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ZeBedie
26th Dec 2017, 09:50
This from today's Times -

Universities warned over free speech by Jo Johnson
Student beliefs must be challenged, says minister

Nicola Woolcock, Education Correspondent
December 26 2017, 12:01am,
The Times

Jo Johnson has set out the dangers of shielding students from views that differ from their own through “safe spaces” and “no-platforming”
CHRIS RADBURN/PA

Universities must “open minds, not close them” and face tough new penalties if they do not promote freedom of speech, Jo Johnson will warn today.

Students should expect to encounter controversial opinions and “frank and rigorous discussions”, the universities minister will argue.

His defence of open debate comes amid a row at Oxford University, where dozens of academics have criticised a professor for arguing that Britain’s imperial history was not entirely shameful. Nigel Biggar, regius professor of moral and pastoral theology at the university, has been criticised by colleagues and students after writing an article in The Times calling for a more nuanced appraisal.

In a speech to be delivered in Birmingham at the Limmud Festival, a celebration of Jewish learning and culture, Mr Johnson sets out the dangers of shielding students from views that differ from their own through “safe spaces” and “no-platforming”.

Next year the newly created Office for Students (OfS) will be given the power to fine, suspend or deregister universities that fail to uphold free speech.

“Universities should be places that open minds, not close them, where ideas can be freely challenged,” Mr Johnson says. “In universities in America and worryingly in the UK, we have seen examples of groups seeking to stifle those who do not agree with them.

“We must not allow this to happen. Young people should have the resilience and confidence to challenge controversial opinions and take part in open, frank and rigorous discussions. That is why the new regulator, the Office for Students, will go even further to ensure that universities promote freedom of speech within the law.”

The OfS will become fully operational in April, with Nicola Dandridge as its chief executive. She is the former head of Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors. The Department for Education is proposing that, as a condition of registration to the OfS, universities benefiting from public money must show that their governance is consistent with the principle of free speech.

The OfS will also be able to hold universities to account and will have a range of measures if freedom of speech is not upheld, including formal sanctions such as monetary penalties or deregistration from the regulator.

Mr Johnson says that free speech must not be used as a smokescreen by those who wish to limit the rights of others. Universities must ensure, while protecting free speech, that students are not exposed to hatred or discrimination such as racism or antisemitism. “A racist or antisemitic environment is by definition an illiberal one that is completely in opposition to the liberal tradition of our universities,” he says.

Nearly 60 Oxford academics signed an open letter attacking Professor Biggar’s views but he has retained the backing of the university authorities, who say that he is right to consider the historical context of the British Empire. Professor Biggar accused the academics of “collective online bullying”.

Mr Johnson initially set out his ambitions in The Times in October after several speakers had been told that they were not welcome by groups of students. These included Peter Tatchell, the human rights campaigner, and Germaine Greer, the feminist, over their views on transgender issues.

Mr Tatchell said last year: “Some students seem more intent on political purity than building the broad alliances that are necessary for successful social change.

“The NUS no-platform and safe space policies don’t refute offensive ideas. They simply exclude them. That doesn’t solve anything. The most effective way to defeat bad ideas is by exposing and countering them in open debate.”

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “Universities are absolutely committed to promoting and securing free speech and will not allow legitimate speech to be stifled.

“There is already a legal duty on the higher education sector to secure free speech within the law and universities take these responsibilities very seriously. They have a duty, not only to secure freedom of speech, but also to protect the safety of students and staff.

“This is not always easy to balance, but universities are becoming increasingly experienced in this area and have policies in place.

“It is important that universities do not become discussion-free zones. They must continue to be places where difficult topics are discussed and where people, however controversial their views, should be allowed to speak within the law, and their views challenged openly.”

ZeBedie
26th Dec 2017, 09:53
It's certainly something which resonates with me - my two seem to have been taught what to think, rather than how to think and I feel they've been badly let down by the university system.

Blues&twos
26th Dec 2017, 10:14
My university taught me Applied Animal Biology.

That was about it.

Trossie
26th Dec 2017, 10:23
Good thing that PPRuNe isn't a university! Look at how many get banned on Jet Blast! Think what the fines could be for blocking free speech!!

