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Cambridge is censoring any dissent on trans issues

Will these two be encouraged to embark on a career in sex work?

November 11, 2020 - 5:32pm

When I arrived at Cambridge, I thought I was joining a bastion of free speech and robust debate. I was too quiet, too concerned about giving offence, too conciliatory – but Cambridge will knock that out of me, I said to myself.

Instead, I’ve found that my university experience so far does its level best to knock those qualities into you. Just ask Kevin Price — the porter at Clare College whose job has been under threat from a student campaign since he resigned as Labour Councillor in October. Mr. Price has worked at the university for more than a decade and served the people of King’s Hedges city ward for almost as long. According to our student paper Varsity, he resigned “in protest of a motion to support transgender rights” — a cut and dried case of transphobia.

Yet, had they bothered to watch his resignation speech, they would have seen how compassionate and nuanced it was. He agreed with much of the motion, particularly its assertion that “trans rights are human rights.” He could not, however, stomach its glaring omission of women’s concerns about the impact of societal and legislative changes on sex-based rights. There has never been any suggestion of Mr. Price discriminating against trans students but — within days — The Cambridge University Students’ Union was calling for him to be sacked.

Many of us watched these events unfold with concern and disgust. Against a backdrop of student politics obsessed with privilege, it felt surreal to see a group of Cambridge students calling for an employee to lose his livelihood for doing as his conscience dictates. Despite this, student journalism demonstrated no visible backlash. The impression I get from my peers is that they think he must have done something to deserve it — harassed someone perhaps, or incited violence. Why else would Varsity have reported the story with such evident bias, without the slightest nod to opposing views? The Cambridge Student, our other major publication, has similarly remained deafeningly silent throughout.

The answer seems to be a combination of prejudice and cowardice. I wrote an article in defence of Mr. Price intending to submit it to Varsity, but soon learnt that a similar pitch had already been refused in a bid to avoid drawing criticism. I then submitted it to The Cambridge Student, whose comment editor agreed that open, reasoned discussion was vital. But all hope of publication finally died on Friday night, when TCS were bullied into removing an article on a related topic — condemning the tidal wave of misogynistic abuse directed at JK Rowling in recent months — after it produced outrage in a student Facebook group. The article, which criticised the silence of so-called progressives in the face of rape and death threats sent to Rowling, was “unacceptable” and “appalling,” the commenters said.

This leaves Cambridge in an unenviable position — neither student publication will publish anything that deviates even slightly from the accepted dogma. This is the inevitable outcome of an identity politics which views language as more harmful than behaviour or legislation, which has shifted the focus of activism from protesting injustice to policing language and even thought. CUSU now teaches new students to write off opposing views rather than address the arguments they contain, and the harm done to Kevin Price is considered negligible, even justified, by the community he has always served.

The curtailment of free speech, meanwhile, has become impossible to deny — at least, for anyone without a vested interest in doing so.


Sophie is a final year student in Psychological and Behavioural Sciences at Newnham College, Cambridge.

psycholophie

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Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
3 years ago

Ms Watson, fight the good fight. Win or lose, you will emerge tougher and better than the safe-spacers/offense-takers. When I was at Cambridge it was a bastion of free speech and robust debate. It will be so again only when the students and staff demand that it is. Since staff put their jobs in danger by standing up to these new orthodoxies, it is students like yourself who have least to lose, and maybe most to gain. Good luck and god bless.

Michael Dawson
Michael Dawson
3 years ago

A sad story. On a related theme, yesterday’s news story on the BBC website about the resignation of the chairman of the FA was preceded by words to the effect “some readers may find this article contains offensive language”. I missed what was offensive, but apparently it was the use of the word “coloured”. I have just read another article on the BBC website which tries to explain why this word is offensive. For a UK reader, it is hard to understand, as much of the word’s offensiveness seems to be mainly relevant to a US audience. Maybe it was not the best word to use, but was what the guy said really that offensive? I do think the over-reaction in these cases does racial equality no great favours.

Paul Blakemore
Paul Blakemore
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Dawson

Apparently what he said was a ”grisly compilation of stereotypes”: in the words of Sanjay Bhandari, chairman of Kick It Out. Seems he said something about Asian IT workers, and a comment about gay people.
But I totally agree with you. Freedom has died in the UK; freedom of speech has been utterly destroyed.
It is tragic.

