by Poppy Coburn
Monday, 29
March 2021
Campus Wars
15:10

Academics are now afraid of their student-consumers

University staff have to survive by flattering the prejudices of undergraduates
by Poppy Coburn
Be careful what you say next

Power dynamics between students and teachers have shifted dramatically in recent years. Take the case of SOAS’ Adam Habib, the South African-born academic who was appointed director of the London university last January. In a meeting with students a few weeks ago, Habib was asked how sincere SOAS’ commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement was. One student was concerned that some academics continued to use racial slurs, including the N-word, in the classroom. In answering their question Habib then used the N-word.

What followed was predictable. The student body was outraged. Edited videos made the incident look worse than it was. “We do not care or want an apology,” read the SOAS Union response, “we are calling for Adam Habib’s dismissal in 31 days.” The inevitable change.org petition against the Professor appeared, and has 5,794 signatories at the time of writing.

Habib, a mixed-race man who is not exactly allergic to social justice ideology, was suspended from his position, pending investigation.

There will be more — many more — incidents like this in the future. The cancellation of academics by their own students has become a moral panic, with commentators on the Left and Right downplaying and misinterpreting the problem, respectively. Still, it is completely disingenuous to argue, as many do, that this phenomenon is not real. One female academic, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear for her livelihood, described her decision to remain silent on gender issues as being down to “hostility from students.” Students feel “emboldened to act” she told me, knowing that all it takes is the public shaming of one academic to coerce their colleagues into silence.

What makes our students unique — unlike say, the Red Guards during Mao’s cultural revolution —  is their ability to silence their enemies without using physical violence. This has more to do with economics than anything else. The reforms of the Blair government opened the door for higher education marketisation, universities have cut back dramatically their spending on teaching staff — the UCU reports that 49% of all academic teaching staff are on insecure contracts. At the same time, the attraction of new students has become a top priority, with institutions relying on government-backed tuition loans to stay afloat.

With the market being so heavily biased towards student-consumers, it is no surprise that academics who once took the support of their employers for granted are being left in the cold. While universities like Oxford can afford to employ lecturers like Selina Todd without fear of financial sanction, more financially precarious organisations are more vulnerable to the whims of their students.

Maybe that’s why — as the Free Speech Union revealed recently — universities are using enhanced Disclosure and Barring (DBS) checks to see whether prospective employees have committed any ‘Non-Crime Hate Incidents’. (This is such a vague charge that it could include a light-hearted joke on social media.) University employers have more powers than ever to vet their workers for potential wrongthink. This shutting out of talented but potentially controversial staff by management will ultimately have a more corrosive effect on debate than student organised deplatformings.

Habib’s suspension is a cautionary tale for those who profess to worry about free speech. Until the higher education system undergoes major reform, he is unlikely to be the last.

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Martin Adams
Martin Adams
1 year ago

This well-constructed article calls for major reform in the higher education system. I heartily endorse that call, and hope that my own experience will reinforce the validity of Poppy Coburn’s conclusions.
I spent nearly 40 years as an academic in an internationally recognised university, and am glad I retired from full-time lecturing when I did, in 2015. My university was among the slowest to jump on the bandwagons of academic fashion; but the number of jumps had slowly increased during the nineties and noughties. Last year, my heart sank when I saw that it was advertising for its first Diversity Officer.
The impact of all this became increasingly evident, with strongly negative impacts on teaching, on maintaining the kind of intellectual space where one could challenge ideas as well as tell students about them, on identifying and exploring presuppositions. All these became more difficult partly because one’s time and energy were robbed via the growth of administrative devices designed to satisfy student expectations — feedback forms, course descriptions that had to be packed with educationalese about outcomes and all that utilitarian manure; the list is long. But one of the most striking things about these student expectations was that they were driven at least as much by the university’s administrators as by the students themselves. It became increasingly obvious that the university was no longer run by its academic staff, but by administrators weaned mainly on management-speak.
Therefore one of the first areas for reform should be management-bloat. Another should be the security of academics who are on short-term contracts of one kind or another — even just on hourly pay. And all that would require a revolution in the relationship between students and academic staff, where student expectation is shaped not by predictable and definable outcomes, but by the opportunities and challenges offered by learning from those who have more experience than you. And one should address the degradation of vocational training, whereby just about every subject, from nursing to becoming an electrician has become academicised.
Such reforms require bold thought, driven by bold vision. I’m not optimistic that any of this will happen; but until I shuffle off this mortal coil, I shall do what I can to encourage such reform.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Adams

Excellent comment, especially regarding vocational training.

