I’ve recently written an article for the Telegraph, detailing my experience of discovering a poster at Sussex Uni, which advertised an “informal discussion” organised by the Sussex Centre for Conflict and Security Research. The discussion would be centred around, “dealing with right-wing attitudes and politics in the classroom”.
In my piece, I outline the “stunning willingness of those behind the poster to reveal – in a public space – a clear bias against anyone with right-wing opinions”.
I also talk about the fact that it might be – and in my opinion is – a worrying pointer to the lack of intellectual diversity within academia. One lecturer of mine told me that he was disappointed that I hadn’t nuanced my view of academics, and had painted them all with the same brush.
He’s right, not all of my lecturers are closed-minded, and all whom I spoke to (within the Politics department) were unhappy at the poster. However, they *are* all – bar one – on ‘the left’. It’s at least interesting to ask why.
Similarly, I think its interesting that, although people generally agree that the use of language in the poster (using ‘right wing’ to mean ‘bigoted’ views such as racism, sexism, and homophobia) was lazy and wrong, many still seem to think that it’s still okay to restrict speech in the university classroom.
They all agree, as do I, that ‘racism, sexism and homophobia’ are bad, but they think that the way to challenge it is by imposing restrictions on speech.
That leaves those rules open to abuse, and to the above pejorative labels being applied very liberally, as they have been to Trump and Brexit supporters.
Instead, people should be free to say what they like, and to leave their opinions open to intellectual challenge and debate. I’ll finish, though I hardly feel worthy, by quoting Orwell:
‘These people [who want to stop people from saying certain things] don’t see that if you encourage totalitarian methods, the time may come when they will be used against you instead of for you. To exchange one orthodoxy for another is not necessarily an advance. The enemy is the gramophone mind, whether or not one agrees with the record that is being played at the moment.’