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How universities were corrupted Vindictive protectiveness has re-shaped our institutions

How safe is this space? Credit: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty

How safe is this space? Credit: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty


June 24, 2022   6 mins

When are we going to do something about the state of our universities? We must surely by now be familiar with the symbols of this unfolding crisis. Philosopher Kathleen Stock, who was harassed by students and staff to such an extent that she was forced to leave her position at the University of Sussex. Noah Carl, the promising research fellow, who was chased out of Cambridge. Tony Sewell, the government advisor who oversaw the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities before suddenly finding his offer of an honorary doctorate at the University of Nottingham withdrawn. Tim Luckhurst, the Principal at Durham who invited Rod Liddle to speak at a dinner and was then suspended after students demanded he be disciplined.

These are only four of the 137 academics or speakers who have, since the mid 2010s  been banned from Britain’s campuses, faced student-led campaigns to silence them, or have simply been sacked. But new research suggests that things are far worse than we thought — and getting worse.

The study by the Higher Education Policy Institute confirms we are facing a deep cultural problem that is becoming more pronounced with each generation. Crucially, unlike studies in the past, the Institute tracked the attitudes of a representative sample of university students over the past six years, between 2016, the tumultuous year of the Brexit referendum, and today. The findings are devastating.

They point to a new generation of university students who are increasingly supportive of removing from campus words, books, ideas, speakers, and events they find uncomfortable or offensive. This generation have been raised to prioritise their “emotional safety” above all else, and are more willing to impose restrictions on others, to curtail views they disagree with.

In their highly influential work in America, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt warn that universities and colleges are increasingly characterised by what they call “vindictive protectiveness” — a push to transform these institutions into “safe spaces” where students are shielded from words and ideas that make them uncomfortable, and where anyone who questions or challenges this orthodoxy is either ostracised or punished.

This is, clearly, now happening in Britain. Student support for refusing to sell tabloid newspapers on campus, on the grounds of sexism, has rocketed 24 points, to 62%. Support for banning speakers who offend students has more than doubled, to 39%. Support for firing academics if they “teach material that heavily offends some students” has also more than doubled, to 36% — that’s over a third of undergraduates who would support the removal of lecturers and professors they perceived to be offensive.

Evidence of this “purity spiral”, whereby members of a dominant ideological group become increasingly intolerant of those who hold other beliefs, is reflected in other findings. Support for removing memorials of potentially controversial historical figures has rocketed 25-points, to 76%. Support for establishing “safe space policies” has jumped 14-points, to 62%. Support for banning books that might cause offence — whether in terms of race, sex, religion, or politics — is up across the board. And support for stopping or disrupting events that students are not happy with has also more than doubled. “Some areas have seen less change than others”, write the authors, “but, overall, the pattern is very clear as the changes that have occurred are overwhelmingly in one direction – towards more support for restricting freedom of expression on campus. Moreover, the scale of the changes are often stark.”

I suspect three factors are colliding to weaken our universities, creating a generation of students poorly prepared for the more polarised world off campus, and pushing our world-leading institutions away from their founding mission to search for truth through free enquiry.

The first is generational. Students who are currently finishing their first year at university were born in 2003-2004. They are Generation-Z, the Zoomers, who have simply had fundamentally different coming-of-age experiences than their Millennial or Generation-X parents.

Millennials and Gen-Xers came-of-age in the Eighties and the Nineties, sandwiched between Thatcher and Blair. Politics was turbulent but also more stable. People were generally committed to the two main parties. The agenda was more economic than cultural. And there was still a diverse range of voices in politics, media, creative, and cultural institutions, which helped to ensure that people were exposed to alternative views. The growing education-based polarisation between graduates and non-graduates had not yet intensified. And the far more liberal graduate class had not yet taken over the institutions.

Zoomers, in sharp contrast, have grown up in a completely different world. They were 13 when the Trump and Brexit revolts erupted and they spent their adolescence living amid what political scientists call “affective polarisation” — a far more divisive, volatile, and emotion-led politics in which Remainers and Leavers, liberals and conservatives, have simultaneously became more positive about their own tribe and more openly hostile toward the opposing side.

Aside from being the first generation to witness a strong populist Right (UKIP) and a strong populist Left (Corbyn), they have been raised by parents who have more openly taken sides in this more polarised environment — symbolised by the 36% of Remain-voting parents who would “feel upset” if their child married a Brexiteer, and the 21% of Brexit-voting parents who would feel similarly if their child were to marry a Remainer.

Given this polarisation is underpinned by the growing educational divide between more culturally liberal graduates and more conservative non-graduates, it is perhaps unsurprising to find that the university students who are self-selecting into universities have also become more focused on prioritising the needs of their own tribe and more willing to ostracise others.

Secondly, regarding ideology, Zoomers are also the first generation to have been born, raised and immersed in what sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning call “Victimhood Culture” — the rise of a new moral code in Western societies characterised by an overwhelming concern with deriving social status through claims to victimhood, extreme sensitivity to offence, and a strong dependency on turning to third parties to resolve disputes.

Unlike moral cultures in the past, which stressed dignity and honour, and put an emphasis on toleration and negotiation as a route out of conflict, victimhood culture encourages students to stress their oppression, marginalisation, and victimhood as a means of acquiring status from their peers; while simultaneously turning to third parties (i.e., university administrators) to punish those who are seen to be “oppressing” or merely challenging their safety and beliefs.

This is reflected in the finding this week that 64% of students now think that universities should “consult special interest groups (i.e. religious or gender societies) about on-campus events”, up from only 40% in 2016. And in the finding that 61% of students now think that main job of the university is to ensure that all students are protected from discrimination rather than allow unlimited free speech, up from only 37% in 2016.

The rise of this victimhood culture is also, almost certainly, being encouraged by the broader ideological evolution of Britain’s universities. As my research, and that of others, has shown over the past four years, these are morphing into “ideological monocultures” where the ratio of Left-wing to Right-wing academics has increased from three to one in the Sixties to around eight to one today. Much like institutions in America, it is increasingly hard to find visible conservatives or other nonconformists on campus. Some students will now go through their entire degree never really knowing one at all.

One basic problem with monocultures is they embolden the most radical activists to lash out against others, safe in the knowledge that the moderates won’t challenge them. In turn, significant numbers of academics openly admit to being biased against conservatives, including one in three who would not hire a known Brexit supporter. Most conservative and gender critical scholars say they are self-censoring on campus, as do one-quarter of all university students, while those on the right or who do not subscribe to the new orthodoxy on campus are especially likely to do so, underlining the impact of this new moral culture.

Nor is this lost on students themselves. While prominent academics sit on Twitter arguing that the crisis unfolding in our universities represents a moral panic being whipped up by Right-wing campaigners, the students who are actually sitting in their seminars and lectures are increasingly taking the opposite view — the latest report finds that 38% of students think “universities are becoming less tolerant of a wide range of viewpoints”, up from 24% in 2016.

Third, while this is being reinforced by social media (Zoomers are the first generation to have spent their entire lives online), within the context of the university it is more accurately being driven by organisational changes. Increasingly, over the last two decades, these generational and ideological factors have collided with a new ethos in universities which prioritises “student satisfaction” as the main, if not only, metric that really counts.

Conservatives are as much to blame as the Left. By focusing relentlessly on the marketisation of universities, by talking about students as consumers, we have created a climate in which the demands of students, not academics, increasingly shape our intellectual culture. Almost all the changes that are being imposed on higher education for largely political reasons — the decolonisation of reading lists, the imposition of ideological litmus tests such as “diversity statements” when applying for jobs or grants, decisions regarding who speaks and works on campus and who does not, and the transformation of universities more generally into hyper-political organisations — are now often made in the name of “student satisfaction”. This is further encouraged by the rampant spread of university bureaucracy, in which cowardly administrators — none of whom really understand the point of academe — routinely bend over backwards to ensure that student-led demands to have events removed, academics investigated, and new restrictive policies implemented are fully met and satisfied.

It is perhaps no coincidence that amid these changes, only 25% of British people now think universities are offering “value for money”, and more people would rather their child studied for an apprenticeship than went to university. What a tawdry end for our once world-leading institutions.

 


Matthew Goodwin is Professor of Politics at the University of Kent. His new book, Values, Voice and Virtue: The New British Politics, is out on March 30.

GoodwinMJ

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Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
1 year ago

The elephant in the room is that universities are now dominated by women, and women don’t believe in the open outcry of the male Culture of Insult and the confrontation of ideas in the public square.
“Emotional safety” is a girl thing.
“Safe spaces” is a girl thing.
“Purity” is a girl thing.
Over a century ago, German sociologist Georg Simmel said that women coming into the public square would change it to suit “a more feminine sensibility.”
But I have come to think that women don’t do the public square, because, in the culture of women, women don’t confront each other. Instead two women will get together and complain about a third woman: “I can’t believe she said/did that.”
It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
1 year ago

AKA the toxic femininity we see pervading some many walks of life these days.

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

beat your chest and put on your bearskin thong caveman.

John McKee
John McKee
1 year ago
Reply to  Joyce Brette

Why don’t you answer the criticisms that have been stated. This is just more name calling.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 year ago

You’re absolutely right – and I say this as a woman. I couldn’t have put it any better. I don’t know what the answer is as, naturally, I don’t want to see women erased from universities.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

I am reluctant to go that far, Judy, even as a man. When I sauntered into university for the first time I was confronted by women who were intellectually fearsome, so there must be more to it than Christopher Chantrill suggests.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

As a generalisation, it’s interesting and has some truth. But clearly we can all think of women who wouldn’t step back from a public confrontation (UnHerd’s own Julie Bindel, Janet Street-Porter, Margaret Thatcher, …). Perhaps there just aren’t enough of them ?

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Maybe there aren’t enough confrontational men. I am not trying to go against the flow here, but I find it difficult to accept that there is such a thing as the feminisation of society. I admit that I don’t know what the problem is.

Jeanie K
Jeanie K
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

“Maybe there aren’t enough confrontational men.”
Correct. A great many of today’s young men don’t have any b*lls. Perhaps it’s in the water. 