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Thank you, Mr Bryant.
Yes. I agree that this issue about vocational training is perhaps the single most important point. And I know that legions of academics who, like me, work in areas that are at least partly in humanities (my subject is music), feel the same way. Until this country stops looking down its nose at jobs where you get your hands dirty, the problem of academicisation will not go away. In that respect we could learn a lot from Germany in particular. Cheers!

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Adams

Maybe if the sort of course you teach was made more difficult and required more work students would opt for the currently harder and more difficult subjects.

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
1 year ago

By any standards, the courses I taught were pretty challenging. More than one external examiner remarked that what we were doing with final-year students would, in many universities, be regarded as taught-masters material. But it was great! The students were so good, so highly motivated, and so hard working! As several visiting academics remarked, we were fortunate to have them.
Many went on to scholarship places at Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, the Sorbonne and other places. It was they, and our mutual love for our subject that made it all worthwhile.
The depressing part was the admin stuff; the questioning of our course content by those who, ignoring the “elitist” successes I’ve just mentioned, thought we were being too challenging; and the tendency for people in academically powerful positions to think that, because they like the sound music makes, they know something about the subject — a perspective to which music is more vulnerable than most subjects.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Adams

“Another should be the security of academics who are on short-term contracts of one kind or another — even just on hourly pay.”

So once a poor teacher is in they stick like limpets to the hull producing drag but nothing else, and cannot be dislodged?

The entire problem is student fees. Back in the sane days students competed for openings, and the top 10-15% got in, and then it was from paid grants to affordable fees.

But then the theory was all must have degrees and that was not affordable so student LOANS were arranged so Universities could afford to grow to fit in all these students, most of whom were low grade. Remember how stupid an average person is?, and as Carlin said, and half of people are stupider than those. So the universities bloated and dumbed down.

So now you have millions of stupid students carrying massive debt chasing unless degrees as they cannot handle real ones – BUT here is the rub, they get to add their stupid, sheep like, bleating to policy, and so have become an idiot mob destroying higher education.

But there is more – then the Government can harness all these indebted, stupid sheep, to get their votes by promising to reduce the payments of student debt – as Biden is promising. Vote for Biden and your huge debt you acquired getting a stupid degree will be paid off.

baaa the students reply, and BLM, and Transsexual Rights, and CRT, and White privilege in the world the White people created, and baaa. Stupid Liberals.

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I did not intend to suggest that security of contract to hourly paid staff (and others) should equate to security of tenure. Rather, and as I know from my own early experience, a lack of proper contractual mechanisms tends to produce lecturing that plays safe, that is reluctant to challenge orthodoxies, be they local (to the institution) or general to the subject.
I was fortunate enough to start at university in what you rightly call “the sane days” — and I remember that the percentage of population who got into university was, as you say, around 10%. I completely agree with your passionate claims about what has happened since the changes introduced, principally under John Major and Tony Blair — though the rot started in the mid-1970s.
Fees are part of the problem. But as I said in my first comment, one of the reasons for that entire shift has been the tendency to look down on jobs in which one gets one’s hands dirty.
As I know from speaking to German students who studied with me, if one of them chose the stream of higher education that prepared them for one of the technical high schools, their social standing would be at least equivalent to that of one of the front-rank universities. In one such case that was Heidelberg, no less. In Britain we have no equivalent. So, as you’ve said, everything gets watered down to the lowest common denominator. Sad — and infuriating!

Last edited 1 year ago by Martin Adams
Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

The idea that everyone should get a university degree is probably the most ridiculous to infect humanity since the belief that the Earth was flat. Personally I’ve become convinced – after living over five decades on this planet – that even high school “education” is a massive waste of resources for the majority of young people forced to endure it.
It’s not that the majority of human beings are “stupid”. Most of us ae obviously more than smart enough to do fine for ourselves, to learn complex skills, build and maintain homes and infrastructures, produce and acquire resources, etc.
But true academic learning – and the mental discipline, curiosity, impartiality, and intense focus it requires – is beyond the scope of most people. Hence the inevitable dumbing-down of humanities programs, once the idea took hold that getting one of these degrees was a right.
Nowadays, the majority of young people in high school or post-secondary education are those who, a few generations ago, would already be gainfully employed and/or establishing their own homes, getting married, and starting families, as nature and biology intended them to be doing. Nobody thought there was anything wrong with that.
The world has changed a lot since then. But young people haven’t changed, all that much. The bored, restless kids forced to delay adulthood, slumped over at uncomfortable classroom desks, studying things they aren’t the least bit interested in, know – even if they can’t articulate it – that this is all just a massive waste of their time. Maybe that’s one of the reasons they’re so belligerent; all they really want is to grow up, but they aren’t being allowed to.

