education providers and students’ unions in England and Wales, no speaker has a right to be invited to speak to students on a provider’s premises, but once someone has been invited they should not then be disinvited. It even suggests this may be a breach of Section 43 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986, which places a legal duty on universities to take ‘reasonably practicable’ steps to protect freedom of speech.
Please, God, let Jordan Peterson sue the University of Cambridge for having invited him to take up a visiting fellowship, only to rescind the invitation after a bunch of snowflake undergraduates said they would scweam and scweam until they made themselves sick. OK, they didn’t actually say that, but they might as well have done, the pathetic, passive-aggressive cry-bullies.
In a report in Varsity, the Cambridge student newspaper, which is so craven in its forelock-tugging obeisance to the protesting students it makes Pravda look like the work of John Milton, we learn that Peterson isn’t welcome at Cambridge because it’s – wait for it – an ‘inclusive environment’. (In case you’re not au fait with the current jargon, that means an environment in which everyone looks different but thinks exactly the same.) There then follows a laundry list of Peterson’s unforgivable sins: he believes ‘white privilege’ is a ‘Marxist lie’, that ‘the patriarchy’ is ‘predicated on competence’, that ‘the West has lost faith in masculinity’, that ‘global warming posturing is a masquerade for anti-capitalists to have a go at the Western patriarchy’ and that ‘men are victims of gender oppression’.
In other words, he’s not welcome at Europe’s number one university because he has the temerity to challenge the status quo.
As we know, today’s students cannot cope with being challenged – hence the need for ‘trigger warnings’, ‘safe spaces’ and ‘bias reporting hotlines’. In case you’re in any doubt that this is, in fact, the reason the undergraduates threw up their arms in horror and reached for the smelling salts as soon as Dr Peterson’s name was mentioned, a spokesman from Cambridge University’s Student Union spelt it out in Pravda – I mean, Varsity: ‘His work and views are not representative of the student body and as such we do not see his visit as a valuable contribution to the University, but one that works in opposition to the principles of the University.’
Silly me. There I was thinking the purpose of a university education is to introduce students to ‘work and views’ they might not be familiar with and don’t already hold. In fact, it is to expose them to just those ideas that they are firmly wedded to. An echo chamber, where privately-educated, sanctimonious Titania McGraths are constantly told by their professors that they’re absolutely right about everything.
If this principle had been applied by previous generations, I wonder what fate would have befallen some of Cambridge’s distinguished alumni whose ‘work and views’ were out of step with the prevailing orthodoxy? Presumably, Charles Darwin would have been out on his ear for daring to question the Book of Genesis and John Maynard Keynes would have been no-platformed at the students’ union for casting doubt on neo-classical economics. As for James Watson and Francis Crick, they would have been branded ‘eugenicists’ and hounded off campus.
Honestly, this is a truly shameful episode in the university’s history – up there with the Cambridge spy ring. To think that it had the opportunity to host a series of lectures by the world’s leading public intellectual, a brilliant iconoclast who sells out 5,000-seater venues from New York to Sydney. Undergraduates would have had the opportunity to study with him, to engage in dialogue and discussion. But no. He might have presented them with some thoughtful counter-arguments to their postmodern, Neo-Marxist gobbledygook and we can’t possibly have that. Not at a university, of all places.
I spent two years at Cambridge doing a PhD in Philosophy in the late 1980s, which I subsequently abandoned. Not the university’s fault – it wasn’t the left-wing madrassa it is now. There was genuine viewpoint diversity. I was even thinking of giving my old college some money this year. Not any more. Not until the university’s vice-chancellor – a spineless non-entity called Stephen Toope – flies to Toronto, falls to his knees in front of Dr Peterson and begs for his forgiveness.
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.