Sunday, October 29, 2017

Students' union is accused of creating 'police state' as it pays 'safe space marshals' to go to speaker meeting to check no one voices 'offensive' views

A students' union pays for £12-per-hour 'safe space marshals' to police external speakers to make sure they do not voice views that are offensive to the audience.

King's College Students' Union requires marshals to attend events with a phone so they can take 'immediate action' if anyone expresses opinions thought to discriminate against ethnic or sexual minorities.

They monitor any speaker thought likely to perpetrate a 'safe space breach', which included Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg - who was watched by a total of three marshals at a talk last Wednesday.

The officials are also required to put up posters saying, 'This is a Safe Space' and record any instances of offensive behaviour reported to them by members of the audience.

The students' union is required to provide marshals for events where speakers are judged to have a 'medium or high' risk of breaking its safe space policies under central university rules.

University staff reserve the right to cancel a speaker if the society does not allow one to attend.

Mr Rees-Mogg spoke at King's College Conservative Association, where audience members mocked the marshals by holding up safe space posters before the talk.

The marshals are told to look out for discrimination based on ‘any distinction’, including 'age, race and gender identity'. 

Mr Rees-Mogg, who was not initially aware of the marshals’ presence, told MailOnline: ‘When I arrived I was told that there was a safe space policy.

‘The point of university is to have vigorous debate and the safe spaces approach is the antithesis of what university should be about. ‘If people don’t like what is being said they can go to other meetings.’

The marshals are recruited and funded by the KCL students' union. An online advert for the post offers free weekly yoga and spin classes as part of the contract.

Potential applicants are expected to have a 'good level of education' and knowledge of its safe space policy.

Mr Rees-Mogg described the idea of safe spaces as antagonistic to free speech, saying universities were 'very weak' on the issue.

'Universities should not be encouraging safe spaces, they should be encouraging free speech,' he said. ‘That would be a much better approach than imposing additional bureaucracy on the heads of student societies.'

The students' union also provides safe space marshals with a pension contribution of up to 6%, monthly healthy lunches, birthday treats and unlimited cups of tea and coffee. Successful applicants are also allowed 30 days off a year, or can boost their salaries to £13.32 an hour from the usual £11.89 by accepting holiday pay.

Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent, said: 'You could not make this up. 'The logic of employing someone to patrol the campus for safe space violations is to turn KCL into a mini, soft police state.

'Next they'll be employing monitors to listen in to lectures. It pays better than a bar-job so they are unlikely to have a shortage of applicants.'

King's Libertarian Society is made up of students opposed to the students' union's 'deeply patronising' safe space policy.

The group, which claims to command 'substantial support' from the student body, describes the marshals as a 'drain on resources' and a threat to free speech.

It adds in a Facebook post: 'It creates an environment in which students are treated as if they need chaperones and supervisors to hold their events.

'That is deeply patronising and takes away student autonomy over their societies.'

The safe space marshals programme dates back to 2015, although James Findon, a member of the Conservative Society, said it was 'still news' to many students.

Jack Emsley, editor of The 1828, the Conservative Association Journal said: 'The students' union is intolerant of opposing ideas and uses Safe Space as an effective smoke screen.

‘It’s telling that a MP needed safe space marshals to watch over him but that the same procedure failed to prevent anti-Israeli activists from calling for violence against Jewish Israeli students last year.'

A King's College London spokesman told MailOnline: 'Universities have a unique challenge to create environments in which open and uncensored debate from all sides on issues of political, scientific, moral, ethical and religious significance can take place without fear of intimidation and within the framework of the law.

'We are proud of our diverse community and are absolutely committed to academic freedom and free, peaceful and respectful dialogue where people have conflicting views.'

President of King’s College London Students’ Union, Momin Saqib said: 'Our Safe Space Policy was agreed by students in 2013 and again in 2015. It is essentially an anti-harassment policy protecting both our students and the speakers they invite.