Jayne Lago
Jayne Lago
1 year ago

‘Bored restless kids” agh.! These same kids are the ones who believe they have a right to success without hard work and commitment. The same kids who worship technology and celebrity status, their minds struggling to decide which is the more important. The same kids who believe because they are at university they MUST be smarter than the rest, so “give me what I want”,. The same kids who are today oblivious of the implications to their families of coronavirus, while protesting, raving, soiling our parks and gardens. The very same who, because of the weakness prevalent in our society, are removing/ destroying people’s careers and livelihoods. Take away the funds, instil some discipline and perhaps they might just all grow up!

Last edited 1 year ago by Jayne Lago
Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
1 year ago

Half of everyone, actually – but that was bad enough.

David Fitzsimons
David Fitzsimons
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Adams

Your comment seems mostly observational to me.
I’d like to know what the causes are.
The recent past has been ‘the revenge of the nerds’. Are we now seeing a fight back from those who were excluded – for whatever reason – from tech and stem success (I don’t have a pithy name to group them with)?

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago

There’s an old saying “the devil finds work for idle hands”. Three (or four) years at university studying (lets say) graffiti is as near to idle hands as I can imagine.

David Fitzsimons
David Fitzsimons
1 year ago

Sure, and I’d guess some students who figured out the lack of value in such a class might grasp at something they thought really had value to get them through the darks worthless days – but surely this describes a minority.
I guess what I mean is, are the identarians kicking back against a society they (temporarily) had no place in or have they sensed an opportunity to make hay (or both), or are they true believers?
Bottom line, my question is, why has identity suddenly become so important? Follow up, more so in an age where identity is plastic – i.e., self defined and changeable.

Jayne Lago
Jayne Lago
1 year ago

Because they worship at the altar of celebrity status!

Last edited 1 year ago by Jayne Lago
Dorothy Slater
Dorothy Slater
1 year ago

From my perch here in the US. it seems that although there are indeed problems in the universities that need to be addressed, there are also major problems to be found in the homes whre these “kids” have been raised.
Any visit to a grocery store, for instance, sees a three year old having a tantrum because they have been momentarily denied their favorite cereal. I say momentarily because almost every parent eventually gives in to the three year old.. The fear of the kids starts early.
My perception is that children are being raised these days with no adults in the room so what do we expect when they grow up. I know kids have always been obstinate, rude, etc but eventually they grew out of that behavior once they reached college or the workplace. Not so much anymore.

David Fitzsimons
David Fitzsimons
1 year ago
Reply to  Dorothy Slater

I’ve observed the same and, choosing not to have children, am probably part of the same phenomenon but from the other side. Could it be that our species is defined by punctuated conflict? Without it we don’t really know what to do?

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
1 year ago
Reply to  Dorothy Slater

Re-reading the beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” series – children’s novels based on her own early life growing up in a late 19th century American pioneer family – I was occasionally struck by how harsh typical child-rearing practices back then would seem to most Western people now. For example, from the age of about three onwards, children are expected to control their emotions, and are usually shamed rather than comforted if they cry. But this made total sense, in that time and place, because life WAS unrelentingly hard. If you didn’t toughen up and not let every little thing upset you, you’d be crying all the time. Now, when – comparatively speaking – life for most Western kids is ridiculously easy, temperamental outbursts seem to be tolerated and indulged well into their teens and even their early 20s. Do any parents nowadays say “Pull yourself together” (One of my own parents’ favourite rebukes)? Kids seem to automatically get hugged and comforted when they get upset, no matter how trivial the incident that set off the outburst. It shouldn’t be surprising that many of them quickly learn to use emotional outbursts as a means of getting attention and gaining advantage. It can be a hard habit to break.

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
1 year ago

Don’t you realise Wilder has been cancelled now? How dare you read her?

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Dorothy Slater

Many baby boomers didn’t have the discipline or the desire or the know-how to raise their kids. We are all the victims of their laziness and lack of standards.

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
1 year ago

I’d like to know what the causes are.

