Our Universities.The race to the bottom

Until the 1950s, universities tended to be hot on students’ morals, if not excessively so on their scholarship. Little happened to the bone-idle or simply thick, especially if they were personable and good on the sports field or behind an oar; but woe betide the man or woman found illicitly sharing a room at night, or breaking some other moral taboo. As late as 1953, indeed, Cambridge seriously tried to send down a precocious but rebellious Mark Boxer for nothing more than allowing Granta (which he then edited) to publish a poem telling God to ‘Get out of bed, you rotten old sod’, on the grounds that it was immoral, blasphemous and inconsistent with the status of a student at Cambridge.

Since then, of course, things have changed. Universities now at least say (even if their increasingly background-obsessed admissions criteria suggest something different) that in deciding which students to let in they are dispassionately looking for the intellectual cream of society, wherever it can be found: they make no reference to personal habits, social opinions or what people get up to in private. We live, after all, in a progressive world, such matters are no-one’s business other than that of the individuals involved. The revolution is established; students’ ability to be themselves is assured.

Or is it? Look below the surface, and a new moralism is consolidating itself. It’s different, but in many ways just as priggish as the old. 

One aspect of this is that, even though universities may admit students without reference to beliefs or opinions, once they get there the opinions they are allowed to express can be remarkably limited. Typically they will find a statement, by which they are bound, that the institution values free speech, but that it is committed to building an intellectual community that is genuinely diverse and inclusive, and to providing an environment where racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic speech and behaviour are not tolerated (or some similar wording). 

However constricting this may be, at least it refers to behaviour in the public sphere. More worryingly, however, universities are it seems increasingly turning their attention to what are in essence entirely private activities and expressions taking place behind closed doors. 

For example, a couple of years ago a number of law students were unceremoniously ejected from Exeter University (and reported to the police) when messages they exchanged within their own private WhatsApp group were leaked, and found to contain childish expressions of racism and jokes about rape. For good measure the society to which they belonged, a well-established and generally respectable university club for Exeter law students generally, was forcibly disbanded and replaced with another, presumably more carefully monitored, one. 

At about the same time, there was a similar affair at Warwick, this time involving much the same kind of comments on a private Facebook group. Once again, the university excluded the students, giving rise to protests, angry Guardian articles, a successful appeal against the length of an exclusion, and then more protests against the success of the appeal (universities can’t win). And in due course history repeated itself earlier this year, this time at Durham. Private testosterone-fuelled, very adolescent chat was revealed on another closed system, which referred in a predictably hooliganistic way to sleeping with female students in various connections. Tight-lipped, the university put out a statement that such words went against its core values, and announced penalties and, in the case of an applicant, the immediate withdrawal of an offer of a place.

Also this year, there was scandal in Leicester, when a group from the rowing club at De Montfort University daubed their faces with fake tan at what seems to have been a private night out. One of them incautiously released photographs of the event. The result was predictably explosive. The university carried out a long and painstaking investigation. All involved were disciplined, and the University, sounding for all the world like a scandalised Victorian maiden aunt, put out a statement that its community were “understandably deeply upset by these photographs and by the association with ‘blackface’ and ‘blacking up’,” and that it had to be made clear that the photographs were “contrary to our values and to our ethos.”

Few readers will have much sympathy for the kind of childish and offensive nonsense that these students indulged in. It was clearly a bit of adolescent rebellion consisting mainly of saying and doing things designed to break taboos and be shocking; the only good thing about it was that, like most Adrian Mole stuff of this sort, any parent will tell you that young men grow out of it pretty quickly. But if you look at what was actually involved, in every case it seems that this was private behaviour. As has been pointed out elsewhere, no harm was done. No rapes or other sexual offences were committed, nor were any seriously likely; no racialist taunts were thrown at minorities. Nor was any of this remotely likely. It was the equivalent of the fifth form at Bessie Bunter’s Cliff House School gathering behind the bike-sheds to giggle about boyfriends and film-stars and swop apocryphal stories of conquests. 

Yet when someone snitched, the universities concerned, instead of discreetly calling them in and telling them not to be so silly, solemnly turned the full force of university discipline on them, and by doing so essentially stymied their education. 

Moreover, note also that apart from a possible technical offence under the catch-all provisions of the Communications Act 2003 dealing with grossly offensive material the internet, which even the Law Commission now accepts is far too wide, there was nothing unlawful about what these men did. It is not a crime to use rude words in private about racial minorities, to tell tasteless jokes about rape or to put fake tan on your face at a party. It follows that universities now see it as their function to police private conversations between students and punish the latter if they express sentiments they disapprove of – which, in their words, are contrary to their “values”. 

Why? Because, it seems, of the need to protect other students and the “community”. Now, one could just about understand this if the students had made their views explicit and public: blacking up in full view of minority students to insult them, or making women feel uncomfortable by joking about raping them in their presence, is something that arguably needs to be suppressed on campus because it makes civilised co-existence impossible. But this wasn’t the case. By acting as they have in these instances, the universities are effectively saying that as far as they are concerned the entirely private behaviour of students, and the opinions they hold even if they never express them at all except in private, can now of themselves be a proper ground for their exclusion from the academic community. It is now enough, apparently, that other students do not like to sit next to people who hold such opinions in lectures or argue with them in seminars. 