Mark M
Mark M
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Blakemore

I worked in IT for many years and South Asians are heavily over-represented in comparison to their numbers in the population. So it’s not a false stereotype to say that maybe South Asians are more interested in a career in IT than a career in football. Certainly nothing to lose his livelihood for.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Blakemore

Absolutely, I honestly can’t see what the fuss was about regarding the IT workers.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Blakemore

My understanding was that he said that young Asian people tend to seek careers in IT rather than as footballers, which is quite simply true.

Jasmine Birtles
Jasmine Birtles
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Dawson

Agreed

Steve Edwards
Steve Edwards
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Dawson

And yet “Kill Whitey” is just a giggle according to the BBC. Nothing to get offended about, certainly not a hate crime.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Dawson

For anyone it’s hard to understand. There was a time in the US when saying “colored people” was the polite reference to blacks. That was before black itself started being used, followed by AA and the now silly ‘people of color’ which is about half-step from colored people all by itself.

What this episode does, or should do, is highlight the idiocy of trying to pin cutesy labels on things when simple terms exist. Black, white; they are perfectly acceptable words.

Trishia A
Trishia A
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Now the new one is “racialised”
And in Canada it’s IBPOC (indingenous, black, people of colour) !

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Trishia A

oh my lord, I’ve heard the BIPOC thing. I can’t decide of it’s more or less obnoxious than Latinx, which Latinos look at as some alien being.

Joseph Berger
Joseph Berger
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

no, no, latinx is a curvy woman of south american origin wearing spandex

Mark M
Mark M
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Dawson

Why is ‘coloured person’ wrong and ‘Person of Colour’ (POC) right? Was this really just a chance to get rid of another middle-aged, middle-class white man and replace him – ideally with a POC?

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark M

My thought exactly. Your coloured…No you are racist I am a person of colour. Go figure?

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark M

Good comment, except that I think you probably need to substitute “working” in place of the second “middle”.

Paul Blakemore
Paul Blakemore
3 years ago

Thank you Sophie for having the courage to speak out about this…

Tim Knight
Tim Knight
3 years ago

Time to start a new paper.
The Cambridge Disenter?

Tim Knight
Tim Knight
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Knight

With another s.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Knight

Sounds like you the new paper already has a proof-reader on board ðƾ˜‰

Tim Knight
Tim Knight
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

you

🙂

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Knight

ðƾ˜‚ you clearly have what it takes Tim

… and sadly “No” it wasn’t a clever trap I set …

Michael Cowling
Michael Cowling
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Knight

Disenters?

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago

Thank you for writing this, Sophie. Cambridge is becoming a nasty place, sad to say.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago

Cambridge has always been a nasty place…the nastiness is legend.

Neil John
Neil John
3 years ago

Priyamvada Gopal

John Nutkins
John Nutkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Neil John

Yes, I was going to mention Gopal, but you beat me to it. However, I’ll add, although it is well known already, that this putrid and odious racist creature was recently promoted to a full professorship by the sink-hole formerly known as Cambridge University shortly after saying White was trash. I hope Sophie isn’t studying English where this toxic strumpet peddles her bile. Sophie should find another university to study at, although half of them are utter trash and the other half similarly infected with the virus of ‘wokeism’ and stupidity, and so her choice would be difficult.

Dan Poynton
Dan Poynton
3 years ago
Reply to  John Nutkins

That was worth reading just for the “toxic strumpet”. Yes let’s take their terms and put them into service with the glorious forbidden language of the unWoken.

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
3 years ago
Reply to  Neil John

Jordan Peterson. The offer of a visiting professorship withdrawn under the duress of woke opposition. The governmentneeds to introduce legislation making universities do their job of being places of free thought and expression, fining them heavily for allowing the kind of injustices Sophie Watson describes. I’m ashamed to be a Cambridge graduate.

Michael Cowling
Michael Cowling
3 years ago
Reply to  Neil John

Hang on, didn’t the Daily Mail just apologize for misrepresenting her?