So would I. But I hesitate to believe that I have authoritative answers. However, some thoughts about causes are in my reply to Sanford Artzen above.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Adams

Its not just academia that’s become over managed – its everywhere, especially in the public sector. There’s also a strong dose of consultantese as well. With modern IT systems span of control for a manager should be growing not shrinking thus requiring more managers. Unless, of course, you need to manage unmeasurable and unmanageable things such as “diversity”.

Simon Cooper
Simon Cooper
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Adams

If only the university administration had just told the students to grow up. Instead of validating their infantile sensitivities and putting someone’s professional career at risk.
Do the universities think they are genuinely preparing these people for lives and careers in the big bad world? Or rather pampering them to protect their alumni network and supporter base…

Marco S
Marco S
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Adams

I was, a student nurse in the 1950s where material reward was free accommodation and pocket money. The standard of teaching was very high and the qualification universally respected. Discipline was strict on and off the ward. In the 1970s the push towards an academic careers was pushed by the increasing number of male nurses who succeeded in changing recruitment from vocation to ambition. much to be regretted

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
1 year ago
Reply to  Marco S

Thank you for a most interesting comment on the turn towards academic, rather than vocational, careers. It’s all the more valuable for being based on direct experience.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago

Oh come now, you have to admit, this is quite entertaining. SOAS is known to be a ‘radical institution. After years of the academics there pushing out this type of stuff, is this not just a case of becoming impaled on their own sword?

More interesting, congratulations are due to the Gen-Z’s for finally coming up with some social innovation. The wisdom of the centuries is that revolutions eat their children; the Gen-Z’s have flipped that round, so it’s now a case of the children eating the revolutionaries.

Last edited 1 year ago by Prashant Kotak
Derek M
Derek M
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I used that quotation la révolution dévore ses enfants in response to another comment but actually I can see you make a better (and more original) point than me

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek M

Thankyou for the kind words

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago

As long as taxpayer supported institutions allow this to go on, it will. The only solution is to withdraw their taxpayer funding if they permit this behavior by their students to succeed.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago

Trouble for some lecturers is it couldn’t have happened to a nicer lot. The old guard defeated by the new guard is quite ironic. All those politic lecturers mourning the fall of the Berlin Wall because they adored communism-it was ‘idealist’ lecturers who helped George Blake escape.Suggest they give student grants for STEM subjects and loans ( which must be repaid like a bank loan -unlike 80% present ones) for the rest and give students a contract to sign that they understand this is the syllabus they are studying.or they can leave.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago

In the USA, people have to stop donating to universities and colleges with administrators and Presidents who do not insist on a minimal level of discipline and tolerance. Progressive illiberality is pervasive and must be punched down. Stop donating and supporting corrosive practices.

Last edited 1 year ago by Cathy Carron
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
1 year ago

This is going on in French universities too, only for the time being the weight of political and public opinion, and the mainstream media are set against such actions. This was illustrated recently when students at the University of Grenoble who clamoured for the suspension of a teacher they accused of being a fascist were quickly obliged to step down and even apologise! University reforms require a strong input from public opinion.

Saul D
Saul D
1 year ago

What’s happening is the loss of ‘due process’. Individuals are allowed to opinions, and some of those opinions will be wrong, be badly stated, cause offence, or simply misinterpreted, and some will be deliberately misconstrued for effect. That’s life.
What the institutions cannot let happen is that the clamour of crowds leapfrogs over the rights of staff for fair dealings. The institution needs to take the time to protect its employees until due process is done, and state this clearly to all.
For intellectual diversity, it’s essential that universities employ people across a spectrum of beliefs and opinions. Outside mathematics there is no single right answer or one correct viewpoint. Even the brightest and best get things wrong and need to be challenged. Speech needs to be challenged by speech, not by cancelling or censoring ideas you don’t like or don’t really understand.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

This is another example of a well-reported problem in universities. So what’s the solution?
The author briefly suggests reform of higher education, but what will those reforms look like and is there political will to pursue them?
One sign of potential hope is Australia’s recent decision to provide less government funding to university students studying non-STEM subjects. The changes were billed as helping to create a workforce of ‘job-ready’ graduates having marketable skills. That’s a laudable goal, but I wonder if an unspoken objective was to begin pushing back against wokedom that’s centered in the arts/humanities faculties?

Andrew Eccles
Andrew Eccles
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Re non-STEM subjects; perhaps then exposure to critical thinking in the Humanities is all the more important for this generation. The customer relations growth of University administration aside (I share your agreement with Martin Adams’ comment), tutors I know will indeed challenge students to explain their thinking.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Eccles

I have sat here for nearly 10 minutes now trying to envisage “thinking in the Humanities” and can’t. Don’t even know how to add critical to the front of it.

