Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing



hen I began my undergraduate course in politics and sociology in September 2010, I was looking forward to getting stuck in to some serious ideas and discussions with my peers. The opening core module for the politics side of my degree dealt with ‘essentially contested concepts’. After a few weeks of discussing liberalism, Marxism, conservatism and power, we moved on to some more contemporary issues.

Following a discussion on porn, the professor leading the module declared that the following week we would be discussing rape – that is, the policy pertaining to the offence and academic scholarship concerned with the concept. Good, I thought: that sounds interesting and not something I’ve thought about much before. However, he then went on to tell the lecture hall that if anyone did not want to attend the lecture and the seminar, that would be fine. After several weeks of it being drummed into us that all seminars and lectures were compulsory, I was a bit stunned.

At that point in my university career, I was still a bit naive about the role the students’ unions and university management played in managing discussion on ‘dangerous’ or controversial issues. Looking back now, it is quite clear what was happening. The professor was concerned for the safety of me and my peers; he was concerned that discussing an issue such as rape could be potentially damaging and harmful to certain students enrolled on the course. It might appear a well-meaning consideration to have, but it masked a wider phenomenon which anyone concerned with free speech and intellectual inquiry should be worried about.

The recent obsession with ‘safety’ at universities presents a clear threat to academic freedom.


culture, education, government, ideology, left wing, nanny state, pandering, philosophy, political correctness, unintended consequences


Filed under: culture, education, government, ideology, left wing, nanny state, pandering, philosophy, political correctness, unintended consequences

One Response

  1. As someone with PTSD, (actually diagnosed my many different medical professionals,)I know that there are some subjects about which I cannot read. A lecture about these subjects would result in, at best, a panic attack, at worst, hospitalization.
    Perhaps the “trigger warnings” should be in the course description, the course catalog, or in the syllabus. If the warnings were there I simply would it enroll in that course. If it were a required course, the University disabilities office, along with my academic advisor, would try to find an alternative course. These are “reasonable accommodations” that would be made for those students with an actual disability. There is a big difference between feeling uncomfortable and having a triggering event.
    If it matters, I’m pretty far from a “female leftie.” I am a 50ish-year-old conservative male.

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