However, on the topic, having been in a society where free speech was banned I am fully in favour of free speech especially among those 'making their minds up' at educational institutions.

The big difference between training and education is the difference of being taught what/how to 'do' and being taught to think. I heard a university lecturer say, during a discussion that was getting into 'nit-picky-ness': "In the long run, none of this is important. If you end up forgetting everything that we are discussing here now, that is unimportant. What is important to me is that you end up being able to think".

wiggy
26th Dec 2017, 10:29
I am fully in favour of free speech especially among those 'making their minds up' at educational institutions.

As one of the few moderates at a very (politically) interesting Uni 40 years ago I agree totally with the above...it was certainly interesting hearing and seeing proper hard core Marxists and Trots at "play", rather than the "lite" versions some get worked up about these days..

ORAC
26th Dec 2017, 10:47
"On Liberty" (https://www.gutenberg.org/files/34901/34901-h/34901-h.htm) by J. S. Mill is a standard undergraduate philosophy first year text.

It is a pity more university professors seem to have neither read or understand it.



...."We have now recognised the necessity to the mental well-being of mankind (on which all their other well-being depends) of freedom of opinion, and freedom of the expression of opinion, on four distinct grounds; which we will now briefly recapitulate.

First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.

Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions, that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.

Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.

Before quitting the subject of freedom of opinion, it is fit to take some notice of those who say, that the free expression of all opinions should be permitted, on condition that the manner be temperate, and do not pass the bounds of fair discussion.

Much might be said on the impossibility of fixing where these supposed bounds are to be placed; for if the test be offence to those whose opinion is attacked, I think experience testifies that this offence is given whenever the attack is telling and powerful, and that every opponent who pushes them hard, and whom they find it difficult to answer, appears to them, if he shows any strong feeling on the subject, an intemperate opponent. But this, though an important consideration in a practical point of view, merges in a more fundamental objection. Undoubtedly the manner of asserting an opinion, even though it be a true one, may be very objectionable, and may justly incur severe censure. But the principal offences of the kind are such as it is mostly impossible, unless by accidental self-betrayal, to bring home to conviction. The gravest of them is, to argue sophistically, to suppress facts or arguments, to misstate the elements of the case, or misrepresent the opposite opinion. But all this, even to the most aggravated degree, is so continually done in perfect good faith, by persons who are not considered, and in many other respects may not deserve to be considered, ignorant or incompetent, that it is rarely possible on adequate grounds conscientiously to stamp the misrepresentation as morally culpable; and still less could law presume to interfere with this kind of controversial misconduct.

With regard to what is commonly meant by intemperate discussion, namely invective, sarcasm, personality, and the like, the denunciation of these weapons would deserve more sympathy if it were ever proposed to interdict them equally to both sides; but it is only desired to restrain the employment of them against the prevailing opinion: against the unprevailing they may not only be used without general disapproval, but will be likely to obtain for him who uses them the praise of honest zeal and righteous indignation. Yet whatever mischief arises from their use, is greatest when they are employed against the comparatively defenceless; and whatever unfair advantage can be derived by any opinion from this mode of asserting it, accrues almost exclusively to received opinions. The worst offence of this kind which can be committed by a polemic, is to stigmatise those who hold the contrary opinion as bad and immoral men. To calumny of this sort, those who hold any unpopular opinion are peculiarly exposed, because they are in general few and uninfluential, and nobody but themselves feel much interest in seeing justice done them; but this weapon is, from the nature of the case, denied to those who attack a prevailing opinion: they can neither use it with safety to themselves, nor, if they could, would it do anything but recoil on their own cause.

In general, opinions contrary to those commonly received can only obtain a hearing by studied moderation of language, and the most cautious avoidance of unnecessary offence, from which they hardly ever deviate even in a slight degree without losing ground: while unmeasured vituperation employed on the side of the prevailing opinion, really does deter people from professing contrary opinions, and from listening to those who profess them. For the interest, therefore, of truth and justice, it is far more important to restrain this employment of vituperative language than the other; and, for example, if it were necessary to choose, there would be much more need to discourage offensive attacks on infidelity, than on religion.