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeanie K

Yes, imagine a Christopher Hitchens invited to speak at a university now. Imagine the great confrontation between Norman Mailer and Germaine Greer in the 60s – out and out confrontational debate. Do these personalities no longer exist, or have they been pushed to the sidelines?

Graeme Cant
Graeme Cant
1 year ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

Pushed to the sidelines.
Since you mention Germaine, I’d remind you that she memorably said:
“Just because you lop off your d**k and then wear a dress doesn’t make you a f**cking woman. I’ve asked my doctor to give me long ears and liver spots and I’m going to wear a brown coat but that won’t turn me into a f**cking cocker spaniel.”
What a great woman!

James Kirk
James Kirk
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeanie K

The pill, getting in the water? Young men are the same as ever. They want one thing. Just a lot sneakier how they go about it.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  James Kirk

Apparently not – young people, including men, have been shown as having much less interest in sex. Weird.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeanie K

Young men are in a precarious position. At the last Title IX meeting I attended at my college, the topic of false r*pe accusations came up (this was in connection to the changes the Trump administration made to a preponderance of evidence policy, since reversed by the Biden administration). One female administrator was pretty blasé about it, stating that young men who are falsely accused still have the option of attending another university and that it might even be considered an educational experience to them.
I was the only person at the meeting who voiced vociferous disagreement by claiming that a false accusation can dog a man for the rest of his life. I’m at a loss as to what young men can do in such an environment. As for me, a middle-aged man, I was made to feel like I was defending r*pe culture.

Last edited 1 year ago by Julian Farrows
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Oddly enough, when you mention public figures, it seems that women are likely to be MORE outspoken than men. Of course they now have more ‘identity’ license to do so than men, although probably not right wing ones, where the so-called progressives rapidly descend to rampant and not-so-hidden misogyny!

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Forgive me for saying, p, but you went to uni a little while ago! When we were both students women were still a minority. The atmosphere and culture was male. I think there’s a tipping point where half to a majority of women in a space transforms its culture. Of course, I’m generalising and I’m sure there are still intellectually fearsome women. But I hate to say it – I recognised Christopher Chantrill’s description of my gender from experience.

Last edited 1 year ago by Judy Englander
polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

Okay Judy, I can’t challenge your knowledge of your own gender, but I spent much of my working life in university administration where, as a man, I was usually in the minority. I just don’t remember inhabiting a feminised workspace, which makes me suspect that there is more to this than meets the eye.
Yeah well. as you say, rock’n’roll was a long time ago.
Someone downvoted you and it wasn’t me. I dislike anonymous downvoting. If you disagree with someone then say so – don’t slink around in the shadows in an unmanly manner! Glad to see you around, by the way.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I am proud that I was the last member of my family to not go to university

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
1 year ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

I’m glad I didn’t marry a university graduate woman. It sounds terrible to me. Just think, these people are the future generation. It’s like a horror story waiting to happen.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

I’m glad at least someone said it. Girls and feminised men.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

But we cannot blame women for “feminised”, i.e. weak, men, surely. They did it all by themselves. Women are simply occupying spaces that men are vacating.

Last edited 1 year ago by polidori redux
N Forster
N Forster
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

The feminisation of boys starts young, at home, and in education. You might want to read “The war on boys” by Christina Hoff Summers, or watch an interview with her. She describes the current plight well.
The pathologising of normal healthy male behaviour is now written into much of the education pedagogy taught in the West.
Naturally, much of this pedagogy is informed by Critical Theory.
What a mess we have got ourselves in…

Last edited 1 year ago by N Forster
polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  N Forster

Maybe this is so. And yet… I was raised by women, women who wanted me to behave like a man, albeit one who respected a woman’s sphere.
As you say what a mess we are in.

N Forster
N Forster
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

That you were raised in this way has little to do with and does not disprove the point that currently many boys in schools are being feminised. Look up the writer I mentioned…

Last edited 1 year ago by N Forster
polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  N Forster

But you said yourself that feminisation starts in the home. Are the mothers who raise them now so different from the mother whom raised me?
I will check out the writer.
I have this suspicion, inchoate as it is, that our real problem is that men are no longer being confronted with the challenges that evolution designed them to meet.

N Forster
N Forster
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Yes, parenting has changed. Women are having fewer children, when they are older, This alone changes the nature of parenting.
Of course there will always be exceptions. That does not change the trend.

Graeme Cant
Graeme Cant
1 year ago
Reply to  N Forster

And the trend is amplified by the increasing number of children being raised in homes with no male adult.
As you say, more only children, raised by older women, with less adult male influence.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

A lot of boys are on prescription drugs to keep them calm in the classroom, at least in my corner of the US.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Blimey. They should be sent to hunt mammoth for the tribe. That would sort them out.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

More games and outdoor activity would help. There’s something a little perverse about a society that confines energetic young people to a classroom all day.

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I think that’s classed as child abuse in the Uk.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Or that many of these boys don’t have fathers which can lead to this stuff.

John McKee
John McKee
1 year ago
Reply to  N Forster

You nailed it.

Andy Duncan
Andy Duncan
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Nothing wrong with feminised men. But what we surely need is men who reject the violent stereotypes of manly men but who reject the ridiculous notion that this means they were “born in the wrong body” and who have come to terms with the intense emotions and motivations that testosterone induces in a male sexed body. We need a true warrior culture where men have been taught by older men how to be in the world in their own bodies, men who are strong and kind, powerful and sensitive, hard as nails and good listeners. If only I were fifty years younger ……

Greene Tolstoy
Greene Tolstoy
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy Duncan

Feminised men are OK on perfume counters, or in haberdashery stores. But they are useless in situations requiring muscle, courage and physical/technical problem-solving.
‘Bang-in a nail, darling’

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

Apart from this being an extremely sweeping (and, might I say, openly misogynistic) generalisation (I, as a woman, very much believe in the confrontation of ideas in the public square, as you call it)…what is your solution? Ban all women from “the public square” (whatever that means in practice)? Tell women to “stop being feminine” (whatever that means)? Impose controls on perceived “female” traits (whatever they are…)?

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Keep it civil Katharine! He wasn’t being misogynistic.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I am justified in my response and make no apology whatsover. Laying all the problems of the university establishment at the feet of some vague idea of femininity/suposed female traits is 100% the opposite of civil: I do not throw around the M word lightly but it is correct to use it in regard to this post. It is downright insulting and with no real proof beyond a certain “feeling”, a very weak argument. He said “women don’t believe in open confrontation”? Really? Well here’s one who does and who is going to do it. Unashamedly.

Last edited 1 year ago by Katharine Eyre
polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

You didn’t throw the M word around lightly, Katharine, merely inaccurately. So you disagree with him. Okay, but that isn’t the definition of misogyny.

michael harris
michael harris
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Katharine,
This grouse is directed not at you, but at the Unherd voting system. I just upvoted your comment only to see your count go from -6 to -7. I then tried downvoting and your count rose – correctly – to -8. So you have 2 unwarranted downvotes from me! How on earth can I upvote someone who already has a negative count? Help please, someone.

Ann G
Ann G
1 year ago
Reply to  michael harris

Upvoting a negative count reduces the number of downvotes.
(-7) + 1= -6.
Makes sense.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
1 year ago
Reply to  Ann G

Also consider that there may be people who lurk here, never posting and may even enjoy upsetting people. I don’t always post if I have just a minor disagreement with a poster. Likewise some (many?) of my upvotes may mean “well, yes, OK then” as I sweep on to the next. There’s no stamping or soft pedal. Maybe, apart from answering a post, we should have a range of dis/agreement.

Graeme Cant
Graeme Cant
1 year ago
Reply to  Ann G

A woman fixing a man’s maths! That bucks a few stereotypes in this discussion!

Margaret TC
Margaret TC
1 year ago
Reply to  michael harris

Same happened to me Michael, so that makes two more upvotes for Katherine. I am slightly shocked (and disgusted) but not entirely surprised at the misogyny in some of the comments.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  michael harris

If you upvote a post that has a negative score then you reduce the total negative score by 1. If you are voting at the same as other people, then indeed it can be difficult to keep tally!

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago
Reply to  michael harris

Have you considered that more than one vote may have been registered at roughly the same time?

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

You seem to believe that ‘confronting’ an idea means getting upset by it.

Gabe O
Gabe O
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Ignore this. I accidentally responded to the wrong post.

Last edited 1 year ago by Gabe O
Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Sock it to them Katharine. It is much needed.

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Very well said, as I just stated , lots of fragile egos being dented here.

Last edited 1 year ago by Joyce Brette
harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

She was being civil. Indicate where she wasn’t, or withdraw your comment.

N Forster
N Forster
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Whilst I think he did make his point in a clumsy manner, your response rather proves his. 

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  N Forster

No it doesn’t. It disproves it. The complaint made is that women don’t “do” confrontation and the robust exchange of ideas and that’s where this is all going wrong. Well here’s a woman who LOVES confrontation and the robust exchange of ideas and who doesn’t give two hoots about any antiquated ideas about what a woman is/isn’t or should/shouldn’t be like. He has his ideas, which I think is wrong. I have mine – and I will express them. As robustly as I feel the situation permits. I have not gone too far.
It is absolutely unhelpful – even perverse – to frame the problem in terms of “feminine” and “masculine” traits. What are they anyway – beyond physical characteristics?

Last edited 1 year ago by Katharine Eyre
N Forster
N Forster
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

May I refer you to my previous comment.

andy young
andy young
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I’m sure you love confrontation. The point is most women don’t.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
1 year ago
Reply to  andy young

My wife is a very empathising person but when someone is unfairly in trouble she turns into a tiger and I have to admire her. Amazing gal.

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago
Reply to  andy young

How can you make this comment, you DONT KNOW most women, put your shirt back on and stop beating your chest with your fists.

Phil Mac
Phil Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

But the way you’re confronting him is to call names and attack his character.
Take him on with facts if he’s wrong but so far all you’re doing is supporting his assertion.

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago
Reply to  Phil Mac

But she’s still confronting him, like it or not, wait a sec, do you think, the audacity, a woman confronting a man, how dare she !!!

