Academic Freedom Ceases to Exist for Students | Ramsha Khan
In 2020, it cannot be denied that there is a dominance of left-wing, socially progressive views in academia, and is a shrinking space for freedom of thought and critical thinking. Institutions and places of academia have for years, cultivated a fixation for identity obsessed social justice, which has become the dominating discourse of today’s culture and politics.
It is not a secret that left-wing elitism is rampant in universities; campuses are so overwhelmingly liberal that conservatives often hide their opinions. For example, in education, the inclination to discriminate against students, employees and visitors with a differing opinions or ideological differences is clear; it was reported by Friedersorf in early 2020, that conservative students in colleges are documented to self-censor their political opinions. Friedersorf argued “While majorities favour more viewpoint diversity and free-speech norms, an intolerant faction of roughly a quarter of students believe it is okay to silence or suppress some widely held views that they deem wrong.”
It is obvious that, alternative opinions, especially conservative views in academic institutions in 2020, largely remain to be inadequately represented. This is worrying as such a lack of perspective within education is a testament that academic freedom in universities is essentially under threat.
Consequently, campus cultures wars have led to a lack of diversity of opinion in academia; furthering fierce political correctness and group think (which is almost always expected) at all times. Meaningful discourse in places of academia are often viewed from the lens of identity politics and intersectionality; but in an open and fair society, others should be free to challenge and question this narrative. This is often not permitted.
With my personal experience, it can be said that challenging left-wing ideas such as intersectionality in academia can often land students such as myself with nasty labels. Objective truth or lived experiences of independent minds are often dismissed under the guise of “social justice”. There is no shortage of far-left political activism in campuses focusing extensively on pseudo-issues such as “diversity” and third wave feminism and less on critical learning.
Evidently, a dangerous precedent is set when the pursuit for intellectual discourse for understanding society, is set on systemic socially progressive biases in academia. It is concerning, that independent thinking towards political attitudes in educational institutions are deemed as controversial, when they are perceived as a danger to holy left-wing norms and beliefs.
For example, Cambridge University did not extend the privileges of free speech to conservatives such as Jordan Peterson, who was revoked from visiting the college for taking a picture with a fan wearing an offensive T-shirt. The same privileges were also not extended to researcher, Noah Carl, who was dismissed for his role at Cambridge due to research he was undertaking on human intelligence, which was deemed to be unethical. The University, on the other hand, has no problem with Professor Priyamvada Gopal tweeting that ‘white lives do not matter’.
It is disingenuous to believe that only one perspective exists to make sense of the world we live in. Academia should be about nurturing an independent mind not constraining it. In these current times where statues and monuments are toppled, and conversations about Britain’s colonial past are rampant; it should not be controversial to state that colonialism is long over and the dreadful history of an empire, does not make its people guilty today. Academic freedom evidently will cease to exist if this is left unchallenged.
Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr.