Universities should be intellectually diverse from top to bottom, rather than echo chambers of left wing opinion.

It’s far better to have a liberal system of open debate – especially in universities – with no restrictions on speech, bar the unwritten rules of decency and respect which tend to get reaffirmed by students and staff alike in properly managed places of learning. This is particularly important because, sadly, that poster was far from my only experience of a clear left-wing bias within academia.

I recently went to see another Sussex academic about my interest in studying the work of Edmund Burke, who is considered one of the founding fathers of conservatism. Just two minutes into our discussion, I referred to a well-known admirer of Burke, the eminent contemporary conservative philosopher, Sir Roger Scruton. The lecturer’s face dropped as soon as Scruton’s name passed my lips. In what appeared to be an only half-joking tone, he replied, “you aren’t some kind of rabid conservative, are you?” I should have replied with, “you, sir, are supposed to be an academic who cares about intellectual diversity, so why would it matter if I was?” Instead I sat rather awkwardly and tried to bluster my way through explaining that I wasn’t yet entirely sure what I believed in.

This lecturer may well be perfectly fair-minded to all political persuasions. But his assumption that I would naturally be left-wing suggests a dangerous climate of conformity. And when students are confronted with remarks and attitudes like his, how are they to be sure they will be treated unfairly? Why shouldn’t they be worried about the way their work will be judged? Why did he think that was an appropriate thing to say?

The central point is that universities should be intellectually diverse from top to bottom, rather than echo chambers of left wing opinion.  Whilst there are some small, encouraging signs of open-mindedness amongst the student body, there seems to be a worrying aversion to the Right amongst academics, and a similarly disturbing desire to control dissenting opinions that are considered beyond the pale. As a response, perhaps students should organise a discussion aimed at ‘dealing with’ the aversion to the Right in academia. With any luck, it’ll shake them out of their caustic and prejudiced myopia.

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