CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Our Campus Censors

May 20, 2008

One of the great achievements of the West is the university, where the free exchange of ideas takes place, and various points of view can be thrashed out openly and without fear of reprisal or discrimination. At least that’s the theory, anyhow. For quite some time that was more or less the case. But in these days of political correctness, and the stranglehold of left/liberalism, it is getting harder and harder to have a genuine free flow of ideas on most campuses.

Indeed, many Western universities are now places where a liberal education has given way to an illiberal education. The hegemony of the secular left is extremely hard to break through nowadays, and those who dare to dissent from the PC point of view do so at some considerable risk.

Numerous examples of this can be offered. Indeed, whole books have been written on this topic. Two older critiques of Western higher education were Allan Bloom’s 1987 volume, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students, and Dinesh D’Souza’s Illiberal Education (1991).

More recent exposes include Freefall of the American University by Jim Nelson Black (2004), and Indoctrination U:The Left’s War Against Academic Freedom by David Horowitz (2007). In Australia Kevin Donnelly has penned several volumes also looking at the sad state of contemporary education: Why Our Schools are Failing (2004), and Dumbing Down (2007).

As noted, there are plenty of examples of leftist indoctrination, political correctness, and campus censorship. The most recent was reported in the press a few days ago. It involved a campus group which wanted to display posters and brochures which showed a picture of an eight-week old unborn baby.

The campus group was gagged by the University of Queensland, and put on 12 months’ probation. The group was ordered to vet all future material by three officials. The group had simply wanted to display the material near the student cafe.

The student union President had this to say in defence of the censorship: “the student union voted in 1993 for free, safe abortion on demand so all women have a genuine choice when faced with unwanted pregnancy”. It seems that only a small minority of students voted on that referendum, with about 1900 pro-choice votes, 1400 against and 200 abstaining. The UQ has a student population of 30,000.

When asked if the vote precluded other viewpoints being put forward in debate on campus he said: “It does”. So much, it appears, for freedom of speech and diversity of opinion. It seems that a mere six per cent of the student body can hold the rest of the students captive to their particular ideology and agenda.

Such is the state of most university campuses today. There are certain topics which are simply off limits. Abortion is one such topic. Homosexuality is another. So too is evolution, or challenges to it. There are certain issues which are simply taboo in Western universities, and if dissidents dare speak up to the contrary, they can expect swift and harsh punishment by the campus thought police.

In the former Soviet Union dissidents were sent to the Gulag for daring to question the official State line. Increasingly, students or staff who dare to challenge the PC orthodoxies on campus are likewise sent to the academic Gulag, be it in the form of bans, fines, censorship or public humiliation.

But it is worth looking further at the lame excuse offered by the student union President. A 15-year-old referendum on the issue of abortion, which only a minority of students participated in, is now the basis of complete campus censorship on the issue. Amazing!

So let me see if I have this straight. If, say, 20 years ago a mere fraction of the student population voted to support Apartheid, does that mean that the campus must even today ban any discussion which dares to question that decision? Is that the story?

Or what if 1900 students voted a few decades ago to allow only pro-American political speakers on campus? Does that mean all critics of American foreign policy must still be gagged today?

Or as one letter writer put it, “If it’s consistent, the union must now oppose any attempt by Kevin Rudd to reintroduce the republic issue because the question was settled in the 1999 referendum.” Indeed, what kind of imbecile and brain-dead idea is this? A tiny handful of students are deciding what issues can and cannot even be discussed on campus. This is clearly a case of academic totalitarianism. It is certainly not academic freedom.

One used to think that the university was a place where all the big ideas could be discussed and debated, knowing that a free society depends upon a free flow of ideas and beliefs. But it seems today there is only one set of ideas and beliefs which are permissible on campus: those of the secular left. And woe to those who dare to question the perceived wisdom.

No wonder we are dumbing down our students. Instead of teaching them to think and question and follow various points of view, they are being told what to think. Any dissent is met with swift reaction. Halls of higher education are now simply halls of higher indoctrination and propaganda.

A free people depend upon the free flow of ideas and information. As the universities move to further restrict such freedoms, the freedom of society as a whole will also shrink. People from around the world used to risk their lives to come to a free and open West. How long before that traffic starts moving in the other direction?

www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23700857-5006786,00.html

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20 Responses to Our Campus Censors

  • Bill,

    While I agree this seems like a particularly stupid example of censorship, it wasn’t the university that gagged them, it was the Students Union. And the Union President and his so-called “Fresh” team are associated with the Liberal Party, so I question your connection of this act with the political left unless you think the Liberals are now a left-wing party. But the Liberals seem to be lurching even further to the right if the NSW Branch is any guide.

    Student Unions are well known for attracting extremists from both sides of politics and for exhibiting the most crass and juvenile behaviour. I don’t think you can use this example to imply the demise of freedom of speech in universities generally.