William meadows
William meadows
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Eccles

The Stem subjects are the only ones, not completely owned by the left. Critical thinking or just woke thinking.

Lydia R
Lydia R
1 year ago

Afraid not. They have started on that too.

Lydia R
Lydia R
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

No worries, the CRT BLM and other alphabet people are starting on Stem now, bleating about racist Mathematics and White Man’s science.

lynn_masseydavis
lynn_masseydavis
1 year ago

I see the same issue with sex and gender. As an autistic woman of a certain age I regularly take part in researchStudies done by both specialist in autism but also specialise in women’s reproductive health such as menopause.
Almost completely universally now they don’t ask my sex but my gender. sex and gender are both important in terms of our experiences of the world but they relate to different concepts. Gender is tied up with one’s identity and its expression and is culturally determined and environmentally determined including the internal environment of the body such as potentially brain sex. Sex on the other hand is binary and based upon gametes and reproductive organs for most of us most of the time.The impact of women’s reproductive health and issues such as the menopause or pregnancy are almost ignored as irrelevant in research. As an example of this, today I took part in a study on sleep being conducted by Oxford University. Most women I know who are postmenopausal struggle with sleep because of hot flushes that happen during the night. On completing the survey I was asked for my gender! not my sex. Trans-women are women but they certainly don’t go through the menopause and because the question was gender rather than sex a vital differentiator in the data has been lost. The study asked in general terms if you woke up in the night because you are hot or cold issues around the menopause weren’t mentioned it at all.
The denial that sex exists and is materially important to the health and well-being of 51% of the population seems to be something which can no longer be discussed or researched for that matter.
Two years ago University of Hull decided to honour one of its most famous women alumini, Dame Jenni Murray by naming a lecture theatre after her. The students union demanded that the lecture theatre been named something else and Murray was no platformed. Her offence was purely to suggesting an article in The Times that transwomen who have grown up male have experienced male privilege during their childhood and however uncomfortable it may have been or not that advantage gave them a different view of the world and their status.I fought a campaign to maintain her name on the lecture theatre.
Many second wave feminist who hold post within the University system including Professor Kathleen stock of Sussex have come under pressure to change their views or be dismissed.
Students should indeed have the power of consumerism but not who determines what constitutes academic debate or discussion

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Just as Thomas Cromwell ( late Earl of Essex) ‘ dissolved’ the Monasteries, so now our Universities should be dissolved.
The are, as ‘we’ so succinctly say “no longer fit for purpose’,.Additionally they are a financial disgrace.

Since at least 1919 they have been ‘poisoning’ the fertile, yet very impressionable minds of our children with simply ghastly results.

Enough is enough, and as another Cromwell said “ for God’s sake go!”

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
1 year ago

Pedantically, Cromwell’s words were “In the name of God, go!”
In my opinion, we need some new universities with old-fashioned ideals. Or perhaps merely some people with old-fashioned ideals who can take over the existing ones; after all, there’s no need to dissolve an institution if it can be absorbed…

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Touché Basil.
Yes I agree , but a reduction to the days before John Majors ludicrous expansion would be useful.
Finding suitable people with ‘old -fashioned’ ideals might a challenge. After all the ‘Woke Virus’ has been present for many years now.
The other day I was glancing at Mary Beard’s seminal work,
S.P.Q.R. and there in the prologue (page 17) she says
“Happily a child of my times, I bridle when I hear people talking of ‘great’ Roman
conquerors”. How does that ‘translate’?
Well it means I’m proud to be Woke!
(born 1955 quasi Privately educated, then Cambridge ( Newnham).
It also explains her remark about 9/11 that the US “had it coming “ rather well I think.

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

Cannot stand Beards programs on Rome, she is woke.

Who has it coming is BBC, and judging by Daily Mail comments whenever BBC is mentioned, the reckoning is coming.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
1 year ago

It’s not so much that I feel academics should be committed to the idea that the Roman conquerors were “great” men – rather, that they should be able to make the imaginative leap to understand why the Romans just them to be so. That is what is lacking in the modern age – imagination.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

It was more the “happily a child of my times” I object to. Such a blatant statement of intent tells us everything.
As to ‘great’ Roman conquerors that is purely a matter of opinion as you say.