So, by all means send your children to university. But warn them that they had better have the right social opinions, and that if they express the wrong ones and their universities find out, you may see them back home sooner than you bargained for. Just as Mr & Mrs Boxer very nearly did in 1953.

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25 Comments on Our Universities.The race to the bottom

  1. Now ask:

    Are universities the kinds of places that might set themselves the task of enhancing the intellectual and emotional strengths of their students and their faculty members?

    If the (at least tentative) answer is “yes”, then it must be that universities are places in which students and faculty members maintain what are known as “open minds” and to work to develop “stout hearts”.

    Ok so far?

    Now, a test:

    Students and faculty members are asked to explore and discuss among themselves the proposition that:

    “The white populations of the Anglosphere could flourish, in all ways human, in the absence of non-whites, including the absence of Muslims from everywhere. But non-whites and Muslims everywhere, including those currently residing in the Anglosphere, could not flourish in the absence of whites.”

    Note that this exercise is not intended or designed to promote a sense of superiority, or inferiority, among whites or non-whites, including Muslims from anywhere.

    In fact, it can be used to develop a sense of gratitude for one’s unearned naturally bestowed blessings.

    But the main purpose here is to test if university students and faculty members have, or can develop, open minds and stout hearts.

  2. What if these young men had organised a homosexual (or heterosexual) orgy which was held in University accommodation, or in accommodation let exclusively to that university by a commercial enterprise? Let us suppose that as a result one or more participants hadcontracted HIV. In that case would the participants be asked to withrdraw from their studies, be censured or “blacklisted”. Or would the university consider it a purely private matter.

    Elizabeth 1 said that she did not seek to “make eyes into men’s souls”. Nor should universities. If a person’s actions are innocuous, why should their internalised opinions matter?

    • We are not living in an age of the personal, David. We are living in an age when the personal can no longer be tolerated lest it harbour resistance to the gene-killing of peoples of European descent. Our rendering to nought is an absolute condition for that human estate requisite to the accession to permanent power of an internationalist corporate and political elite, aided in ignorance by its thoroughly neo-Marxised, anti-racist revolutionary tools. Any desire or opinion or attitude, or indeed instinct for the survival and continuity of our people we may own … not just voice but own in our heart and head … constitutes a mortal offence to the meaning of the times.

      This development from verboten speaking to verboten thinking is an inevitable consequence of the drive of human artifice which have been in train for three generations already. It commenced with the establishment of the Historians Group of the CCGB in 1946 and the commencement of mass immigration soon after, and thence sweeping through the intellectual then cultural then political life of our people. Its typical human product is engineered to be a de-familied, self-estranged, atomised and alienated, infantilised, sexually feckless, faithless being, the men emasculated, the women contemptuous of the men and ready to mate with Africans and birth the perfect, de-nationed, deracinated, compliant citizen of The Globality.

      It IS that bad, as dramatic as it sounds. Only now are a few conservatives beginning to take globalism seriously. But it is very, very late. Our enemy is in almost total command. We are weak, divided and corralled.

  3. The universities have grown fat on Blair’s stupidity in expanding the sector. Many of them are essentially global institutions which no longer regard British interests as important, other than grasping the cash of course. They are much like the justifiably maligned BBC and I see precious little chance of reform unless the Government, which does hold the whip hand, brings them to heel, not least in the matter of free speech.

  4. Yes, the universities are bad, nett nett.

    To me, the task is this:

    A social-economic system must produce a critical mass of people whose activities in daily life ensure that that social-economic system works well enough, in terms of personal safety, the security of individual property, and freedoms of expression and movement, for the members of the populace who themselves strive to be productive, and are peaceful, contributing members to the community.

    Details can be discussed.

    But it is clear now that our institutions cannot do the job.

    Consider the education systems, the mainstream media, the systems of transfer of wealth created by productive people to destructive people, the entertainment-arts industry, “multiculturalism”, the “law” industry, and even elective politics-

    -none of these institutions is doing what needs to be done to sustain a safe, secure Western-style social-economic system.

    And too few of the productive, law-abiding folk are willing to mobilise and organise in the numbers necessary, and in the ways required, to rectify the situation.

  5. Given that universities now sack employees for expressing legal but disapproved of opinions, it is no wonder they feel free to sack students. It is all part of the general, malicious leftist thrust to deprive anyone who does not agree with them of his livelihood and his prospects. It’s what was once done by fascist states, but is now done, eagerly, for free and without any pressure from government, by private employers and public institutions in the so-called liberal democracies.

  6. Oh yawn, here we go again. The stupidity of actually thinking that WhatsApp and Facebook are genuinely private! Who in their right mind would actually type those things into their device and submit them to the WORLD WIDE WEB? The clue’s in the name there. It’s bad, and embarrassing, enough going behind the bike sheds, as you suggest, with a few like minded friends; at least you can keep your pathetic thoughts within a like-minded circle. When have social media messages ever been completely private?

