Monday, June 06, 2016

Yale Students Want to Eradicate 'White Male Authors'

A petition from a group of Yale University students is accusing the institution’s English Department of cultivating racism and, in light of that, requests changes be made to English major prerequisites. “In particular,” the authors whine, “we oppose the continued existence of the Major English Poets sequence as the primary prerequisite for further study. It is unacceptable that a Yale student considering studying English literature might read only white male authors.”

They continue, “A year spent around a seminar table where the literary contributions of women, people of color, and queer folk are absent actively harms all students, regardless of their identity. The Major English Poets sequences creates a culture that is especially hostile to students of color.” The writers say, “It’s time for the English major to decolonize — not diversify — its course offerings,” and call on the faculty to initiate changes. Any dissent, they argue, is “unethical.”

“There’s nothing wrong with providing a greater variety of courses for students, and if students want to read more female and minority authors, the English Department is welcome to oblige,” writes Reason’s Robby Soave. But there’s just one big problem: “There just aren’t that many early modern writers who were gay or transgender.” They’re always welcome to conjure up fairy tales, though, since fantasy is all these snowflakes seem capable of understanding.


UK: The new segregation on campus

Calls for gay- or black-only dorms

Today’s university accommodation is often more hotel than squat, with en-suite bathrooms and wifi as standard. Recently, students have dropped their preoccupation with double beds, dishwashers and twice-weekly cleaners and have begun to focus instead on who they share their halls of residence with. Students who apply to the University of Birmingham and request LGBT-only accommodation can be housed away from their straight classmates. Now, students at the University of York and the University of Central Lancashire want LGBT-only accommodation, too.

The growing demand for LGBT dorms in the UK parallels an increased demand on US college campuses for ‘racially themed dorms’ so that black students can live away from their white colleagues. In the wave of protests against racism that swept US colleges late last year, the call for racially separated spaces on campus was made repeatedly. The University of California, Berkeley already has ‘self-segregated housing for African-Americans as well as other racial minorities’, while students at University of California, Los Angeles have requested the creation of a separate ‘Afro-house’  residence for black students.

The segregation and differential treatment that previous generations of student campaigners fought so hard against are now being rehabilitated by young activists. Members of the US Commission on Civil Rights have spoken out against the introduction of racially themed accommodation. In the UK, the gay-rights group Stonewall has said it would prefer to see ‘a culture that is inclusive and accepting’ rather than separate LGBT campus accommodation. Today’s radicals, however, are more likely to view the progressive demand for equality in education and relationships as a dangerous cover for the exercise of white heteronormative power.

The liberation campaigns of a previous era sought to expand the universal category of what it means to be human, to encompass not just white men but also women, gay and black people. Yet even at this very moment, identity politics was beginning to take root, and competing political groups began arguing for a more separatist approach. In the US, Black Power groups began to influence the Black Student Union (BSU) from the mid-1960s onwards.

In September 1967, Larry Gossett, head of the BSU at the University of Washington, reflected an emerging separatist and identity-focused response to the persistent racial discrimination experienced by black students. He wrote in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, ‘I believe that black people must be obsessed with thinking black. Then they will understand the need for determining their own destiny.’ The BSU argued for changes within universities, including the establishment of a black curriculum. It was at this time that some colleges first began ‘to cave to student demands for separate housing’.

Today, identity politics is so dominant that talk of expanding universalism appears hopelessly old-fashioned. The current generation of students scorn the notion of equality because they believe people only have interests in common with others who, at the most basic level, look like them. It is assumed that people with different skin colour, gender or sexuality experience the world in a qualitatively different way, and can neither speak about, nor on behalf of, each other. Worse, different groups of people are pitched against each other, as if the very existence of some groups, particularly white straight men, is a source of oppression.

The pervasive influence of identity encourages students to focus relentlessly on who they are. For all the appeals to radicalism, there is an assumption – evident in asking university applicants to tick a box about their sexuality and select accommodation preferences accordingly – that who you are as a 17-year-old is fixed. This conservative obsession with who you are, rather than what you might become, precludes experimentation. If a soon-to-be student at the University of Birmingham requests LGBT-only housing, but then, after a term away from home, decides he is not gay but straight, must he then move house?