John McKee
John McKee
1 year ago
Reply to  Phil Mac

Exactly!

Curious Person
Curious Person
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

@Katharine Eyre,
You wrote, ‘It is absolutely unhelpful – even perverse – to frame the problem in terms of “feminine” and “masculine” traits. What are they anyway – beyond physical characteristics?’
And I would answer that failure to recognize the natural differences between men and women, of which physical characteristics are merely an outward manifestation, is a diagnostic symptom of the social problem.

Denis Stone
Denis Stone
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

A robust exchange of views doesn’t have to involve over-emotional responses or SHOUTING. It just adds credibility to CC’s original thesis.

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago
Reply to  Denis Stone

All the males are up in arms, just proves she is right, misogyny is alive and kicking.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

There are some people who are downvoting you Katharine. I think it is rediculous as I think you speak a lot of sense. Confronting can be more honest than talking behind someone’s back which seems to be happening a lot in the universities. Is this the end of Britain when they all come out looking for jobs. The only safe place would be working for government I think if one cannot face the real world.

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

Spoken like a true man.

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago
Reply to  N Forster

How so? She seems confrontational enough to me.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
1 year ago
Reply to  harry storm

Could be overcompensating

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Most men I know take care of their kids, enjoy it and are happy about it – unlike their previous generation. That’s because men accept the need to change or adapt.

The problem with portraying women as “victims” is that they have an entitled attitude and believe they themselves have no issues, have no need to change

And that is the solution – not babbling about evil men trying to “ban” women, but accepting that women need to change.

Stop being so defensive about criticism, stop demanding “safety”, stop blaming and complaining and get on with it, speak clearly and straight to the point. Men have done it for millennia, and if you want to enter male spaces you have to follow the rules and best practices. They are there for a reason.

Last edited 1 year ago by Samir Iker
Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

“Most men I know take care of their kids, enjoy it and are happy about it – unlike their previous generation.”

The height of arrogance. Most men always loved their children and the further back you go the more they sacrificed.

Fathers where I grew up actually risked their lives in mines or heavy industry or in farming to look after their children.

Idiotic thing to say.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago

Agree with you but that’s not what I meant. Of course men who died in war or mines loved their families, but it was accepted that taking care of the children and the house was the woman’s side of things. In a way, those men lost out of the joy of watching your kids grow.

But hardly any man I know thinks that way. You still love your kids, but the role you play and how you behave has changed. And contrary to popular feminist perception, men have embraced that change. I know of plenty of high earning, career focussed men who love spending time with their kids and are very serious about being involved in their day to day lives.

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

How dare you speak for the rest of the male population, you are one voice, one that doesn’t speak much sense sadly.

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

I don’t see K as being “defensive about criticism” or “demanding safety.” I also think she spoke very clearly and to the point. What are you on about?

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
1 year ago
Reply to  harry storm

This is getting like the universities. How on earth do they learn anything?

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago
Reply to  harry storm

I don’t think he has a clue.

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

It is no longer a case of women wanting to “ enter male spaces” ( ??? Mysogeny is alive and kicking on this site) . If women feel they are victims it’s probably because of the males, very loose description, with attitudes such as yours who seem to believe there really are ‘male spaces’. Do you have a desire to put on a dress, go into ladies toilets In order to prove you can invade their spaces and they do indeed have safety issues ?

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I hear you confronting the tone of the argument by attacking it as misogynistic, but what are the actual ideas that you bring to the debate?

You bring forward (without evidence) the anecdotal claim that you (n=1) believe in the confrontation of ideas, but you explicitly do not oppose this evidence to the ‘sweeping generalisation’: your phrase is ‘apart from’.

Then you move onto arguments from pathos by speculating about plans to exclude women from the public square or deny them their femininity or control them.

The whole thing is emotional from start to finish. It rejects abstraction in favour of anecdote. There is not a single idea in there. It’s an almost too perfect example of the baleful influence inside a university of a certain feminine outlook.

Did you write it intending it as such a parody? If so, then brava!

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

And pray tell what ideas did Christopher Chantrell bring? Only the tired old blame feminism shtick (which I agree with to some extent) with no solutions, as K pointed out.

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

Baffling waffle, university graduate to a T.

Gabe O
Gabe O
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The issue is not about a willingness to be confrontational. The issue is with how confrontation/conflicts are handled and why they arise in the first place. I think most people would agree that women have become increasingly confrontational—much like yourself—over the past few decades; however, in many cases, confrontations with and among women are less constructive due to an increased likelihood of devolving into emotional reactions.

Despite what feminists would like everyone to believe, men and women are not equivalent or fully interchangeable. We are very different physically, we have very different interests, our hormone levels are very different, and our environments respond to us in very different ways—as we do to them. Sure, there are exceptions, but the typical woman lives a life very different from that of the typical man. Female/feminine and male/masculine traits are derived from the differences between these lives. Women are typically more emotional and sensitive than men, which is why these are feminine traits. Unfortunately, these traits are not conducive to constructive conflict.

The reality is that women cannot be men; they can only pretend to be men. Rather than promoting the idea that men are equivalent to women and having so many people trying to imitate the opposite sex, society would be much better served by accepting the reality of our differences and using them to our advantage. If that offends some people, so be it.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
1 year ago
Reply to  Gabe O

When the going gets tough the women go shopping. Only joking.

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago
Reply to  Gabe O

Bravo but then why are so many people defending trans. As you said, men are men and women are women, NO ONE can pretend otherwise. Yet they do.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Good reply. I don’t know why you are being downvoted. You are the type of woman that can be part of the solution.

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

I think it’s men doing the downvoting Tony, those with huge chips on their shoulders and a lot less self confidence than yourself.

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

So many downvotes Katharine, obviously an awful lot of ‘men’ with fragile egos on this site.

Claire Dunnage
Claire Dunnage
1 year ago

Kathleen Stock?

Michael Askew
Michael Askew
1 year ago

Not sure you can blame women for this. The culture of making safety and comfort the supreme goal ahead of adventure and achievement creates a generation unable to deal with the slings and arrows. Just as infants need to be exposed to dirt and infection for their immune system to develop properly, children and teenagers need to be exposed to caibrated risk, freedom and responsibility. Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff pointed out that Generation Z arrived at university never having gone on a date, done a Saturday job, been on holiday with friends or experienced many of the normal teenage rites of passage. The result – they were unable to cope with student life, and an epidemic of mental health problems ensued. Worse – they demand trigger warnings, safe spaces and freedom from “microaggressions.” This article expertly lays out what has happened to the institutions..

Peter Ashby
Peter Ashby
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Askew

Agreed. My wife works in recruitment and admissions. She noticed about 10 years ago now young people at open days with Mum & Dad in close attention, often the only ones asking questions. There’s an epidemic of young men hurting themselves when they go on their first overseas trip alone.
Never having been allowed to climb they cannot do risk assessment. Drink is taken and bravado takes over. Also their friends do not restrain them also not understanding the risks.
Some kids have NEVER been outside the home without a parent or carer in attendance. Aged 5 I was going into the town centre with my pal to spend our pocket money. Now any parent allowing their 5yo out alone will get referred to Social Services.

Ann G
Ann G
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Ashby

Not to mention children now being tethered to hovering parents through their phones, 24-7.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Ashby

Well there are a lot of perverts around now so life can be a lot more dangerous. I roamed free as a boy but you cannot do that now.

Graeme Cant
Graeme Cant
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

Rubbish! To both sentences!
What data do you use for your assertion about more risk today? I believe free roaming children are at less risk in Britain today than in any previous period. Compared to Dickensian times? Compared to Hogarthian Britain?
On your second point, my observation over many years is that children arrive in this world much the same physically and psychically as they always did. What has decreased markedly over my lifetime is the freedom each new generation of parents has allowed their children and the level of supervision their children receive has correspondingly increased.

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme Cant

Try telling the parents of the children who were groomed in the Uk by Muslim gangs, raped and physically abused, that came about because of increased immigration, you haven’t a clue. THAT is why children aren’t safe to go out alone anymore, there are infinitely more despicable perverted animals around now than in previous years.

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

You had 2 downvotes Tony, strange, who on earth would downvote you for saying there are perverts around? Touching nerves I wonder.

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
1 year ago

Relatedly, it occurred to me some time ago that Guardian whining about women online getting more abuse than men is probably false. Take Reddit. When I realise I am talking to a woman, I tone it down. (You should see my arguments with men – well maybe you shouldn’t). I think that well over 90% of men react the same way. Just observe the behaviour of a group of rowdy men when a woman enters the company. They nearly always quieten down a bit. It’s been that way since time immemorial. There are good reasons for it. Women are more sensitive, duh. It’s not that they get more harassment, it’s that they feel it more.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rod McLaughlin
Ann G
Ann G
1 year ago
Reply to  Rod McLaughlin

Female here, and I agree.

Mark Kennedy
Mark Kennedy
1 year ago

Frankly, I’d never even considered this, but I think you’re on to something. The confrontation that inevitably accompanies the clash of ideas is something that, for centuries, male-dominated universities were perfectly okay with. It stands to reason that the influx of women onto campuses–as students and, increasingly, as professors–would be accompanied by a push to make those campuses more congenial environments for women. There’s also the not insignificant detail that men themselves would respond to this push by attempting to accommodate the new demands, including modifying much of their own behaviour.
 
This isn’t to suggest women don’t belong at university, or are uninterested in ideas. There are as many brilliant women as men, and societies that fail to educate their women are eventually going to fall further and further behind those that do. But it would be unrealistic to expect the environment in which that education takes place to remain entirely unaltered.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Kennedy

What is your evidence that there are as many brilliant women as men? Larry Summers famously pointed out one of the reasons for doubt about this.

An alternative argument about the value of educating women is that it is the best predictor of low birth rates. A society whose women do not reproduce fails at the most fundamental level: it becomes extinct.

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

Has your cave got electricity yet?