It is, however, obvious that law and authority have no business with restraining either, while opinion ought, in every instance, to determine its verdict by the circumstances of the individual case; condemning every one, on whichever side of the argument he places himself, in whose mode of advocacy either want of candour, or malignity, bigotry, or intolerance of feeling manifest themselves; but not inferring these vices from the side which a person takes, though it be the contrary side of the question to our own: and giving merited honour to every one, whatever opinion he may hold, who has calmness to see and honesty to state what his opponents and their opinions really are, exaggerating nothing to their discredit, keeping nothing back which tells, or can be supposed to tell, in their favour.

This is the real morality of public discussion; and if often violated, I am happy to think that there are many controversialists who to a great extent observe it, and a still greater number who conscientiously strive towards it."........

Grayfly
26th Dec 2017, 10:58
WTF happened to hard work at University. I graduated in 1972 after a four-year engineering degree course. I attended lectures and workshops 5 days a week, 9 to 5 and only had time to go partying on a Saturday. I was aware of layabouts in the union bar that did **** all and apparently, they were arts students. Granted, they worked hard at doing **** all.

I don't even remember people giving talks about our colonial past, feminism, or any other wishy-washy subject. Anti-war was the big thing then and somehow that seemed to matter. Still should.

Students appear to have far too much time on their hands. If your course gives you time to **** around with safe spaces, it needs to be shortened.

troppo
26th Dec 2017, 11:05
NZ 2003 prostitution had just been legalised. I wrote a Masters' paper on running hookers and pimping. Impressive number of income streams from one asset.
Academic freedom.
:} :E

Gertrude the Wombat
26th Dec 2017, 11:29
I don't even remember people giving talks about our colonial past, feminism, or any other wishy-washy subject.
There was plenty of that going on, in Cambridge in the 1970s, in various clubs and societies. You went to the ones you were interested in, and "censored" and "no-platformed" the ones you weren't interested in by the simple process of not going to the meetings. It's difficult to see why anyone thought that needed to change - has it changed? To what?

Tankertrashnav
26th Dec 2017, 11:30
Students appear to have far too much time on their hands. If your course gives you time to **** around with safe spaces, it needs to be shortened.

I did a languages degree (French and Russian) in my 40s. I calculated that the course could easily have been shortened to two years instead of three (not counting the year abroad in the middle). I reckoned that I did more work in my 12 month nav course in the RAF than in three years at university, but when I put this view forward I was shouted down by my fellow students who seemed to think that attending a few lectures and writing an occasional essay was hard work. I was constantly told that doing a degree required time for "reflection", which in reality seemed to consist of loafing around the student union drinking coffee in the daytime and beer at night.

Don't get me wrong, I liked my time at university - it was a lovely break from the realities of life!

Rosevidney1
26th Dec 2017, 11:34
On this mornings TV I heard for the first time the word 'Specie-ist'. It was uttered by an American sounding female denouncing foxhunting. Very fluffy-bunny sort who managed to decry those who 'kill wild things for pleasure' and she mentioned 'shooting' (now there's a surprise!) Kate Burley gave her an easy interview challenging nothing. Later there was a typical hunt saboteur type raging against hunting and ELITISM. He was interviewed by some other 'star reporter' and again got off lightly. Wouldn't it be nice to see a properly balanced debate for a change? Fat chance of that though.

Bankstown Boy
26th Dec 2017, 11:49
You went to the ones you were interested in, and "censored" and "no-platformed" the ones you weren't interested in by the simple process of not going to the meetings.

False analogy GTW. If I don’t attend something then I am simply avoiding it, but my absence (or presence) has no effect on anyone else.

However if I “no-platform” something, that then prohibits everyone else from attending and does affect everybody.

If you cannot see the difference between the two, then there is no hope for you, but I suspect you were merely being disingenuous.

Gertrude the Wombat
26th Dec 2017, 11:54
Wouldn't it be nice to see a properly balanced debate for a change?
It's possible that they tried, but didn't find anyone willing to stand up in public and explain how they liked killing things for fun?

Gertrude the Wombat
26th Dec 2017, 11:56
However if I “no-platform” something, that then prohibits everyone else from attending and does affect everybody.
How do you achieve that then, in practical terms? - if you're a private club you can choose not to invite certain people to come and speak to you, but how do you stop other clubs inviting other people?

