Society and Culture

Oxford students deserve better than grandstanding ‘woke’ academics

The decision by 150 Oxford dons to educationally-cancel students from Oriel college because of the college’s decision to keep the statue of Cecil Rhodes is deeply disturbing. Academics are threatening to refuse to give tutorials to Oriel undergraduates and will boycott events held under the auspices of the college.

It is extraordinary, whatever views these academics hold on this issue, that they are prepared to compromise the educational futures of students whose fees of £9,000 a year help to keep Oxford university in business. While they are perfectly entitled to express their political values and demands, Oxford University should examine whether they will be breaching their conditions of employment if they carry out their threats.

Oriel students should consider waging a counter-campaign against the individual academics concerned. Perhaps a naming-and-shaming website highlighting the fact that the undergraduates are being collectively and irrationally punished because of a decision over which they are not in any way responsible. The dons are carrying out a collective academic beating and should be publicly shamed for so doing. Seeking to detrimentally affect entire categories of people, regardless of their individual beliefs and actions, is of course entirely in keeping with the postmodern identity group politics of the culture control New Left.

This comes after the decision by the Magdalen College students to remove from their Common Room the portrait of the Queen on the grounds that she represents ‘colonial history’ and that her image could trigger emotionally traumatic reactions in some students. Both these events are indicative of the sinister culture control New Left ideology that is now dominant within virtually every sector of British civil society. What is alarming is not that individuals hold the views that they do on the significance of Rhodes, the monarchy or any other question, but that this is often accompanied by a cultural “Year Zero”-style desire to suppress all opposition and forcibly eradicate traces of the past and present disapproved of by the contemporary Left. There is a distinct whiff of authoritarian intolerance.

If there is a positive to emerge, it is that sometimes, to quote Vladimir Illyich Lenin, ‘the worse, the better’. Given that the culture war has been unleashed by the collective forces of the New Left, every such incident helps to make the so far largely silent, politically tolerant majority more awake (or ‘woke’, if you will) in a liberal direction. We are beginning to see the emergence of an informal trans-ideological, cross-party alliance across Britain, whether it is football supporters demonstrating their disapproval of players ‘taking the knee’ or Cambridge academics fighting off attempts by their university to limit freedom of academic expression, who are now standing up to the Culture Control Left in its different manifestations. Maybe some of the students and academics of Oriel and other Oxford colleges will now join this burgeoning alliance for small ‘l’ liberal values.

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