Michael Lipkin
Michael Lipkin
1 year ago

Kathleen Stock in a recent essay illustrated how this malignant ideology uses hooks in both sexes to maintain and propagate itself. For women the ‘Are you kind?’ hook is used to corral them into compliance. If this does not work then threats of violence are used.
Men also have hooks which malignant ideologies can use, the promise of ultimate power, the flattery of the intellect and idea that pure reason can be used to ‘rationally’ organise society and that one is a member of a group of far seers who will do this.
Communism, Fascism, male dominated malignant ideologies with histories to prove it. (NB “purity” is not a girl thing)
It is therefore a matter of being aware of ones weaknesses and overcoming them.

Michael W
Michael W
1 year ago

The helicopter mums have taken over. It used to be cotton wool kids not being able to play outside in case they get hurt, now they are protecting everyone from hurtful thoughts. Women’s empowerment has neutered the West.

Borsos Endre
Borsos Endre
1 year ago

Good point. Maybe it would be more accurate to refer to “people with feminine characters” instead of “women”. My experience is that a lot of young men think and act in a feminine way, while a considerable part of young women seems to have more b*lls than male colleagues. The problem is that a growing share of each generation lacks male role models, as fathers are often missing (single mother, divorce, absent father due to workoholism, etc.) and there are no more traditional communities that could fill those gaps.

Mark Kennedy
Mark Kennedy
1 year ago

Frankly, I’d never even considered this, but I think you’re on to something. The confrontation that inevitably accompanies the clash of ideas is something that, for centuries, male-dominated universities were perfectly okay with. It stands to reason that the influx of women onto campuses–as students and, increasingly, as professors–would be accompanied by a push to make those campuses more congenial environments for women. There’s also the not insignificant detail that men themselves would respond to this push by attempting to accommodate the new demands, including modifying many of their own behaviours.
 
This isn’t to suggest women don’t belong at university or are uninterested in ideas. There are as many brilliant women as men, and societies that fail to educate their women are eventually going to fall further and further behind those that do. But it would be unrealistic to expect the environment in which that education takes place to remain unaltered.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
1 year ago

It will be an interesting social experiment as many institutions feminize and become explicitly woke. What will happen is that the most dynamic young men (and to a lesser extent young women) will avoid them completely as there is no future for them there. They will probably be more likely to start their own businesses or be independent consultants. This will obviously weaken these institutions so what you will have left is that only the public funded ones will survive. You are already seeing some private corporations explicitly eject their woke employees as they recognize them as a drain on effectiveness. Men who aren’t dynamic will likely fail in even greater numbers – and likely cause a huge number of headaches for society. It will be interesting to watch in a grim sort of way.

J Hop
J Hop
1 year ago

“women don’t believe in the open outcry of the male Culture of Insult and the confrontation of ideas in the public square.”
Um, I do! How is this different from “all men are toxic”? I DO confront others. What is the “culture of women” and as a women when did I miss out on membership? Also have you seen the soy boyz in the Uni Admin? Please lets not swing from one extreme to another. Just get the crazies out of the administration.

Last edited 1 year ago by J Hop
Jason Szostek
Jason Szostek
1 year ago

Women have been attending colleges for decades and they have always been as you describe. The problem with these last two generations is that MEN are not MEN anymore. GenY soy boyz are not providing any balance to the female force let alone positive role models or leadership. The male force has been extinguished.
Add to this, TOO MANY people went to College, which used to be difficult to get into and therefore only available to the disciplined and the motivated ie well aligned with the MALE force.
Who decided to put a generation into lifelong debt with unlimited funds available for ever lowering standards of applicants to hide from a collapsing economy by studying useless subjects? Did the feminists do this?
No, the BANKERS did this! and turned two generations of females of both sexes into useless crybabies.

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago
Reply to  Jason Szostek

Well said.

Graff von Frankenheim
Graff von Frankenheim
1 year ago

You might enjoy Ann Douglas’s 1977 book entitled “The Feminization of American Culture.”

Ken Charman
Ken Charman
1 year ago

What sort of women are you talking about? Biological or non biological?

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago
Reply to  Ken Charman

Men in dresses in other words.

Jimminy Timminy
Jimminy Timminy
1 year ago

I think it’s more of a generational issue than a ‘men vs women’ thing. I’m what they call a millennial, and even among my peers (who are well past university age) I see the traits you’ve identified in equal measure in men and women. Very few young men who are students or graduates embody that ‘culture of insult’ or take part in discussions on the public square. Or, perhaps more pertinently, the public square is now twitter – where there are no respectful and nuanced discussions, where ideological divisions become deeper and more entrenched, and where the risk of a real-world confrontation can be entirely avoided. I agree that traditionally masculine values have declined to the point that they are almost taboo, but I don’t think it follows that women are to blame.
If ‘feminism’ were the cause then we would have seen these problems manifesting far earlier in universities, which were at the forefront of the sexual revolution in the 60s and 70s. In reality this is a very recent phenomenon, appearing almost fully-formed in the last 10-15 years.

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago

Bulls**t. I am a woman and would defend myself and anyone else against wrongdoing. Safe spaces for women, definitely yes, why should we be be in a toilet with a man/woman taking a pi*s ; tackle out Infront of us. The same man, let’s face it, man who could try to assault/rape a woman in said toilet because of superior strength. As for supporting the pathetic university “students”, no way they are brainwashed imbeciles whose only goal is to make a difference, a mark on life, even if it turns to be a smear of sh*t. A skid mark.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

I agree with every word in this article. It is a fine article that, in my opinion, accurately diagnoses the problem in so many Western universities. But it’s one of many that focus on the problem without offering solutions. Diagnosing the problem is a necessary start to finding a solution, but by now there’s a huge literature out there describing the unravelling of higher education. I’m not sure we need more diagnosis.
Perhaps Unherd will commission Prof. Goodwin to write an essay on how to reclaim our universities, or perhaps the sad reality is we’re past the point of no return.
My own sense is we’ve expanded the university sector too far and raised expectations too high. Most of these students, especially in the humanities, lack the skills to find a well paid job after graduation, unless it’s in the grievance industry or its surrogate, HR. As the author suggests, many young people would be better served with an apprenticeship leading to a commercially useful skill.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Automation is coming for the university graduates, which will of course bring with it a whole host of problems, but the notion that ‘we must all become better paid knowledge workers’ is dying as we speak. Industry has already discovered that there are a good many university graduates whom your business would be better off not having, just because they _are_ university graduates. These two factors should cause a serious decline in the number of students who want to go to university in the first place, because they only went there ‘in order to get ahead’. It is going to take a while — possibly a generation — before the universities can empty themselves of the professors who never wanted to be scholars, only activists, but a market correction is coming for them, too.
There is not a lot one can do ‘top down’ to fix such things, but one thing springs to mind. The USA is full of plans to bail out the students from defauting on their student loans, by giving the students money. This is the wrong approach. You really want to stick it to the universities and make sure they have to take the hit, instead of the taxpayers. Having a good number of once prestigious universities have to declare bankruptcy because their graduates cannot find work will send a message that even the self-absorbed young cannot ignore.

Diane Tasker
Diane Tasker
1 year ago

I agree with everything you say and would add that those who go ‘in order to get ahead’ are facing serious competition from those who are sold on the subsidised ‘rite of passage’/social life/ themes, who join the ‘movement of the moment’ and emerge with little in real skills, knowledge and aptitude to offer an employer.

paul clayton
paul clayton
1 year ago

I believe your point about self-correcting market forces may well be correct, eventually. In the shorter term, I am more concerned about the impact of this young population of neo-Jacobins on the body politic. The levels of intolerance, self-justification and claimed victimhood engendered on today’s campuses do not bode well for the wider social fabric, and seem to be worse here in the USA.
The only oases are STEM departments. Even these are under attack now, and the resulting Lysenkoism will surely accelerate the decline of the West.

jim peden
jim peden
1 year ago

At my son’s graduation from Leicester the VC stood up and said “… make no mistake, this (university) is a business.” And we had all mistaken it for a place of learning. OK, if they’re businesses let them stand or fall on that basis. They’ve been trading on their reputations, built up over centuries, attracting paying foreign students on the basis that they were once good places for advanced study. Market forces, or reality as I prefer to call it, will eventually tear them down. This might be painful but it seems we will have to have a catastrophe rather than an enlightened correction.

N Forster
N Forster
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I’m all for more apprenticeships. Do you have any solutions?

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago
Reply to  N Forster

Make the universities own their own loan books. If one of their graduates doesn’t earn enough to repay the loan, the uni loses equivalent funding. Currently the poor old taxpayer picks up the bill. The universities must feel the pain.

Pretty quickly universities would stop pushing half-baked humanities courses to intellectually middling students because each one that ends up earning less than ÂŁ50k p.a. will be a loss to them.

Peter Ashby
Peter Ashby
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

Have you seen academic salaries? For a start many lecturing jobs have been or are being casualised. Tenure is pretty much gone now. There is no job security.
As a scientist your job is to bring in as much research funding as you can. Whether you offer value for money from that funding is immaterial to the bean counters.

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Ashby

Surely low academic salaries and job security are not a reason to offer low value degrees to kids who would be better off learning a trade or starting work. Banging out thousands of psychology graduates every year is a waste of everyone’s time. It really is a scam.

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt M
Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

Exactly. Privatise the universities.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Freddie’s interview with Jesse Powell is worth a listen. These people have become so disruptive in the work place that some employer pushback is starting.

I’m not sure there is a solution.There is something in the “weak men create bad times” etc trope. Unfortunately we will have to endure the bad times created by weak men before things get better.

My advice to my grandchildren is learn a trade. Bots can’t fix the plumbing and most intellectuals can’t fix a decent cup of tea.

Jack Tarr
Jack Tarr
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

In the year 1522 there were hundreds (over 800 in fact) monastic houses (monasteries, abbeys, friaries, etc.) in England and Wales. These institutions and their members formed an integral part of the fabric of society. In 1540 all were abolished.

In the year 2022 there were hundreds of universities. These institutions and their members form an integral part of the fabric of contemporary society. In 2040…

Last edited 1 year ago by Jack Tarr
Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Jack Tarr

Good point – we can’t see the future. Who thought when they saw their first IPhone that it was going to destroy our society. Most progressive institutions are propped up with public funding – I don’t think they appreciate how at risk they really are. If De Santis becomes President of the US we might get an illustration of this.

Julian Pellatt
Julian Pellatt
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I retired in 2016 (thankfully!) from a full-time lectureship at a UK university and agree with Goodwin’s analysis in every respect. As someone has observed below, he could perhaps have acknowledged the influence of female/feminist predominance in the way in which universities have evolved over the past decade.
You rightly point to the lack of a suggested solution. However, this is not a problem confined to the university sector; it is a terrible evil that has throttled western society generally since the emergence of an intolerant Woking Class elite. I suggest that the solution lies not with the universities themselves, but with our political leadership. Until we have leaders who have the courage to challenge this monstrous new worldview and who can prevail, most individuals understandably will not dare to put their heads above the parapet to face possible cancellation from livelihoods, social vilification and banishment from ordinary life. When governments, like that of Trudeau in Canada, can freeze individuals’ bank modest bank accounts merely because they donated piffling sums to a cause with which that government did not agree, that should tell us in no uncertain terms that the problem is far wider and deeper – and far more frightening for our longer term futures.
It may take successive generations to realise the evil that has befallen upon our ‘free’ world before a counter-revolution restores some semblance of sanity and commits to genuine freedoms. Just consider how long it took from the Russian Revolution of 1917 for successive generations to realise the evils of the USSR system of oppression and revert to a freer model of political and social governance! And in the meantime, Stalin murdered the greatest number of human beings by any leader in history over the period his horrific reign, not counting all those whom Lenin disposed of without batting an eyelid before him.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I agree, a good article and I agree, the university sector needs radical change.
I do wish Goodwin, and everyone else, would stop using the word liberal to describe those whose intolerance makes them anything but.

Neil MacInnes
Neil MacInnes
1 year ago

You can dress it up in intellectual language all you like but as attending university is a privilege given only to a small percentage of the global population who just happen to have been born in the already over privileged western developed world this extremely over privileged, in global terms, minority, have now decided that this global minority status has granted them the right to indulge in extreme self-pity.
Thus, we now have the world’s most over privileged group indulging in the world’s most extreme example of self-pity.
Personally, I would describe this as pathetic, that would, no doubt, lead to calls for me to be cancelled. But as there is nowhere for me to be cancelled from – who cares?

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago
Reply to  Neil MacInnes

The other part of the problem is that this privileged group of college educated “intellectuals” in the West are too big a part of the population.
College should be for the elite – not by birth but by ability and aptitude. Instead it has become a full paid for several years long party for the mediocre, who then preen themselves as being superior to “uneducated” truck drivers, nurses, plumbers and the like.

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Speaking as someone who was a student from 1971 to 1974 and became one again from 2019 I would say you are somewhat mistaken. My undergraduate colleagues now work much harder than earlier and, unlike my 1970s generation have far less certainty that a degree is a meal ticket for life

Ludwig van Earwig
Ludwig van Earwig
1 year ago

After seemingly laying the blame on the students, you eventually nail the problem in this paragraph.
“Conservatives are as much to blame as the Left. By focusing relentlessly on the marketisation of universities, by talking about students as consumers, we have created a climate in which the demands of students, not academics, increasingly shape our intellectual culture.”
This is the root problem that the political right refuses to recognize. Once you turn the students into paying customers, then the universities have to compete to keep them “happy”, and are running scared of “brand damage” caused by student accusations of racism, transphobia etc. It’s immaterial whether there’s any basis for the accusations – in the current culture of “no smoke without fire” the damage has been done.
Throw in the fact that universities are staffed overwhelmingly by flaky white liberals who cave at the slightest sign of trouble, and you have the hot mess we see today.
It’s not the students’ fault that the adults who are supposed to be in charge refuse to act like adults. The only criterion for getting into uni should be academic – not financial. Abolish tuition fees in state universities, but tighten up on the academic requirements for getting in and for staying in – fail three papers and you’re out.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

“Once you turn the students into paying customers, then the universities have to compete to keep them “happy”, and are running scared of “brand damage” …”
Though nothing damages your brand so much as losing your reputation for the fearless pursuit of academic rigour. Perhaps the problem will correct itself over time.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 year ago

Abolish tuition fees for useful degrees and triple them for the bullsh1t ones.

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Maybe, depends on your definitions. I don’t think ‘useful’ should just mean vocational, professional and technical subjects – that’s a very utilitarian outlook. Having a certain number of people (you could call them an elite) trained in the liberal arts is also useful i.e. conducive to the common good. Real bullsh1t subjects like psychology and media studies should indeed attract triple fees or more.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew D
Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Media, gender studies etc were the ones I refer to.

Z 0
Z 0
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Actually, that’s an interesting idea.
Many nations make it easier to legally immigrate for those with skills currently prioritized by the receiving government, with that set of skills changing over time.
Likewise, government support for a university education could be prioritized for critically needed fields in which there is a current or anticipated shortage.
Or course, for this to work, the prioritized list would need to be curated by a relatively non-political organization with clear mandate and measures. We don’t need an incoming party deciding that we need a lot more gender studies majors and fewer engineers.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 year ago
Reply to  Z 0

During the initial covid outbreak, when the nhs was clamouring for nurses, the government offered a bursary when it should have reverted nursing training back to an apprenticeship, imo. There are times that government make decisions that makes you wonder what planet they’re on! (Tbf I thought that about every decision made in covid!)

Graeme Cant
Graeme Cant
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Australia tried that – to much high dudgeon. Now the new government looks like reversing the policy. D’ohhh!

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago

Students have no real power, the blame lies squarely with the university authorities for pandering to their whims.

My hope is that when the current leadership retires, the new leaders at these institutions – who came of age in the 90s (the age of Tarantino and Irving Welsh and, er, Viz) – will have no truck with these snowflakes and stamp it out.

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt M
polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

I agree completely with your first point. The idea that universities are helpless when confronted by the demands of children is ludicrous. A university that cannot even defend the pursuit of open academic inquiry should disband itself, as it serves no useful function. That even the admirable Professor Goodwin cannot bring himself to say as much, speaks volumes.

Russ W
Russ W
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

The “ladies” who frequently lead the post modern, critical social Justice ideology in universities do not seem to see much wrong with the state of affairs. Indeed they are winning the culture war and seeing the fruits of their labor in their students. They believe in blank slatist, socially constructed gender (biology is irrelevant) and thus puberty blockers for tom boys. They believe that the west is essentially evil and its institutions need to be decolonized, overthrown, and replaced with their utopian world view of intersectional “equity.” In the US they drive victimhood through race – the UK is easier shamed by their original sin of colonialism. That young girls are harmed by the thousands, defunding the police and decriminalizing bad behavior is driving homicide rates to historic highs in the US doesn’t bother them as they are utterly convinced of their rightness. The irony is they simultaneously claim all knowledge is subjective and their is no objective truth – except theirs of course.

For the record they are not ladies, they are akin to Stalin’s useful idiots set on utopian revolution. As for the “gentleman” professors who stood by and let this happen, society is paying for your cowardice and may not survive it.

Tim Smith
Tim Smith
1 year ago

Those on the Right should learn from the Left’s use of language.

The author points to those with views that go against the grain being ‘ostracised’, etc. Isn’t this sort of behaviour what used to be simply called ‘bullying’.

Perhaps (accurately) branding the pushback against this trend as ‘tackling bullying’ and using methods appropriate to that, would be more effective than describing it in terms of ‘free speech ‘, ‘anti-woke’, etc?

Last edited 1 year ago by Tim Smith
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Tim Smith

You are correct, I think, in pointing out that language matters, it makes it difficult to argue against someone who calls themselves , for example ‘progressive’, or ‘on the right side of history’, very few people want to be ‘regressive’, and who wants to be on the wrong side of history? This is not new, of course, when one group calls itself ‘pro-life’ where does it leave its opponants – as ‘anti-life’? So, it’s important to carefully pick your terms, making sure that the opposite term sounds horrible, and your anti-bullying framing is a good start.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Tim Smith

How about “tackling woke bullying”?

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

And in the finding that 61% of students now think that main job of the university is to ensure that all students are protected from discrimination rather than allow unlimited free speech, up from only 37% in 2016″.
Where was this finding, who did the survey? Wherever it came from, it would correlate with a similar finding I read not long ago (where? Sorry – I have forgotten…) that, when asked what their main priority was in debating a certain issue, the majority of students who took part in said survey rated “searching for potential discrimination” higher than “finding truth”.
In other words, in their minds, the search for victimhood trumps the search for truth.

Ann G
Ann G
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The central belief of postmodern, Critical Theory is that there is no such thing as “Truth”, or “reality”, or “facts”, only power and “language games”, i.e. that language can do anything, it is just a tool to create reality and assert power, and so must be used for good, i.e. create “social justice” by “centering” the currently “marginalised”, etc.
This philosophical school has gradually, over several decades, crept from philosophy to literature to the Arts to the softer social sciences and law, and now to the sciences and medicine.
Because graduate students and faculty are self-selecting, this becomes a vicious circle, imo.
Those students who are motivated by the desire to be activists more than by traditional motives of “search for the objective truth” are more motivated to go into academia the more it teaches this view, while those who are motivated by the old-fashioned view are repelled by it and leave.
Ironically, this particular philosophical view is being taught as “the Truth”, not as just another viewpoint which has its critics and should be critically assessed.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ann G
John McKee
John McKee
1 year ago
Reply to  Ann G

True, O so True!

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago

One small fact that seems to have been ignored (or maybe I just missed it in the verbiage) is the fact lots and lots of people have been encouraged to go to university and study junk (as in the sense of junk bonds) degrees who are not up to the task.

When I were a lad people went to university because 1) they were bright and 2) they wanted to learn. These days its just delaying working by four years – three supposedly studying and a gap year.

Ann G
Ann G
1 year ago

When I went to university as an undergraduate, in the 70s, some people were motivated by genuine intellectual curiosity, but they were the minority. Some of those went on to grad school and academia.
Most were there to get a piece of paper that would get them a good job. Some chose a practical degree and that worked, others were under the misapprehension that an Arts and Sciences undergrad would suffice, and struggled afterwards, or came back for a practical graduate degree.
An important contingent were would-be activists there to get a degree that would allow them to “change the world” in accordance with their pre-existing desires, and went into the humanities, arts or soft social sciences, the “victim studies” which were just getting started, etc.
The latter are the ones now in control of our social institutions.
They went about creating the “need” for a host of jobs requiring that kind of degree, and started a self-perpetuating mechanism.