Paradoxically S.P.Q.R. is a fine work for all that.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
1 year ago

Yes, indeed, that phrase resonated with smugness. But as you say, Prof. Beard is still capable of fine scholarship. The danger is when the wokeness begins to undermine the scholarship, as it has often in the next generation…

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

The reason for the problem is easy to explain. At one time the idea of being a student was to prepare for a career and you had to take everything very seriously to make sure that you had the best result at the end.
Now, you become a student to have some fun for three years before you think about a career. Fun = boredom, mischief, partying. It is not surprising that students behave as they do.
Many new universities have opened. There are just too many students for our needs. I suggest that the government should go back to funding universities and set up a points system based on open-mindedness, student behaviour, percentage of students doing useful(?) degrees. The universities which don’t control things will lose their reputations and their funding. Plan to cut about 20 universities and then watch them behave themselves.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Only 20? I think we should probably only have 20 remaining after an enormous cull.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I’m not sure what period you mean by “at one time”, but my experience is that students today are much more focused on the end result and possible careers than we were when I was an undergraduate in the 1990s. I didn’t really think about what I wanted to do for a living until I’d finished my degree. Now students are constantly attending careers events, and statistics of employability are a key criterion on which they choose their courses. I feel rather sorry for them.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago

I was at uni 1970 – 1973. My degree was in chemical engineering and I didn’t know just where I would end up. What I did know was that after leaving it was up to me to find a job.

Now students may be more focused on a possible career but I have the impression its more along the lines of what is the world going to give me.

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Rubbish. Complaints about rowdy and ribald student behaviour is as old as the academy itself. In fact, it used to be a good deal more violent.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

Well, yes, but we have known all this for some time. Philip Roth knew it 25 years ago when he wrote The Human Stain, a great novel about an academic who loses tenure for innocently using a word – not the N word – that some of his students object to.

Lydia R
Lydia R
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

The novel by JM Coetzee Disgrace, also explores a similar theme.

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago

You’ve got to read this. I thought it was a spoof, but it doesn’t look like it.
https://www.classicfm.com/music-news/oxford-university-decolonising-music-syllabus/

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

hahaha, The universities have gone mad.

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

It’s no spoof, sad to say.
I’ve spent my life working in music at an internationally famous university. People who campaign like this, who exalt composers who have been “neglected” because they belong to an “oppressed” minority, are not really interested in music.
The ideas that lead to such thought are both corrupt and corrupting. Such cynical opportunism! And I know some of these people!

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Adams

You “decolonise” music notation???

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

But of course. Can you not see such decolonisation is essential, because Western music, especially Western art music (can’t think of a better term), could never have come into being without notation. Because such music originates in, and is sustained by, cultures that oppress others, notation has to go.
Yes — it is as innane as it is insane.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Adams

“People who campaign like this, who exalt composers who have been “neglected” because they belong to an “oppressed” minority, are not really interested in music.”
Such people, alas, could listen to a particular composition and change their minds about its aesthetic merits when they discovered the identity of its composer. This shows that are not taking music itself seriously.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Wagner being the prime example.

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
1 year ago

Very much so! Thank you. (See also my reply to Basil Chamberlain.)

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
1 year ago

Well said. I know several cases of people changing their minds for such non-musical reasons. In a couple of cases where I raised the point you have, tempers flared pretty quickly. That was especially the case when, following a paper about composition and gender at an international academic conference, I asked the question “Does all this tell us anything about the music, either during the time of composition or in our present experience of it?” Eventually the proverbial hit the fan. But I’ll say this for the folk at that conference — I wasn’t cancelled.

Dapple Grey
Dapple Grey
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

How is music to be read without notation?

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
1 year ago
Reply to  Dapple Grey

I guess they think they can teach students to learn complex works by classical composers by ear alone, like gospel music. No disrespect to gospel music; I’ve sung in gospel choirs and it’s a wonderful art. But you can’t learn something like Verdi’s Requiem – which I’ve also sung – the same way. If you can’t read music, you’re lost in a classical choir.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

What are they going to teach now then the bongo drums?

Weyland Smith
Weyland Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Overnight I’ve gone from being really crap at music to being an Anti-Colonialist – great!