Anya Chaika
Anya Chaika
3 years ago

I agree that this intolerance of dissent is increasingly a feature of contemporary western society. However, I have found that face-to-face discussion conducted in a civilised setting goes a long way in terms of discussing diverse opinions.

Adversarial and anonymous forums on Facebook and other social media cause so much unthinking intolerance and group-think.

Tom W
Tom W
3 years ago
Reply to  Anya Chaika

I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic. These people (the ones “policing speech”, etc.) have no interest in discussion. They are very open about that point. They don’t argue in good faith with those they deem heretics and those they denounce for blasphemy. I assure you, they would excoriate you for using the term “civilised” and would mock your call for “diverse opinions” as colonialist and oppressive. This is what they do.

Jeremy Poynton
Jeremy Poynton
3 years ago

Well of course it does. When Pomo (actually, simply nihilism in fancy dress) hit the ground, it hit the ground in academia, where for a long time it was corralled, damaging only those students whose brains they turned to pulp. My stepdaughter for one, a very bright lass who emerged from 4 years at SOAS with a severe case of ideological possession.

Then it spilled over into the public sector and now the corporate world. It’s toxic, and and truly “c”onservative government would have put it to the sword way back. Instead they rolled over.

FUBAR.

Jasmine Birtles
Jasmine Birtles
3 years ago

Thank goodness we have UnHerd for the voices that others suppress.

I do agree with your points here and sadly none of it surprises me. All. universities seem to have this toxic atmosphere now and Cambridge, particularly, should be ashamed of itself for not supporting women’s rights here.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

‘When I arrived at Cambridge, I thought I was joining a bastion of free speech and robust debate.’

Then, quite plainly. you have not been following the news or staying abreast of cultural trends for some years, particularly as they relate to Cambridge and every other university in the land.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago

This is what happens when we let the insufferably stupid go to college and obtain degrees.

Fred Atkinstalk
Fred Atkinstalk
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

You’re thinking of Oxford ! 🙂

Neil John
Neil John
3 years ago

Oxbridge, both are more similar than different, much the same in the Russell group Uni I suffer at.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

I think you will find that they are not _stupid_, i.e. the opposite of intelligent, but rather _foolish_, the opposite of wise. Indeed, many seem to perfectly embody the sort of foolishness you can only get when you decide that you are too clever to need wisdom. Looks like the plan of producing people who combine intelligence and wisdom by training wisdom in clever people at university has failed. The clever people gamed the system, as they always do, to make it possible to succeed without wisdom.

Mike Miller
Mike Miller
3 years ago

Very well put Laura. Perhaps a large factor in today’s problems is that wisdom (or lack thereof) is not taken into consideration when political decisions are made.

Peter Dawson
Peter Dawson
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Miller

None of them seem to be able to see beyond the “obvious truths” of their ideology (until they misstep and are eaten alive by ex soulmates) and even contemplate the idea that someone might have a perfectly valid reason for another point of view. It would be better if they could try to work out why someone “could possibly” have a divergent view.

Fred Atkinstalk
Fred Atkinstalk
3 years ago

Very well said indeed. I have met very many clever people who went to Oxbridge (or any number of other worthy institutions), and I have met a significantly smaller number of wise people. Sadly, there appears to be little correlation between the two groups.

This is not really surprising :I do not think that it is the business of universities to inculcate wisdom, but if you are lucky, you might gain the insight and tools to develop it for youself. Personally, I think that it should be easier to develop widom if you are educated, but as you rightly say, sometimes learning just gets in the way.

One small point : clever people don’t game the system. It’s cunning people who do that.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
3 years ago

I remember when people really did expect to become wiser by attending university. It was where you were supposed to get the broadening experiences that, in a properly reflective soul, would lend itself to that. But for this to work out, you really need plenty of time for just sitting around and thinking, and lots of room for making errors.

These days students don’t have the thinking time to become wise — all the time is spent ‘learning new skills’ which is precisely what they don’t need, instead of developing better judgement. And, as this article points out, a huge class of errors now get you cancelled.

Tim Knight
Tim Knight
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

I think it is the Cambridge faculties that have become infested with “Theory”. The students are clever and young and impressionable. Though this is not true of all of them, perhaps not even the majority, as Sophie clearly demonstrates.