Graham Strugnell
Graham Strugnell
1 year ago

And meanwhile, while we have problematised everything – gender, race, nation, history – and have turned in on ourselves, focusing on what divides us – countries where such things are not tolerated or are denounced as decadent (China, Russia) are happy to expand their empires.

Bob Ewald
Bob Ewald
1 year ago

“Emotional safety” is impossible if the generation doesn’t have the rational tools to deal with its emotions. Zoomers have thereby condemned themselves to a lifetime of arrested development.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

If I was hiring now, I would deliberately exclude graduates. They don’t know how to do anything except disrupt.

Jim Jam
Jim Jam
1 year ago

Great article. However, laying the blame simply with the students, while very tempting, is to detract somewhat from what the author touches on and what I consider the key underlying factor: that of the increasingly stark monoculture.

Only in this hideously lopsided political environment would it be possible to standardise the creeping teaching of increasingly unhinged modes of thought – inescapable to any young person finding themselves inside any university; An environment completely free from pushback, able to exploit in young people a burgeoning obsession with notions of harm, identity, leftist authoritarianism, and gradual but steady rejection of tradional western values and norms – the fruits of this then to trickle down to broader society, only for the cycle to begin again with less resistance and more pliable cohorts.

As the article righly points out, Conservatives should certainly shoulder some of the blame, but then so should centrists and the moderate left, who though stupidity, cowardice, laziness, or simply shortsighted aversion to warnings voiced by their political opponents, have alllowed a principle – maybe *the* principle – foundational pillar of our society to be captured by a movement only capable of looking at the world in a particular way, and with the knowledge that when societies go down this road the result is always calamity.

Ran Boll
Ran Boll
1 year ago

HR is a big part of this problem. It allows nondescript people to unduly influence the ethos and set the standards of excellence at whatever institution they inveigle their way into. Engulfed in bureaucracy many academics can’t be bothered fighting this well oiled machine.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ran Boll
Diane Tasker
Diane Tasker
1 year ago
Reply to  Ran Boll

If the organisation’s ethos is to make as much money as possible (one needs to ensure ‘at least’ ÂŁhalf million salary + expenses for a ‘Govnor’ ) then I doubt HR alone is the driver in providing such an environment. There are countless echo chambers on social media that influence prospective students and, in turn, drive student need. With exceptions, the ‘money machines’ called universities will want to respond to that need and HR will recruit to its brief – or face it’s own music!

Ran Boll
Ran Boll
1 year ago
Reply to  Diane Tasker

Money is at the heart of this but unfortunately HR is deemed indispensable. Working in conjunction with consultancies a future of enticing business growth is presented to the university which involves pandering to the student demographic to bolster recruits. Locked in a race to the bottom, once fearless centres for excellence become ’safe spaces’ etc. And once installed, HR departments become the working engines of this degeneration.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
1 year ago

”What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”
It’s really not so difficult to solve the problem of a ‘developing’ monoculture at universities, and the best thing is, it can use the very tools created by the liberal left in the first place.
it’s in everyone’s interest, unless, obviously, you’re a face-ist (have to beat the censors algorithm) that diversity is a good thing (see what I mean about weaponising their own tools against them). So, if the fact that their is an eight to one bias, in favour of left liberal, faculty employees is correct, then in order to restore balance, a diversity quota should be introduced, only employing conservative leaning lecturers, until ‘balance’, or something approaching ‘balance’ has taken place. I appreciate that this might be more difficult in some fields than in others, but new candidates will soon get the message. If you want a job, in a highly competitive field, even if you maybe aren’t the strongest candidate, being a minority (of opinion) will boost your chances of success considerably.
You see, that wasn’t so difficult to solve now, was it ? And I didn’t even need to go to university to come up with such a simple, solution.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

You are making a definitional error – diversity does not mean diversity in all areas, only in those which are currently the favoured groups. Opinions not in accord with current ‘fashionable’ thinking do not come under the umbrella of diversity, so, holders of these opinions are not a protected group. It tends to be forgotten that aprotected group can easily be pushed outside the umbrella for any particular failing – be white-adjacent is a grave moral failing for a number of groups.

Henry Haslam
Henry Haslam
1 year ago

Robert Frost: ‘Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence’.

Peter Lucas
Peter Lucas
1 year ago

I’ve just mentioned this article to my daughter. She’s just finished her first year at Uni and she’s 20 in a couple of days’ time. That makes her Generation-Z for sure. Rather encouragingly, she and her pals all think that the victim/woke/cancel generation are older than her cohort. Her mates all think this other generation are just “pathetic”.
It’s difficult to know where this dangerous, totally illiberal pestilence is coming from, but I hope it will pass.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Lucas

Thankyou for that, a much-needed counter to the “we’re doomed” atmosphere that’s trending on Unherd today.
If nature abhors a vacuum, what the prevailing orthodoxies are creating in academia and wider institutions might be seen as akin to a vacuum, certainly vacuous!

Alan B
Alan B
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

The vacuum itself is the product of a collision between two “purity spirals”: a consumerist ideology that mistakes itself for objectivity (“the reality is, we’re a business”) and an emotivist ideology that asserts imperialistic subjectivity (“feelings are facts” and the ills of verbal “violence” warrant physical coercion). One hopes that we’re at the nadir of this movement; but there’s no guarantee that what fills the vacuum will be better than what came before.

Diane Tasker
Diane Tasker
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Lucas

I wouldn’t hold your breath! Would require a signIficant cull of ‘activist’ tutors intent on socio-political indoctrination and many universities to undergo a radical realignment of their recruitment spec. Unfortunately, for impressionable students, the system has long been corrupted and the current ‘show us your money (sorry, the taxpayers’ money) and you’re in – is all that matters!

Ann G
Ann G
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Lucas

I have seen a few arguments that the new generation is very much anti-woke, can’t remember where though…

Margaret Curits
Margaret Curits
1 year ago

Do today’s students have any interest in having their minds challenged & stretched by learning from people who are older, wiser, more experienced & more rounded, or would they prefer to leave university as ignorant & blinkered as when they entered it? After all, achieving nothing of any value doesn’t come cheap these days.

Margaret Curtis
Margaret Curtis
1 year ago

PS I see my name seems to have picked up a typo lodged in the records from some way back. (It’s “Curtis”, not “Curits”.) Can anybody advise me how to put this right? As a seventy-two-year-old graduate, I’m always willing to learn!

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
1 year ago

Mail support @ unherd.com (without the spaces) and explain the problem.

David Pattie
David Pattie
1 year ago

Yes, they do. The idea that students are ideologically blinkered has absolutely no basis in fact.

Zak Orn
Zak Orn
1 year ago
Reply to  David Pattie

Assuming you’re the drama teacher you probably don’t see it because a quick look at twitter shows you’re as ideologically blinkered as the students.

Z 0
Z 0
1 year ago
Reply to  David Pattie

No basis in fact. OK. Could you give us some examples of accepted political viewpoint diversity among your students?

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
1 year ago

symbolised by the 36% of Remain-voting parents who would “feel upset” if their child married a Brexiteer, and the 21% of Brexit-voting parents who would feel similarly if their child were to marry a Remainer.

Parents are lucky if the child bothers to marry these days & even more fortunate if they marry someone of the opposite gender as assigned at birth. Wouldn’t worry about their stance on Brexit too much myself

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
1 year ago

Thanks for a great article, especially the strong supporting stats. I’m reminded that for decades, Boomers (mostly progressives but even some conservatives) were complaining that millennials and Gen Xers were no longer activists like they were as students. Well, they’ve got what they wanted now.
All credit to the Torys on apprenticeships. During the pandemic they gave 4k incentives for taking them on, plus paid 95% of training costs. So firms could pay about 16k/year to take on new hires who in some cases were more productive than Grad trainees who cost  ~10k more. (At least at my firm, recent apprenticeships have on average been turning out better than new graduates). Much of the pandemic support is now gone, but I understand the government still pays most of the training, so apprenticeships remain quite good value.

Bill Hayden
Bill Hayden
1 year ago

As always, follow the money. You started out asking the question, “When will we do something about it?” Answer: when you stop paying for it. You get more of what you pay for. The “culture of victimhood” is very profitable when the victims gain control over institutions that control the public purse strings, don’t you think? Why do you think they have crept into virtually every type of institution that takes public money? Think.

Diane Tasker
Diane Tasker
1 year ago

Excellent essay which summarises my growing concerns in recent times (observed as a retired graduate recruiter)

Mark Kennedy
Mark Kennedy
1 year ago

Who’s in charge of ‘safe spaces?’ Who will protect us from the ‘protectors?’ More than ever we’re living in Kafka’s world, both in terms of its bureaucratic surveillance, and in the illogic of what passes for its reasoning. Wittgenstein somewhere asks what you can do when someone counts, ’98, 99, 100… 102, 104,106…’ and says he’s ‘continuing the system.’ You’d think it would be an easy matter of showing him, via a demo of mathematical inconsistency (“How can we distinguish, in your ‘system,’ between 99+2 and 99+3?”), that he isn’t continuing the system; but it turns out reductio ad absurdum arguments don’t work on people who are willing to accept absurdity.

The ideal, in a free speech environment, is to compare the merits of competing ideas and allow merit alone to determine the winner: that’s the theory. But what do you do when idea A has clearly, by any fair measure, won the merit battle, yet the majority of people embraces losing idea B anyway? Schopenhauer warned that you have to be aware when you’re no longer dealing with people’s reason but their will: they simply will not understand you and become impervious to further argument. It’s not the business of reason to persuade the unreasonable, and free speech avails nothing against a determination not to receive messages. The reasonable have been relegated to the outskirts of Kafka’s Castle now, and there’s no obvious way for them to get any response from inside.