    Steve Angelino, WA

  • The British government, even as I type and unless God intervenes, is bringing in a tangled web of laws that will allow the development of half animal, half human embryos, the facilitating of even more easier abortions, the enabling of children to be born without either a mother of father, the producing of design catalogue children and, thrown in for good measure, at the end of May, I believe, the freedom to blaspheme God’s name. Listening to the debates, one is struck how reasoned argument counts for nothing and how the views of Christian MPs in particular are treated with the utmost contempt. Surely one of the prerequisits for debate is respect for another’s views and the ability to reason. The alternative is, as evolutionary humanism takes hold, for tyranny and oppression. If we really value our freedom to express thought, we are now going to have to fight for it, as did our ancestors, rather than, as we have been doing for too long, presuming that it will always be there.
    David Skinner, UK

  • Well put Bill.

    The bizarre thing about this incident is that the student union probably thinks it is championing women’s rights, when in reality it is denying women information. It seems they are afraid that women will make different decisions if relevant information (i.e. pictures of a baby at various stages of development) is provided. If abortion is all fine and dandy, why should these pictures be any worry at all?

    This is certainly a case of what to think over how to think. Hopefully students will see such suppression of information and opinion for what it is: an indication of the intellectual weakness of the suppressors’ position, and an insult to the students’ intelligence.

    Samuel Sparks, Qld

  • Thanks Steve

    But as I said, there are plenty of examples of university censorship, including those found in the 6 books I mentioned. And actually the Young Liberals are moving ever leftward, unfortunately. There is nothing conservative about a pro-death position. Conservatives care for unborn babies – it’s the political left that goes on about “choice” and other furphies.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • What is Steve Angelino talking about re “….Liberals seem to be lurching even further to the right….”? If the federal Liberal opposition is any guide then they are lurching further to the Left.

    Ewan McDonald.

  • Bill
    At the risk of letting economic argument become intertwined in morality, we see estimates of 100,000s of vacant jobs for WA in the near future many of which we could have filled to the nation’s benefit if those people had been allowed to grow and contribute to their nation. But we terminated their lives and ask the government what they are doing about the skilled labour shortfall. Really – the utter stupidity of it, not to mention the terrifying holocaust that goes on under our noses each year.
    David Grace

  • Hi Bill,

    As a UQ student, I can vouch for the fact that there is a leftist and/or anti-Christian atmosphere in many cases.

    I am only loosely involved with a Christian group on campus and was unaware of this incident involving the Newman society until reading your article.

    There are often posters on campus that disgust me, but it also goes without saying that “freedom of speech” while able to be used against my interests, cannot necessarily be used to voice my own concerns or certain truths.

    The unions are capable of providing valuable services for students, however there does appear to be a tendency for them to overstep their usefulness and enter the realm of unpleasantness…

    Yarran

  • I recall many years ago being asked to speak on behalf of the Liberal Party against the Australia Card, proposed by the then Hawke Government. Whilst sharing my concern about the Australia Card, I recall how my speech was carefully “managed” by the Student Union at Latrobe. They were very concerned that my Liberal Party association could be harmful to their impending election. It was obvious to me that they could barely tolerate an alliance with “the other side” on this issue.

    Peter Coventry

  • Thanks Yarran

    While I normally do not allow comments without a full name, in your case I will make an exception, as it may be costly for you otherwise. Thanks for your thoughts on the UQ scene.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • A rhetorical question to the Student Union, if I may, please.

    Would the posters have been acceptable if they had been mounted on the wall of the Obstetrics Department of the Faculty of Medicine (hypothetically – the outside wall facing the lawn in front of the Student Union building)?

    Your answer is limited to a choice of ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

    John Angelico

  • The premise they use to justify this anti-intellectual silencing of debate is fatally flawed as you point out here, Bill. But somehow I don’t think they’re listening to our criticism here if they’re trying to silence it there.
    Abortion is perhaps the greatest evil of our time. The bill David Skinner mentions above being pushed through in the U.K. right now was, in the Guardian, described as ‘rejecting the need for father’. I wonder if the implication is, as well, rejecting the need for Father (God). The horrors going on in the laboratories of the west are truly sickening. It’s like some grotesque B-grade movie come true. And the perpetrators of this crime are bringing a curse down upon the head of our civilization. God help us.
    Dee Graf

  • Can not the students appeal to the Dean or actual administration? Does the Student Union have this type of power? Doesn’t this violate some kind of “free speech” law? Reminds me of this vandalism in the USA by student union rep (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5NeLyMZUYM ). Protest was legally sanctioned and had previously been vandalized the night before. Though I hate to use a reducto ad hitlerium argument but it is certainly very totalitarian. People have been brainwashed pretty effectively over the last decades.