'KCLSU has never banned a speaker from speaking because of our safe space policy.

'Moreover, we strongly support free speech- and KCLSU student groups are able to host over a thousand external speakers across our 330 Clubs and Activity groups every year.' 


Scotland: Boardroom gender rules ‘won’t work at universities’

A law designed to boost the number of women in boardrooms could backfire by deterring applications from men from minority groups, Scotland’s education sector has warned.

Universities and colleges have expressed concern over the SNP legislation that will compel them to take steps to ensure an equal number of men and women hold non-executive boardroom roles.

The proposed law, outlined in the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill, will also apply to bodies such as the NHS, government quangos and the Scottish Police Authority.

Education leaders have questioned the need for legislation after claiming the sector has already succeeded in driving up the number of women holding roles on governing bodies. They also fear that a change in law could have unintended consequences.


Australia: Concerns as identity politics creep into the classroom

English students face being drilled in the politics of class, race, gender and sexuality, as an influential teacher advocacy group seeks to push social justice issues into the classroom.

The Victorian Association for the Teaching of English, a professional body backed by the state government, will host its annual conference next month, unveiling a program to highlight “the iconoclasts, the dissidents and the marginalised” and celebrate individ­uals “who will not, or cannot, swim in the mainstream”.

Headlining the two-day event will be former Australian Human Rights Commission president ­Gillian Triggs and GetUp! campaigner Shen Narayanasamy, who will deliver keynote speeches. Left-leaning political commentator Van Badham will also appear as a guest speaker.

The focus of the event, which VATE president Emily Frawley confirmed had been designed with social justice in mind, has alarmed some education experts, who have questioned the role of “political activists” at the event and the push to embed divisive “identity politics” into the curriculum.

Sessions include “Stand Up For The Outsiders’’, which will explore teaching strategies for ­“empowering students to speak to issues of class, gender and race”, and ‘‘We Want Gender Equality’’, on “how the plight of woman over time has not changed”. There will also be a discussion of Jeanette Winterson’s 1987 novel The ­Passion, which is billed as “post modernism, queer theory and a romping tale to boot”, while ­‘‘Reflections On Growing Up ­Different In Australia’’ will look at “migration, racism and identity” in various texts.

Another session will advise teachers how to deliver the Victorian government’s Respectful Relationships program — a family violence initiative criticised for pushing gender theory onto children — through English texts in the middle years.

Details of the conference have emerged in the wake of research by the Institute of Public Affairs that pointed to a rise of identity politics in university history courses.

The IPA’s Western civilisation program director Bella d’Abrera questioned what “political activists” were doing at a conference “about English teaching to schoolchildren”.

“This conferences shows that identity politics has not also permeated the teaching of history in Australian universities, but it is also deeply embedded in English teaching in Victorian secondary schools,” Dr d’Abrera said. “There is no place for identity politics in our classrooms.”

Australian Catholic University senior research fellow Kevin ­Donnelly said it was disappointing to see teachers emphasise ideology over good grammar, spelling, punctuation and literary appreciation.

“Instead of English teaching being about giving a balanced view of literature, it’s now more about offering a critique of society, particularly Western society, misogyny, inequality and capitalism,” Dr Donnelly said.

“A lot of kids leave school without a strong foundation of what is good or bad literature.”

Dr Donnelly, a former English teacher and one-time member of VATE, said the association ­appeared to have been captured by the left.

Ms Frawley defended the conference, which had always “traversed the educational, cultural, political landscape”. This year’s event would feature “diverse line-up of presenters”, she said.

“The brief of all presenters is to speak to the themes of the conference, drawing on their expertise and considering their audience,” Ms Frawley said. “We want English teachers to be engaged and challenged, to consider how they can best stand up for their students, and what the role of English content and pedagogy is here.”

Ms Frawley confirmed that the organisation received funds from the department for a range of programs, but the conference itself was not government-funded.


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