Last edited 1 year ago by Mark Kennedy
Phil Mac
Phil Mac
1 year ago

You missed one of the key causes; Universities are now full of thick kids doing dope “degrees” being egged on by mediocre academics.

Gregory Cox
Gregory Cox
1 year ago

As an aside about feminism/femininity may I mention the following. From the early seventies onwards there was pressure to make examinations ‘girl-friendly.’ A Chemistry colleague was advised that there should be fewer austere calculations about valency, more essay questions about environmentalism. <Girls are better at writing essays.> Similar trends occurred across a swathe of subjects. This was but one manner in which the academic landscape was altered.

Ann G
Ann G
1 year ago
Reply to  Gregory Cox

Interesting.
I saw the reverse happen in the softer social sciences, as long reading lists, research papers, and long exams with essay questions were scrapped in favour of of much shorter readings, multiple-choice or short answers on exams, and take-home essays.
And lots of group work.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ann G
James Kirk
James Kirk
1 year ago

Clever women are just that. Clever. Don’t tell me a woman who falls for this woke liberal claptrap is clever. Emma Thompson, ex Cambridge, flies in first class to protest Green issues; to support ‘wimmin’ who superglue themselves to things. If she or they are clever I give up.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
1 year ago

I wonder if it is the same in the arts and in more technical (or should I say “serious”…) disciplines like engineering or medicine.

Last edited 1 year ago by Arkadian X
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
1 year ago

Is this primarily an Anglo thing? It looks like Germany is the same as ever to me. Fairly rigorous courses, judging by my nephews.

Ann G
Ann G
1 year ago

Yes, so far, it is primarily an Anglo thing, but also Scandinavian and increasingly, French.

Seamus McNeill
Seamus McNeill
1 year ago

Being offended is subjective. For example a book is not in itself offensive. It only becomes ”offensive” when someone subjectively deems it to be offensive,

neville austin
neville austin
1 year ago
Reply to  Seamus McNeill

I can be offended by what you say to me but what specifically justifies me taking offence sbout what you say to someone else when what you say does not relate to who I am myself, even if it may be a bit horrid?

Tony Sandy
Tony Sandy
1 year ago

Education isn’t about burying the truth because it is hard for ‘you’ to face, which is intellectual cowardice. It is about journeying into the future, through discovery not hiding in the hope that reality will go away. Parents and teachers are there to guide the young, not be bullied into silence by them (look at the stay at home generation, which doesn’t want independence and the kids attacking and killing their parents or in America taking automatic weapons to school and killing anyone that they can get their hands on). We need a generation that can think and act for themselves but we haven’t got one anymore. On top of this think how censorship kills exploration and thought. This is not regeneration of society but degeneration. Intelligence is going down the pan and as history tells us, those who can’t use their tongues and their minds, end up using their fists and violence (‘Speak hands for me!’ Julius Caesar).

SIMON WOLF
SIMON WOLF
1 year ago

Would be interesting to know what % of the ‘totalitarian’ students are females ?Decades ago that feminist icon Germaine Greer said that left wing feminist females tended to form mobs that were intolerant of any contrarian opinions

Ann G
Ann G
1 year ago
Reply to  SIMON WOLF

The humanities and social sciences are now overwhelmingly female, as are the “victim studies”, so most of them would be.
Males have pretty deserted those disciplines, being now found mostly in business and economics and Science and engineering (but are mostly Asian now.)

Danny Edwinson
Danny Edwinson
1 year ago

In another article today, it notes that Paul McCartney, Kate Bush and Tom Cruise dominate media 40 years on from the 1980s. A corollary of the problems of freedom of speech and enquiry in the academy may now be witnessed in an ossified culture where content and ideas from the last generation still dominate the market.

Last edited 1 year ago by Danny Edwinson
mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago

When an engineering design fails it’s brief in extremis the term “rip up and re-try” is used. That may be the only way out for UK/US/ANZAC “universities”. Putting fees up to 100k PA and restricting entry to persons with iBACC scores of 40+ or equivalent may also work. This would be sad for STEM students who go to Uni for genuine reasons but what else can be done? Perhaps now we see the long march of the frankfurt school has had so much help from governments and tax payer funded “companies” ie banks and tech monopolies we simply need to stop funding Social Science and Humanities degrees? Some people below identify the problem as a woman thing but i think if it has a social character its more likely to be low IQ than gender.

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
1 year ago

Thanks for this, terrifying though it is.
We are so lucky that the collapse of the higher education system on both sides of the Atlantic into Stalinist totalitarianism coincides with the increasing ability to communicate clearly over the internet. Ambitious professors should offer classes online. Jordan Peterson has made a fortune pioneering this approach, and has abandoned university life, dismissing his former colleagues with justified contempt.

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 year ago

We’ve come a long way from J H Newman’s idea of a liberal education:
“Certainly a liberal education does manifest itself in a courtesy, propriety, and polish of word and action, which is beautiful in itself, and acceptable to others; but it does much more. It brings the mind into form,—for the mind is like the body.”
The only solution I can think of is a new model for degree courses, primarily online but with provision for tutorial gatherings at small hired venues (such as a pub room). This should cost the student a great deal less than the current racket. (I realise this remedy only really applies to arts degrees, and that STEM subjects need their own infrastructure etc.)

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew D
chris redman
chris redman
1 year ago

The current obsession of the New Right with University culture is the rage of Caliban looking at some one else’s face in the mirror when they ask “Who is the rightest of them all”. Having been a University student in the upsurge of unrest in the late sixties and early 70s, I am well aware that many of that “radicalised” generation are the backbone of the Conservative vote today. The world of the future will be dominated by climate change, wars, mass migrations and resistance to mass migrations from the “haves” of the “West”. The graduates of today will end up being more influenced by the self-interested necessities of tomorrow than the values of student life today. The same thing, of course, is likely to happen to Liberals and advocates of human rights. So don’t be so alarmist. You will win in the end – if you survive that long.

Tom Scott
Tom Scott
1 year ago

This discussion has for some reason traverses into the feminism/mascularism sphere and became rather tetchy.
Male or female we seem to have lost touch with who the adults are (should be) in universities.
What has happened to the supposed backbone of those in charge?
Why are students not simply thrown out if they do not conform to the rules?
What happens if students have a ‘satisfactory’ three years in university yet fail their exams.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Scott

For the last two points: all of this affects the bottom line in terms of coining in income from tuition fees and accommodation. Failed students, or those who don’t get the marks they want, may well then mark the institution down in ‘satisfaction’ surveys. The latter impacts on ranking scores, which in turn affect income both from future students and research grants.

Last edited 1 year ago by Alphonse Pfarti
Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago

In other words, higher education is following the same arc as public education, dumbing itself down to accommodate the lowest common denominator students in terms of intelligence, effort, mental resiliency, etc. At some point, society decided that everyone, or at least most people need to be college educated. After that it was only a matter of time, because an education system designed to be challenging to the top 25% smartest and most talented individuals will be much harder for the next 25% and nigh impossible for the rest. Just wait, next there will be a demand for public accountability and the government will get involved and create elected officials or boards like we already have for public schools, and then we’ll have watered down, ‘whatever we can teach without having to deal with angry parents at next Tuesday’s PTA meeting’, college education to go with our elementary and secondary education.

Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
1 year ago

It seems to me that universities are now dominated by administrators who see the purpose of the university as quite different from what it was formerly. They see it as instructing and enforcing currently fashionable moral views. What is more, I doubt that they think the enforcement of these moral views would be advanced by debate or the toleration of dissident opinion. The university from which I retired is currently engaged in a loudly trumpeted “culture shift” (their words). The maintenance of correct opinion seems to be as important to the administration as the maintenance of academic standards. That’s the impression I am given from reading their various notices, many of which start with statements about the administration’s current moral preoccupations.
Furthermore, administrators wish to protect their positions (and thus livelihoods) and, with the extortionate cost of university tuition, at least here in the States, that means truckling to the students. These students are the product of years of state-sponsored moral instruction based on the ideas that victimhood confers nobility, and that offense of any sort or degree to themselves or others is intolerable. The results of pushing fashionable opinion and truckling to students who have uncritically accepted their earlier (fashionable moral) instruction is what we see.
The bureaucratic inertia of institutions as large as universities seems enough prevent any meaningful change, but rising university costs, the easy availability of instruction online, and the dismay of those students and their parents who have not bought into the ideas of university administrators may result in lower enrollments, at least of competent students, and perhaps the erosion of faith in university degrees. Such an erosion might actually be a good thing in the long run, at least regarding areas that are not purely technical.

Graff von Frankenheim
Graff von Frankenheim
1 year ago

It should be easy to filter out the ideological fanatics, snowflakes and crybullies at the gates of academe. Just apply a few common sense tests next to scholastic aptitude tests. Sure, the universities will lose quite a lot of customers, but (a) these folks had no scholarly interests anyhow, being mere activists (academic proletariat) and (b) the universities have grown too big anyhow. After some years, the priestly class of left wing lecturers and professors will go away too out of frustration with the new cohorts of academically interested students.

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
1 year ago

Let me pose an idea that elaborates on the culture of victimization: The ultimate Revenge of the Nerds!
Basically, the proponents of victim culture have always been there. But now they dominate the administrations of the universities and of … well… everything, it seems. They’re now free to engage all of their efforts in trying to regulate society’s path to their Utopia. They believe centralized management can achieve anything, when, if fact the centralization of everything yields sclerosis.

Bill Hayden
Bill Hayden
1 year ago

First you want to blame women, now it’s the nerds. “They”, as someone earlier pointed out, is a broad generalization that fails every time. Plenty of nerds recognize objectivity, in fact are drawn to it, for the very opposite reason of the argument you make – because in objectivity meritocracy rises to the top. While it is also true, some nerds suffer from the human condition (as do many others) of seeking control over others through power & money.

Alan Groff
Alan Groff
1 year ago

The Broadway production of Hadestown filled me with hope for our culture. Orpheus is a dog whistle for left activists while Hades personifies toxic masculinity. But then Hades’ heart is revealed as similar to Orpheus’. It is Orpheus’ turn to draw on his goodness and hope to help his lover. Overcome with doubt, resentment and faithlessness – he fails. The prologue returns to the mystery of wisdom of culture and the gods.