I've certainly heard some people whining about being "no platformed" when what they mean is they weren't invited to something they would have liked to go to, but to me that's just whining.

Tankertrashnav
26th Dec 2017, 12:03
Wouldn't happen here in JB, which is a pretty right wing institution, but we have our resident lefties on here to keep us honest

No names of course ;)

Grayfly
26th Dec 2017, 12:27
There was plenty of that going on, in Cambridge in the 1970s, in various clubs and societies.

Not in my first-year golf club there wasn't. I soon saw sense and boycotted the golf club for the following three years. The main reason being there were no women in the golf club.

sitigeltfel
26th Dec 2017, 12:28
It's possible that they tried, but didn't find anyone willing to stand up in public and explain how they liked killing things for fun?


Corbyn, McDonnell and others in the UK Labour party are quite happy to share platforms and support terrorist groups that enjoy killing people for political purposes.

Gertrude the Wombat
26th Dec 2017, 12:35
Corbyn, McDonnell and others in the UK Labour party are quite happy to share platforms and support terrorist groups that enjoy killing people for political purposes.
Yes I know. But surely one can choose not to belong to whichever university club holds such events, and/or one can choose not to attend such events, or if one is in a position of influence in a club one could choose not to invite such people in the first place?

(I use "club" loosely, to include such things as students' unions, in places that have them, and academic as well as leisure groups.)

KelvinD
26th Dec 2017, 15:31
It seems to me the root of a lot of this sort of "aggravation" with students is that nobody has had the balls to explain to students a few facts of life.
1. They know sod all. They may have passed a few more A levels than their mates but they still know bugger all.
2. If, as they seem to be, sure that you have the only valid and "correct" view on things beyond your front gate, you have problems.
I hate the idea of a teenager talking down to me and my ilk on how we know nothing. They think we have lived our 3 score years etc with our eyes and ears completely closed and have nothing to add to the sum total of human knowledge or experience.

Blues&twos
26th Dec 2017, 15:43
What you're talking about there KelvinD is teenagers generally!
As with any news articles, it's usually a minority group at the more extreme ends of any 'issue' which gets reported. Most of the people I went to university with were and have remained good, hardworking, sensible individuals trying to do their best.
At that age most of us would have been a bit naive, only gradually learning that 'oldies' could teach us a thing or two.
The students I know and some I also work with are a good bunch, willing to learn and put the effort in.
There will always be some idiots in any demographic.

Loose rivets
26th Dec 2017, 16:00
An enchanting youngster I met on a few of my late night walks was writing a dissertation which, ~ Stalin wasn't so bad.

I suggested, somewhat earnestly, that she write it as though it was a hypothetical proposal . . . by someone else.


It'll take a while to lock on, but one of the most powerful thinkers in modern times started really early.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNhlNSLQAFE

Argonautical
26th Dec 2017, 17:21
All the banning cases which have reached the media and the so called student safe areas have all been done by student unions. They are the intolerant bodies in these cases and unless the Universities have some hold and authority over their respective student unions then all this government rhetoric is pointless. I don't know of one case where a University has banned anyone.

RAT 5
26th Dec 2017, 20:14
All the banning cases which have reached the media and the so called student safe areas have all been done by student unions

It would seem the local student union has more power than a fully paid up TUC industrial trade union. Absurd. Some one should tell the 20 year olds, who think they know more and have more experience than 40 year olds, that the maths is against them. But then again, the wishy washy socialites doing media studies couldn't add 6 & 7 without taking off their shoes.

Ogre
26th Dec 2017, 22:39
These included Peter Tatchell, the human rights campaigner, and Germaine Greer, the feminist, over their views on transgender issues.

I never thought I would see the day when those two were singled out for having views that went against the minority......

Is it just me or has "popular" society (i.e. the one you read a lot about in the media) turned into a free for all with everyone wanting everything for themselves? I blame the parents :ugh:

Gertrude the Wombat
26th Dec 2017, 23:11
All the banning cases which have reached the media and the so called student safe areas have all been done by student unions

It would seem the local student union has more power than a fully paid up TUC industrial trade union.
A fully paid up TUC industrial trade union that owns its own building (as do some student unions) would, I expect, similarly be able to decide what did or didn't go on inside the private property of its private club.