    David G,
    I couldn’t agree more. The insanity of a society and world which prefers extinction to stopping murder is crazy. The USSR had MORE abortions than births last year! Politicians are doing their best to promote more children with one hand but with the other condoning abortion and the destruction of the family. Irony?

    Ban abortions and you solve your population crisis in one fell swoop. Politically Correct Death quotes a study which shows the economic loss of each aborted baby. I can’t remember the exact figures off the top of my head by each male net contribution to the US economy (so minus all costs) over his lifetime was 1.1 million dollars while a female was $900k. Not to mention the other benefits of having all those children around today as adults raising their own families and such.

    Fifty percent of the peers of the current generation of children at high school today didn’t make it out of the womb…

    Michael Mifsud

  • I find it one of life’s great ironies that Christians are berated for having a one-eyed view of things, and yet Christians stand for, and often give their lives for freedom of speech, the right to discuss and challenge ideas. While I may not agree with the Jehovah’s Witnesses from a doctrinal viewpoint I have to admire that their fortitude and perserverance in the US established and retained freedoms for all Americans, and were one of the first groups to openly stand against Nazi tyranny. I am sure Bill and others could give many examples (Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery etc.) of Christians standing up against one-eyed and enslaving ideologies for the betterment of mankind.

    However, and this is where the irony comes in, so many of those who fight against Christians such as homosexual lobbyists, feminists, atheists, muslims [the list is long] openly state that if they could they would silence Christians. In fact how often have we heard such groups state that it is their *right* to be heard and allowed to air, teach, yes even preach their views, and yet when they gain the power to limit, block or silence any alternative message they use it with a vengence.

    Garth Penglase

  • Hi Bill,

    I am a University student as well. I am currently studying through Murdoch University WA. I have been studying Security and Terrorism. I was failed on my first essay because I used my brain and found other information to support my arguments not just the text books that we have.

    I do agree that we are no longer allowed to think for our selves but are told what we are to think. This is not higher education. We go to these universities to learn and to use our brain and discuss issues. These universities are being paid to teach us but from the experience that I have had so far they cannot be bothered to do so.

    I do not see how we are to learn as a student if we are no longer allowed to think?

    Fiona Caldwell, Clifton, QLD

  • The gravest danger is the way the law no longer refers to reason or common sense. As Schaeffer suggested somewhere we will all have to be linked up to a central computer that gives us for any second either what the fluctuating consenus of opinion is or simply what a tyrant thinks at that moment. I think it will be the latter.
    David Skinner, UK

  • I too would be interested in knowing whether any Christian group on campus has mounted any challenge to the Union’s dictates. I hated Compulsory Student Unionism when I was at UQ and hate it now.
    Graeme Cumming

  • One salient point must be highlighted here when commenting on the Student Union’s ban on this poster. It was on or outside Student Union premises. Displaying it there requires the permission of the Union. Perhaps they should have investigated this first before going ahead. A lot of groups within universities act independently without consulation. Perhaps the particular action in this case was deliberately provocative and has elicited the dismay and support it was designed to engage. If that is the case then legitimate Christian causes have been meted a disservice that only results in future protestations being categorised with these leftist ‘styled’ groups who are more activist than led by God. Anything we do that it not governed by God’s leading is chaff.

    That said if the group had also encountered the same ideologically driven opposition from the governing university boards/councils over displaying the posters on, say public noticeboards or at registration, then there is an even better case for discrimination and censorship.

    The Enemy likes to infiltrate and destablise from within. Beware the angel of light.

    Post script:

    Although the student population is 30,000 once you have taken away all those who are not able to vote as they are off campus at the time the elections are made.

    Usually elections are during the day (excluding all part-time students) and then at a location where the demographics favour the outcome. Thus the votes maybe representative of the intentions of the Student Union leftist faction.

    Peter Colsell

  • Let Steve Angelino have no doubts about the left in the Liberal Party. They are there and in NSW are called the Group.
    Greg Brien

  • My university experience was in SA during the early 1960’s and I belonged to the Student’s Union. In those days that body looked after the well-being of students as students, not their social values or morality. My daughter has just finished eight years as a uni student and there is little doubt her life view has changed leaving her in conflict with the outside world she now has to cope with as a clinical psychologist. I only hope she survives.
    Peter Rice

  • The “Fresh” Student Union at UQ obviously thinks that a very un-‘fresh’ legislation brought in by a minority of students 15-odd years ago is good enough excuse to block women of their right to know the facts about abortion. This legislation approves of giving women a “genuine choice”, but I don’t see how gagging half the side of the issue is offering them a genuine choice!

    This attack on free speech, women and unborn children, and the subsequent threat of disaffiliation by the President himself is a case of fascism in my own country! Unbelievable.

    Stephen Purcell

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