It’s my daughters’ favorite musical and the favorite of the women I met at the theater. We all have darkness in our nature but also faith and love that long to refine it. That path may be different for women than men and the troubles in the university may serve a societal purpose we don’t perceive.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 year ago

Now how strange is this. You do an article just when I and many others were banned online and during a conference of the UCL constitution unit for bringing up the English constitution and the lack of English Constitutionalists represented on their panel and lectures. The UCL constitution unit “experts” advise the government on constitutional reforms (their reforms always take away English rights).
We simply and politely asked questions about the English representation and lack of it at the UCL constitutional unit. We (English Constitution Party) are English not British. We are not represented in parliament, academia or anywhere.

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
1 year ago

“While prominent academics sit on Twitter arguing that the crisis unfolding in our universities represents a moral panic being whipped up by Right-wing campaigners” Jonathan Portes by any chance, only prominent in his own head.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago

Apropos of nothing, this article is, indirectly, yet another attack on the ‘great man’ (or ‘great women’) trope within historical thinking. It is essentially implying, for example, Mao didn’t create the Cultural Revolution, or the Red Guards – both created themselves, and Mao was just a conduit. There is no single person (or even a group of people) persuading the Gen-Zees to turn into Red Guards. This is an act of self-actualisation, in much the same way that the boomer generation in their youth created the cultural climate of the sixties through to the nineties, much to the mortification of their elders. Plus ça change.

Last edited 1 year ago by Prashant Kotak
Bill Hayden
Bill Hayden
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Do you dispute the observations then about the silencing of those who would disagree with the “culture of victimhood”? How then do you define “education” at universities these days? How does one search for truth by silencing anyone who disagrees? Or, is that just a trope of historical thinking?

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago
Reply to  Bill Hayden

Do you dispute the observations then about the silencing of those who would disagree with the “culture of victimhood”?

Of course not.

How then do you define “education” at universities these days?

Absolutely dire.

How does one search for truth by silencing anyone who disagrees?

One doesn’t.

Or, is that just a trope of historical thinking?

Yep, that is all it is. I am a free speech absolutist, with a viewpoint somewhat right of center – this defines (crudely speaking) who I am politically and culturally. But I also see, I’m a product of my generation, as is my thinking. I don’t understand where the values-set of the current generation comes from, but then, understanding is not required, merely the recognition of difference – and this is as true of my generation and my viewpoint up against something from the past – say the India of the Maurya, or the England of Henry VIII. Rationality has not very much to do with it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Prashant Kotak
Bill Hayden
Bill Hayden
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

It sounds dismissive to categorize it as a “trope of history” as though just a passing fad, like others that have come and gone. History shows what happens when rationality and reason are replaced by group think. To dismiss it and allow it to happen again gives meaning to the saying, “History is repeated by those who choose to ignore it.”

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago
Reply to  Bill Hayden

The trope you quoted last illustrates precisely the point I am trying (rather clumsily) to make: I don’t believe history repeats (or rhymes) because of the actions of individuals or groups, there is no such thing as ‘those’, history holds no ‘lessons’, the flow of events that happen (in aggregate) is not dependent on the actions of individual leaders, it is just a reel playing out, with, seemingly no structure. Historians merely invent a bunch of reasons of why something happened, after the fact – a retrofitting. Which, as I’m sure you will have observed, falls out of fashion after a period, to be replaced by a different invention, on and on ad-infinitum.

I don’t expect you to buy this outlook, but that is what I wearily, after buying the narratives of historians for decades, and finding them to be in truth complete nonsense, now believe.

Last edited 1 year ago by Prashant Kotak
Ann G
Ann G
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

The people who persuaded the Gen-Zs to turn into Red guards are originally the intellectuals like Foucault and Judith Butler whose ideas spread and were taught to them as The Truth.
And remember,
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead (1901-1978).

Last edited 1 year ago by Ann G
Ann G
Ann G
1 year ago
Reply to  Ann G

ctnd…Just as it was Marx and Engels who were at the origins of the disasters in the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, producing Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and their small cadre of devotees, which were able to control whole countries.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago
Reply to  Ann G

No one controls anything unless a sizable chunk of the populace buys into them. It’s not even true to say the populace has to be desperate enough to buy into those types of ideas, because for example the current generations in the West are in no situation that can even remotely be described as desperate, but they have started turning into the inquisition for a theocracy that doesn’t have a name, doesn’t have any leaders that I would describe as such, and doesn’t have even a nominal purpose that I can discern.
Ergo, I conclude that other forces are the real drivers, nothing to do with great men or great women or historical arcs or anything like that. Patterns playing out over which humanity only has the mirage of control.

Ann G
Ann G
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

The other side of this is ““The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
No need to actually “buy in”, just to not act on your disagreement, or be too afraid to.

Bill Hayden
Bill Hayden
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Free will, the freedom to choose what you think. All humans are bombarded with random thoughts both good and bad, positive or negative. But it is our choice which of them we hold onto and which we discard. It is the one thing in life we do have control over (“Man’s Search For Meaning” by Viktor Frankl). But in that one thing, is the key to the greatest power in the universe. To buy into a “culture of victimhood” is to voluntarily give up control of your own mind and life. No thank you. You don’t need “universities” for that. That is not “education” by my definition. It is a cult of brainwashing.

Last edited 1 year ago by Bill Hayden
Graeme Cant
Graeme Cant
1 year ago
Reply to  Bill Hayden

To buy into a “culture of victimhood” is to voluntarily give up control of your own mind and life
Your namesake pithily described the attractions of ‘victimhood’ as “the politics of the warm inner glow”.

Mikey Mike
Mikey Mike
1 year ago

Conservatives are as much to blame as the Left. By focusing relentlessly on the marketisation of universities, by talking about students as consumers, we have created a climate in which the demands of students, not academics, increasingly shape our intellectual culture.

I don’t understand what the author is saying. Conservatives are to blame for the campus meltdown because they are “focusing” (relentlessly?) and “talking”? Can someone explain what he means? How has talking about students as consumers created the current situation and what conservatives are engaged in such talk, and where?

I feel like there’s a conspicuous practice of shoe-horning in a “both sides are to blame” statement in every opinion piece now. It’s okay to acknowledge that colleges mostly make kids stupider these days and it’s entirely the fault of the radicals.

Ann G
Ann G
1 year ago
Reply to  Mikey Mike

But he is right.
Once upon a time, faculty were considered the heart of the university, not students or administrators, and they set rigourous standards it was up to students to meet, or the students would fail. They were students, apprentices to their intellectual superiors, the masters, and there to learn.
Then this changed in the 60s, as students started demanding, and getting, a voice in the curriculum ( it should be “relevant”, etc.).
The for demographic and economic reasons as well as ideological, administrators started being seen as managers, not academics, and universities as businesses that needed to retain its clientele, students, and “the customer is always right”.
Emphasis became how to cater to students’ “needs”, how t help them succeed despite their inadequacies.
From “if you can’t do well, maybe you don’t belong here” to “if students don’t do well, it is the faculty/universities’ fault”.
There was a proliferation of professional but non-academic positions (counsellors, learning centers staffed by learning and literacy specialists, special accommodations for various learning disabilities, etc.) devoted to providing “support” to “at-risk” students.
Some of that was reasonable, but it went overboard into “coddling” students as customers who needed to be satisfied with their experience rather than students.

Mikey Mike
Mikey Mike
1 year ago
Reply to  Ann G

Right, but how are conservatives, who make up a dismal and uninfluential faction on college campuses, a party to the changes? How are conservatives to blame? Which conservatives have done what to encourage the present lunacy?

Last edited 1 year ago by Mikey Mike
Ann G
Ann G
1 year ago
Reply to  Mikey Mike

Depends on what you mean by conservative I guess.
It can mean “not Progressive”, which often means libertarian or neo-liberal, believing in the ultimtate goodness of market forces, or it can mean traditionalist.
Here I mean the former led the drive to treat universities as businesses, while the latter did nothing, or failed, to stop it.
Niall Ferguson explained how Progressives conquered History departments while conservatives like him were basically not paying attention…

Last edited 1 year ago by Ann G
Mikey Mike
Mikey Mike
1 year ago
Reply to  Ann G

Conservative in these pages generally means, you know, conservative. I don’t think the author is referring to some political agnostic. Anyway, you still didn’t answer my question. Which conservative(s) coerced the progressive majority at what university to treat that school as a business?

Ann G
Ann G
1 year ago
Reply to  Mikey Mike

This maybe applies less to UK universities than those in the US and Canada? (I am Canadian.)
I am not familiar enough with the Uk situation, but it sure applies to the latter.
And I still maintain that at least in the Us and Canada, “conservative” usually means economically libertarian/neoliberal, even for those also socially conservative, and often those values conflict, rather than traditionalist, but maybe not in the UK.
“Which conservative(s) coerced the progressive majority at what university to treat that school as a business?”
This was usually led more by business and economics faculty, and some conservative politicians.
Those who objected were old-fashioned liberals and traditionalists, and marxist types.
But it actually ended up to the advantage of Progressives, in one of life’s many ironies.

Mikey Mike
Mikey Mike
1 year ago
Reply to  Ann G

I’m American, educated at an American university. Even in the late 80’s-early 90s there were effectively zero openly conservative profs on the faculty at my large State U, and if they were right of center, they didn’t speak of it.

This was usually led more by business and economics faculty, and some conservative politicians.

Who? Where? That was my original question and I feel further away from an answer than when we started. If conservatives own a share of the blame for the destruction of the academy, neither the author nor you have given me the remotest idea how that might be.

Ann G
Ann G
1 year ago
Reply to  Mikey Mike

Here is Niall Ferguson explaining how the takeover of history departments happened:
See at 15:14
https://youtu.be/asc27lxtnas?t=1514

James Watson
James Watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Mikey Mike

As yet another ‘academic of 30 years’ (recently retired), my experience was that the people who drove the market model through the universities in my country would not have been seen or have seen themselves as ‘conservatives’. I’d say that they were culturally/socially liberal and economically sort-of ‘Blairite’,