But your average university has a large estate some orders of magnitude greater than the student union building, so there is still a vast range of venues to choose from if some member of the university wishes to invite a speaker who is not welcome at the student union.

BehindBlueEyes
27th Dec 2017, 10:17
If you want to know who controls you, look at who you are not allowed to criticise.

Voltaire.

Argonautical
27th Dec 2017, 11:07
I blame the parents

I blame social media which allows the opinions every non-entity to reach an audience of millions. Still don't really understand why the Minister targeted the Universities and not the Student Unions. Makes me suspect his grasp of the situation is rather shallow.

Curious Pax
27th Dec 2017, 11:14
I blame social media which allows the opinions every non-entity to reach an audience of millions. Still don't really understand why the Minister targeted the Universities and not the Student Unions. Makes me suspect his grasp of the situation is rather shallow.

A Johnson shallow? Surely not!

bafanguy
27th Dec 2017, 11:47
This is an example of the mindset "teaching" your precious little cuddle muffins in universities. People like this have to burrow into a tenured bizzaro world professorship to exist since they wouldn't last a week in the real world:

https://en-volve.com/2017/12/04/feminist-professor-says-men-eating-meat-oppresses-women-and-encourages-racism/

Ancient Observer
27th Dec 2017, 12:47
Grayfly.

That would include me.
Sociology, 1973. A max of 9 hours lectures in one year. Much less than that in the other 2 years.

No "safe spaces" from the ladies who were desperate to get me in to bed.

Blacksheep
27th Dec 2017, 13:54
Silencing free speech never has and never will remove dissent. For example, Trump's USA is a manifestation of the fact that blue-collar America has held on to its beliefs on race, class and immigration despite all the political correctness that has sought to eliminate such thinking. Putting those values on the rostrum and tearing them apart by meaningful debate is a better way to deal with prejudice - for isn't trying to stifle discussion in itself a form of prejudice?

Grayfly
27th Dec 2017, 13:59
Ancient Observer

Sadly, studying engineering was definitely a 'safe place' to avoid attention from the ladies. I was always jealous of those layabouts in the union bar who attracted all the attention. :*

Ogre
27th Dec 2017, 22:51
Putting those values on the rostrum and tearing them apart by meaningful debate is a better way to deal with prejudice - for isn't trying to stifle discussion in itself a form of prejudice?

I'm honestly trying to decide whether the values you refer to are the "racism, class and immigration" or the "political correctness", both of which I feel are forces in this world that need to be exorcised.

I agree with you that debate is a better way to remove the old prejudices and change minds, but PC is a form of mind control which in itself must be fought at every turn.

Blacksheep
28th Dec 2017, 13:31
...in short, both.

"racism, class and immigration" and "political correctness" are all "values" worthy of intelligent criticism.

SARF
28th Dec 2017, 16:26
They should also discuss wether students should be allowed to vote..
I propose a full 2 years of paying NI before being allowed on the register ..
That debate should squeeze a few safe spaces

Haraka
28th Dec 2017, 18:12
I was at London University (69-72) when a "student strike" was called.

No, irony was not understood, even then.

Ogre
28th Dec 2017, 22:35
Blacksheep, I agree. Some of the best working environments I have been part of existed around a very un-PC method of discussion between parties, which to the outsider would have been downright rascist, heightist, sizest, sexist and anything else you can think of. But the underlying theme was that it was based on a very high level of mutual respect when meant no offence was taken.

SARF, I would suggest that perhaps University entrance ages should be raised to, lets say 25. That would give the students a few years between leaving school and starting their chosen path of education to gain some life experience. That way, when they get their education they can perhaps understand how the learning could be applied to the real world. Oh and University lecturers should only be employed when they've done 10 years in the workforce for the same reason

SARF
28th Dec 2017, 23:29
Ogre.. valid points.. but once youth leave the educational womb for the harsh world of work they won’t go back.. the money is too good working...
I think the uni courses for all the loafing stuff should be cut down to two years max..
The top brass who are batting on for maths, engineering, physics, history, etc. Should crack on with the three year course.. the rest should do a year or two untill pater tells em to get a job