In both the US and Britain, the demand for segregated accommodation is the logical outcome of identity politics meeting a campus cult of wellbeing that labels nearly all students as vulnerable and in need of protection. Segregated housing provides the ultimate retreat from campus life, a Safe Space away from people who are different to you. Central to this discourse is the historically new concept of the hall of residence as a ‘home’. The emotive cry that students need to feel safe ‘within their own home’ was central to the hysteria at Yale University when a lecturer defended the right of students to decide for themselves the type of costume they would like to wear for Halloween. It was also heard at the University of Oxford by the students who clamoured to have a debate on abortion cancelled.

Yet university accommodation was never intended to be a home from home, but rather an efficient means of cultivating a community of scholars. Living at university was more than just practically expedient - it allowed for long hours in the library or the lab and for discussions with students and academics alike to continue. It was not intended as a retreat, but as a means of enabling students to enter the public square of the campus and engage with others.

The reinterpretation of campus as a home goes hand-in-hand with the reinterpretation of costumes and debates as forms of violence. There is little suggestion that the threat facing LGBT or black students is physical; rather, it is seen as existential. The demand for segregated housing signifies the threat perceived to arise from other people, especially those who are different. When a practical solution is offered to an existential threat, the sense of concern can only grow. Far from promoting safety, calls for segregated housing cultivate fear and encourage students to interpret interactions with each other as a series of microaggressions.

It seems as if today’s student radicals do not want to change the world - they just want their suffering recognised by university housing officers. They prefer to discuss where they sleep, rather than who they have slept with.


UK: Why are female students infantilising themselves?

A survey has revealed that female students are more likely to support campus censorship than their male peers. Keeping Schtum, a report by the Higher Education Policy Institute, found that 16 per cent more women support Safe Space policies and the banning of tabloid newspapers than men. Men are more likely to support unfettered freedom of speech on campus.

That a significant proportion of female students is willingly supporting censorship is very depressing. But it’s hardly surprising. The vast majority of censorship on campus is aimed at protecting women from offence. spiked’s 2016 Free Speech University Rankings (FSUR) found that almost a third of UK universities banned the Sun and the Daily Star, as part of the No More Page 3 campaign, and 25 banned the controversial pop song ‘Blurred Lines’. All of this is done in the name of cleansing campus of ‘demeaning’ representations of women.

Women’s autonomy has been hugely undermined. Forget the in loco parentis restrictions of the Sixties - female students today aren’t even trusted to hear a racy joke without falling to pieces. The FSUR found that 33 per cent of universities and students’ unions have ‘zero tolerance’ policies prohibiting jokes, cat-calling and even ‘inappropriate sexual noises’. Women aren’t even trusted to conduct their social lives without rules and regulations.

These protective measures treat women like children, incapable of handling the trials and tribulations of adult life by themselves. And all of it has been fuelled by contemporary feminism, which paints campus as a uniquely dangerous place for women and promotes the bizarre idea that the first step towards gender equality is women insisting they are vulnerable. This is, of course, nonsense. For all the fearmongering about campus rape culture, universities are among the safest places in the country. But in a climate where cat-calling is conflated with sexual assault, and rude jokes are considered traumatising, female students are constantly being encouraged to see themselves as perennial victims.

Why are so many women buying into this? This is not, as some myopic anti-feminists claim, a brainwashing of female students by nutty gender-studies professors. Campus censorship today is driven by a desire to protect those deemed vulnerable. It is this sentiment that drives the calls to censor everyone from UKIP, in order to protect ethnic minorities, to Germaine Greer, in order to protect trans people. The mainstreaming of victim culture on campus, and the accompanying idea that you should never encounter difficult or oppositional ideas, feeds this censorious trend. As the biggest and most significant ‘embattled’ group, women are constantly told that they need to be protected from sexist speech and ideas. Understandably, more women are being drawn into this way of thinking.

We must challenge it. Young women today have the world at their feet. Yet while they should be enjoying their freedom to the full, they are being encouraged to dwell on their own victimhood. This makes a mockery of women’s liberation. Previous gains for women, including getting into what were once male-only universities, were won through a commitment to freedom and autonomy. Young women in the past fought for the freedom to conduct their lives as they saw fit – to say whatever they liked and to sleep with whomever they wanted. Campus identity politics turns all this on its head, insisting that women are vulnerable and weak. It’s time female students threw off this patronising logic once and for all; insisting on free speech for all would be a good place to start.


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