John Nutkins
John Nutkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Knight

Fair points, but as far as ‘impressionable’ goes, isn’t intelligence supposed to play a role in sorting out the sense from the nonsense – or is it common sense that is lacking?

John Nutkins
John Nutkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

Indeed, and obtaining degrees from insufferably stupid colleges and universities, with Cambridge topping the charts for its toxicity.

Diana Durham
Diana Durham
3 years ago

This is so sad to hear. But you do a good job of articulating the issues and the fallacy behind it all. Thanks for the article. And, stay with it. Ultimately, the soul and intellect of this country will move past and in the process allow to transform these toxic and blinkered lies.

william83
william83
3 years ago

There is one sharp and direct answer to the frightened clowns who clad themselves in an opinion protective cloak that they fear may be pierced by the thrust of opinions challenging their own.
And it is this:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

deborahw
deborahw
3 years ago

The Female Sex is an exclusive identifiable group. We have a right to our legal existence as such. Let’s not allow anyone to erase us!

William Cameron
William Cameron
3 years ago

No university should be allowed a charter if it denies freedom of speech . It is by definition a disqualification for being a university .

Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago

Why not publish your piece on Unherd?

David
David
3 years ago

IMHO a distinction has been missed in the debate about trans vs women’s rights. The problem arises not from trans activities in general, but specifically M2F trans people wanting to enter protected feminine spaces. Whereas it is possible to see trans rights as belonging to a wider class of liberation issues such as women’s liberation and LGBTI liberation from restrictive social and sexual stereotypes, it does not follow that liberation carries rights to penetrate spaces that have been traditionally reserved for women.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

Freedom is slavery. Because of course it is. Stifling dissent is what totalitarians do.

Lady Marchmain
Lady Marchmain
3 years ago

Remember; this was the university that rescinded the invitation to Professor Jordan Peterson for much the same reasons. Cambridge University has reduced itself to being one, big echo chamber that happens to be housed in unearned splendour.

Sandy Anthony
Sandy Anthony
3 years ago

It sounds as if the budding journalists at Varsity are on track for successful careers at The Guardian.

Angela Frith
Angela Frith
3 years ago

Sacking a man for holding liberal and moderate views? This sort of nonsense provokes reaction. The authorities at Cambridge need to remember who is in charge. Ha

Yasmin Lalani
Yasmin Lalani
3 years ago

It seems that the radical woke left needs to cast their minds back to middle school when, at least most of us, were taught about and participated in “debating” in English class, or even, in after school “Debate Clubs”. If we can’t debate and still shake hands at the end if we don’t agree with another view, or even agree with parts of a particular stance but not others, then we are headed down a very dangerous path. 1984. Thank you for writing this article, Sophie.

Michael Cowling
Michael Cowling
3 years ago

Not so long ago I worked for a few years in the Science Faculty at a Russell group university. There wasn’t any political correctness (though it was unacceptable to send emails to the whole university saying that the latest wheeze of the Vice Chancellor was stupid). I’m sure that engineers and medicos would also say that they just got on with the job of training the next generation of engineers and medicos.

I don’t think that the PC disease is widespread across all parts of universities, and just hope that everyone who works in such places is not tarred with the same brush.

Peter Dawson
Peter Dawson
3 years ago

You’re right – it’s mostly the courses with the word studies in the title – gender studies – race studies etc.
Useful course tend to have titles which are transparent as to the content of their curriculum – medicine – law – architecture – physics ; mathematics and so on.

tevita.martin
tevita.martin
3 years ago

This shouldn’t surprise you.Varsity is utterly rabid and reads likePravda. Completely without balance or nuance I’ve refused to respond to their requests as you are guaranteed to be misrepresented. Gutter press.

Sholto Douglas
Sholto Douglas
3 years ago

Cambridge is a lost cause under that boneless eunuch Toope (the V-C). I wish the government would withhold a million pounds of subsidy for every breach of free speech.

west.james
west.james
3 years ago

I applaud your bravery in writing this, given the very real physical and career dangers of angering the Woke mob. I am saddened that it requires bravery, or that Cambridge has become so opposed to liberalism that bravery is even necessary. #liberalnotleft