Jayne Lago
Jayne Lago
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

I have and I agree this country seems to have lost its way when it comes to maturity and common sense. However I would point out that if you think this is bizarre then I have also read that plans are afoot to de colonise gardens such as Kew, Birmingham Botanical and others. The fact that the rest of us must lose our freedom(as per the wokeraty) but their freedom to determine what’s right for the rest of us is perfectly ok. Clearly the worst of this really does come via the constant use/following twitter, Facebook etc. It seems ironic to me that people who attend university, are supposed to be there because of their academic capability, their potential for the future of our country as leaders, entrepreneurs educationalists etc, yet they follow each other blindly on! There will of course always be leaders and followers, but the balance is now seriously out of sync. As I have said before, there are serious consequences for any government caught napping. The problem is also exacerbated by the Labour Party refusing to see these daily revelations, as anything other than the Conservative party trying to suppress the poorer/discriminated members of society. In reality, all parties, irrespective of politics should be working together to put an end to this form of anarchy.

Mike Wylde
Mike Wylde
1 year ago

In 1970 there were about 45 universities, today there are over 150. As well as requiring many more second rate students to pay the fees they also needed to employ many more second rate academics to service those students. It’s those second rate academics that have lowered the standards so far.
However, when I went in the 70s (to a Poly but I was always a bit second class) we were only interested in studying (and drinking) as were kept pretty busy at both. If the SU had tried to do what too many do now they would have met with enormous apathy and a recommendation that they concentrate on getting a better band next Saturday and left the pontificating out of it!

Lydia R
Lydia R
1 year ago

It appears the Critical Race Theory theorists, having gone through the Humanities courses like locusts, have now turned their attention to the STEM courses. I wonder how many rocket scientists we will turn out once they have had their way. The Chinese must be rubbing their hands with glee.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

It is one of the great ironies of our age that the greatest stupidities invariably take place in the most respected universities.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Surely if they have the brains to excel at great ideas they have the brains to excel at great stupidities. The problem is the adults who once told them to stop being stupid are too busy taking the knee and otherwise encouraging them.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Paul Valéry: “He who thinks greatly must err greatly.”

David McKee
David McKee
1 year ago

I happen to be a mature student at SOAS. Yes, it’s filled with leftier-than-thou academics, but (and I speak from personal experience here) they are dedicated teachers who are scrupulously fair. I can write as many centre-right views in my essays as I like – so long as I can back them up with evidence. SOAS has a well-deserved reputation for tough marking of essays and exams. There is a very good-natured vibe about the place. I remember arguing with a Muslim student about the Government’s Prevent programme. He and I disagreed profoundly. At the end of the argument, we shook hands.
That said, what is happening to Dr. Habib has too much in common with events at Batley Grammar for comfort. Essentially, I think the Board of Trustees made a huge mistake in suspending Dr. Habib, thus implying his guilt. The irony is that all this is being orchestrated by a tiny minority. The Students’ Union voted last week about Dr. Habib. 80% of those who voted, wanted him sacked. This was on a turnout of under 10%.
If anyone is interested, https://www.politicsweb.co.za/documents/soas-the-many-complaints-against-adam-habib and http://soasspirit.co.uk/news/students-respond-to-director-adam-habib-saying-racial-slur/ have more information.

Sara Gon
Sara Gon
1 year ago
Reply to  David McKee

Yes, but in the current climate whoever whips up hysteria, rules. It’s worth reading the complaints against Prof. Habib. They are terrifying in their venomous, ignorant hatred

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
1 year ago
Reply to  Sara Gon

Its funny how some people are allowed to hate isn’t it?

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago

Academics are being attacked by the monster they created and it appears there are not enough adults in the room to say “enough” to the howling mob. Every day, someone new is offended by something, often something that was not meant to be offensive. Instead of saying “grow up,” the alleged grownups instead grovel and make fools of themselves.
What’s worse is that the thing many warned about is happening – this nonsense is no longer confined to the college campus. Because no one stopped it there, it is now leaking into the ‘real world’ and this toxin is beginning to infect the workplace which also seems to have few adults in charge.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

It’ll be very interesting to see where we all end up in another 20 years. Thankfully I’m the age where it shouldn’t really affect me too much (if I’m still here of course) My old dad would be spinning in his grave if he knew what he fought for and where we are now; let alone where we’re all heading.

Steve Hall
Steve Hall
1 year ago

In my experience the majority of British academics believe firmly in free speech with no repercussions, but they won’t oppose the Woke en masse. They have nobody to blame but themselves for their predicament. Since February, the government have been promising to introduce legally-backed free speech measures, but I’ve yet to hear anything concrete. Many academics don’t seem to want it, which suggests that a majority are now Woke or they have become resigned – or even strangely attracted – to living in fear. Not with a bang, but with a whimper….