    And don’t defend this with the old “it’s just a bit of a laugh”, or “bantz” nonsense. I can’t imagine anybody who doesn’t actually believe this stuff would actually say, or type, it out loud. Good riddance to odious minded and evidently latently violently tended individuals.

    Meanwhile, Niall McCrae, who marches through the streets throwing water at bystanders and shouts “you fucking traitor” and “fuck off, fuck off, fuck off” at them, keeps his job at a London university.

    • Shall we discuss why you have so much hate inside you? How did hatred of your own people and the pillars of their existence come to possess you? Where did that hatred originate? Why can’t you debate without that hatred overcoming you, so that you have to project it on to others?

      • I think you’ll find it’s Niall “fuck off you fucking traitor” McCrae that is filled with hate. What about the hate-filled thugs who like to post messages of violence that deep down they obviously fantasise about?

        Your stupid baseless allegation cuts no ice with me. It’s you projecting, not me. I genuinely think you’re mentally ill.

        • You have a great deal distinctly inhuman feeling in you triggered by the political opinion of others. It drips off every word you write. The question is why are you like this. What is it, exactly, that you have this compulsion to hate and in whom? Why do you assume yourself to be morally superior to your hate-objects?

        • Human. Calling a contributor mentally ill is maybe ok in the disturbed world you live in my be normal but that is the last posting you do under the name Human, I am leaving your post up for 24 hours so everybody can see why you will soon vanish.

          • Another hilarious intervention by the hopelessly deluded Myles Harris.

            Well, 4 days later and it’s still there, maybe because he knows, deep down, that with the demented individual I referred to it’s a completely justified assertion.

    • Believing you can identify and define ‘incorrect’ opinions, then assuming the right to judge and punish those espousing them, is what all tyrants and megalomaniacs must do. Like you, they seek to control free speech (and thus the possibility of better truth) by labelling it hateful. Elitists and bullying supremacists, they thereby replace respect for freedom of thought with fear of free expression, so enforcing obedience and conformity with your privileged group think. But it’s a dead end street, with no way back to the moral high ground and popular credibility. Your fascistic fear, loathing and intolerance of otherness are fully visible to all.

      • One suspects that the hatreds of these people are religious in nature … that their faith-instinct has been captured by radical egalitarianism and they can no longer reason or understand their own mind. It is as if they have become adherents to a cult of racial self-destruction, which cult controls their every thought while assuring them they have freedom and humanity. We who are the sons of Nature and human normalcy must find some way to pull them clear of their wild obsessions.

    • Believing you can identify and define ‘incorrect’ opinions, then assuming the right to judge and punish those espousing them, is what all tyrants and megalomaniacs must do. Like you, they seek to control free speech (and thus end the possibility of better truth) by labelling it hateful. Elitists and bullying supremacists, they thereby replace respect for freedom of thought with fear of free expression, so enforcing obedience and conformity with your privileged group think. But it’s a dead end street, with no way back to the moral high ground and popular credibility. Your fascistic fear, loathing and intolerance of otherness are fully visible to all.

  7. See “Daily Mail”, 30 November 2020, p.12, for a recent example of the threat to free speech and academic honesty at Eton.
    The problems are well documented. What is the answer?
    Removing the Woke Yoke requires legislative reform.

  8. I’m looking forward to hearing about universities starting to shrink and go bankrupt. It will happen. No more than 10% of school leavers can really benefit from a university education.

    • Sorry, but shrinkage is unlikely. In the days of (more or less) full employment for the 90% it was tolerable for universities to accept only the celebral 10%. But full employment is no more and universities, along with other forms of ‘further education’, have become vital holding pens for those who cannot be accommodated by the economy. Meanwhile, universities are useful to the Left as seed-beds for cultural Marxism, and useful to capitalists (eg landlords) for making piles of money. Too many people have a finger in the Uni-Pie for it to disappear anytime soon.

  9. What do the young need to learn?

    What do naive idealists, anti-genderists, feminists, and female and male blowhards of all kinds and of all ages need to learn?

    To toughen up, that’s what -and learn to contribute to a Greater Cause.

    Watch some Russian war movies -those set in the Great Patriotic War, and get the message.

    There are other ways to wise up -pick yer own.

    Wise up, toughen up -same thing.

  10. Meanwhile, if an undergraduate wanders the streets of Oxford or Cambridge as part of an intimidating and potentially riotous gang shouting “Kill the capitalists!” or “Death to Boris!” it will do him no harm at all.

    Thanks for a lucid article, Mr Tettenborn.

  11. University by Noel Jealous

    Don’t go to university, they’ll only teach you crap
    Degrees in female studies or the history of rap

    All the universities are rotten to the core
    They’re not the place for learning any more

    Newton and Einstein aren’t alive to see
    The hollow joke, deluded folk in university

    If you thirst for knowledge try the world outside
    Where corrupt professors have no place to hide

    It’s all about the money that they take from you
    While all the time feeding you political points of view

    • Don’t know much about history;
      Don’t know much biology;
      Don’t know much about a science book;
      Don’t know much about the French I took,
      But I’m either non-white or non-male or non-heterosexual or non-Christian, and therefore you’d better award me a first-class degree or I’ll sue you, you bigot!