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Hall
Sarah Packman
Sarah Packman
1 year ago

Universities no longer rely on student fees for financial support. Imperial College London has received £79 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates ‘charitable’ foundation. That could keep them running for years with NO students.
It is the Golbalists and the wannabe Globalists (the Technocrats) who are dictating the university agendas.
Why? You ask…. money. They’ve found a way of destabilising / destroying economies without actually going to war… fund leftist / Marxist / identity politics / climate change pressure groups to terrorise society and create the required collapse in inner city property prices. The likes of Soros / Gates / Bezos etc then swoop in and purchase real estate at a knock down price just like they did during the 1930s depression . Create a fake ‘pandemic’ for the same reason and further centralise wealth and power over a completely fabricated. ‘disaster’ by selling PPE , tests & vaccines that don’t work.
That our ‘journalists’ and ‘politicians’ haven’t joined the dots is disappointing and it means that the ignorant masses have no one in their corner.
Universities ‘buying in to’ the narrative? No. They, like every other corrupt organisation, are following the money.

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
1 year ago

I teach at an Ameran Ivy League university, and can report a similar trend there.

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
1 year ago

What the hell is the definition of a ‘non crime hate incident?

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
1 year ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

It begins with a B and ends in an S.

Derek M
Derek M
1 year ago

As they said during the French revolution “la révolution dévore ses enfants”

Angus J
Angus J
1 year ago

Another toxic legacy of Tony Blair.

David Morley
David Morley
1 year ago

with institutions relying on government-backed tuition loans to stay afloat.

This is surely where the solution lies then. I understand fear over government involvement in universities, but there could surely be a set of penalties for anti free speech activities by universities which would outweigh the impact of f-scistic students.

George Bruce
George Bruce
1 year ago

 One student was concerned that some academics continued to use racial slurs, including the N-word, in the classroom. In answering their question Habib then used the N-word.

Is there any more information on this conversation? It is hard to be sure what was said from just this.
Is it that person X said that some academics use the N-word in the classroom and Habib then asked if they meant the word nigg*r? So he wished to confirm he was not misunderstanding, or wanted to get the person to confirm what would be a serious accusation?

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago
Reply to  George Bruce

My understanding is that he uttered it as a quote, like l: “when you say a work like ‘potato’…”
I read it somewhere else, cont remember where.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrea X
Sara Gon
Sara Gon
1 year ago
Reply to  George Bruce

Habib said that if anyone used nigg*r, that person would face serious disciplinary action. He was then accused of using a word that only black were entitled to use. His anti-apartheid credentials were worth zip.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
1 year ago
Reply to  Sara Gon

When did grown up people become so fragile, that they can’t even bear to hear certain words, no matter the context? it reminds me of a feminist friend at university who got terribly upset when I used the word “c**t” in a discussion of sexist language, even though I was using it as an example of a word I personally found offensive when it was casually used as an insult toward someone. You just can’t win, with some people.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kathy Prendergast
Vasiliki Farmaki
Vasiliki Farmaki
1 year ago

Last edited 1 year ago by Vasiliki Farmaki
Key Olney
Key Olney
1 year ago

Academics who feel threatened by their students should taunt them with reminders of how, with or without the n-word, their student loans will pay for 2-day work weeks, long vacations, and international travel.

Dean Baker
Dean Baker
1 year ago

The voice of the people has spoken and it says Duh. Truly we’re living in an ‘idiocracy’ where the lowest common denominator rules and the Boss is everywhere, a blatant bully who’s the greatest narcissist of all the narcissists.
People need to want to learn, not judge or merely get by.
https://deanbakerpoetryandsongs.com/2021/03/30/from-silence-louder-than-a-train-a-nation-of-lunatics-2/

David Morley
David Morley
1 year ago

universities are using enhanced Disclosure and Barring (DBS) checks to see whether prospective employees have committed any ‘Non-Crime Hate Incidents’.

This also gives power to activists who can seek things out, report them to the police and thus get them on the record. It puts an awful lot of power in the hands of people who are completely unsuitable to wield it.

Lillian Fry
Lillian Fry
1 year ago

A consequence of the “ratings culture.”

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago

Not everyone should be attending university, as not everyone has the ability to do university level work. Today, there are a lot of untalented, unsophisticated, illiberal and just plain dumb people who are dictating the university curriculum and calling the shots; Rigor, creativity, discipline & liberality of thought are out. Reform is imperative if humanity is to continue to progress and evolve.

michael
michael
1 year ago

What became of robust rhetoric and critical thinking? Respect for one’s sifu? Nothing good will come of this.