Oxford students pass anti-“hate-speech” motion

Offense for offense, a woke British university can match the likes of The Evergreen State College or Middlebury College any day. British woke schools have included the London School of Economics, the rest of the University of London, and, of course, Oxford University (called “Oggsford” in The Great Gatsby). And Oggsford students has now solidified their credentials by passing an anti-hate-speech resolution, documented in this article in The Oxford Student (click on screenshot):

In short, the Oggsford Student Counci, the decision-making arm of the Student Union, voted 28-11 to officially condemn the use of “hate speech” in courses.  As usual, the definition of “hate speech” is a bit slippery, and in fact the single example of “hate speech” cited below is an issue that truly needs debate.

Excerpts from the article:

A motion which mandates the Oxford University Student Union (SU) to condemn the use of “hateful material” in mandatory teaching was passed in Student Council this Thursday.

The motion also resolves to create a new SU Policy, entitled “Protection of Transgender, Non-binary, Disabled, Working-class, and Women* Students from Hatred in University Contexts”.

Named the ‘Academic Hate Speech Motion’, the motion sets to establish a new policy on hate speech within the University to include ‘incitement of hatred on the grounds of gender identity, disability, and socio economic status, including to trans, non-binary, disabled, working-class, and women*’.

Current University policy on academic free speech protects most academic speech as long as it is within the law. The motion notes that hate speech which is ableist, misogynistic, classist or transphobic is not criminalised but believes that the University should amend the relevant policy to ‘ensure that trans and non-binary people, women, and disabled people receive equivalent protection from hateful speech within University contexts as groups which are protected by the criminal law’.

Ableism, as cited later in the piece, seems to be a particular target of this mandate, which was heavily supported by the Student Union’s Disabilities Campaign, which argues that disabled students are “particularly vulnerable to hate speech.” But are they? How often do you hear people making fun of disabled people? (Trump did it, of course, but he’s an exception.) One explanation may be the sole example of “hate speech” cited in the article:

Under the new policy set by the motion, courses that contain ‘prejudicial content’, such as the FHS Medical Law and Ethics course- which was noted as the sole example in the motion- should revise their course content and reading lists. The motion states that articles on the Medical Law and Ethics reading list are ‘ableist content’. An article entitled “Why We Should Pick the Best Children” advocates for a moral duty not to have disabled children whilst another advocates for the ‘murder of disabled children after they have been born’, the motion noted.

I haven’t been able to find the “Why we should pick the best children” article, but is it beyond debate to prevent the birth of disabled children? I don’t think so. This is in fact what medical geneticists do all the time: advise parents in danger of having a child with sickle-cell anemia or Tay-Sachs disease of the chances their child would be afflicted, so that the parents can decide whether to have a fetus tested early in case they want it aborted. The same goes for Down Syndrome: 7 American states criminalize a woman seeking abortion if they’re doing so because the fetus has the chromosomal condition causing Down Syndrome. Given that abortion is still legal for every other reason so long as it’s early in the pregnancy, this makes no sense.

Further, the article advocating “murder of disabled children after they have been born” is likely one by philosopher Peter Singer, who, like me, thinks it’s not only acceptable but the moral act to euthanize a newborn if it has a condition that will end its life shortly, and after unremitting suffering. (Anencephaly is one such condition.) Surely these issues are worthy of discussion, and it’s not “hate speech” to consider them in a medical ethics class. Such is the slippery slope of “hate speech”.

Is discussing affirmative action “hate speech” against minorities? Not in my book. Should transgender women be able to compete in women’s athletics, with our without hormone treatment or surgery? That is a fascinating topic, but could easily be construed as “hate speech” against gender identity. Yes, discussions will be hot and fraught, but that’s what college is about.

Fortunately, the Oggsford Student Union doesn’t have the power to police what is taught in the classroom, but they can make life miserable for professors. And they’re also calling for trigger warnings:

The motion also mandates the SU to lobby for trigger warnings on readings lists and for lectures, tutorials, and examinations with content deemed prejudicial against the aforementioned groups to be non-compulsory for students. It asserts that arguments based on “free speech policy are inapplicable” when students are “required by the University to listen to the speech in question”.

Well that’s a new one: professors can be censored if they say something controversial, however germane to their course, that could be construed as “hate speech.”  And really, students are that sensitive that they can’t listen to what discomfits them, and then argue back, as they should?

And so Oggsford students, entitled but authoritarian, are trying to carve out more exceptions to free speech.  They really should be mature enough to challenge arguments that they don’t like, but that’s apparently not the case. In their view, speech that makes them uncomfortable should be banned. The next step: construing such speech as “violence.”

 

31 Comments

  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted May 4, 2020 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    How easy it must be to legislate away bigotry and everything else that offends you. Stupid us fighting a civil war over some of this.

  2. Dominic
    Posted May 4, 2020 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    I understand that abortion is now stopped in Texas as it is considered to be elective & so banned due to The Big C…
    Oxford students are over-privileged prannocks, I would say.

    • Dominic
      Posted May 4, 2020 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      I meant to add that it is one thing for “disabled” students to say this, quite another when middle-class people who claim to speak for the disabled. Also, not all “disabled” consider themselves to be disabled.

    • Filippo
      Posted May 5, 2020 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      “Oxford students are over-privileged prannocks . . . .”

      How magnanimous of these elites to be so concerned about the “working class.”

  3. Posted May 4, 2020 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Dawkins has been railing against this on Twitter (which may be where PCC-E saw it?) and points to a report of the University response, rejecting the students’ request.

    • JezGrove
      Posted May 4, 2020 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Coel – good to see a robust response from the university itself.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted May 4, 2020 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the link; until I read that, I was getting embarrassed about this childish posturing from young persons attending my old gaff.

      Despite the citation of ‘medical law and ethics’ as one of the subjects that these pillocks want to censor, I would bet that almost none of them are reading for a degree in any science. I am delighted that the University has in effect told them to f*** off. Next time they should consider telling them to f*** off permanently.

      • Posted May 5, 2020 at 3:29 am | Permalink

        If the Oxford Students’ Union is anything like the SU at my “old gaff” (York), it doesn’t represent the views of the majority of students anyway.

        The SU at my university tended to be dominated by people who wanted to get into politics or who were just Angry at the establishment. Most students’ priorities were getting a degree, getting drunk and getting laid (not necessarily in that order). We only attended the SU meetings for the spectacle (even in those days, the Conservatives were adept at trolling the left wingers and it made good entertainment) or to vote against the really stupid declarations of the mostly socialist leadership.

    • Deodand
      Posted May 4, 2020 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

      Good response, sadly the people behind the request ‘know’ (in the religious sense) that they are right and will come up with all kinds of dismissals.

  4. Graham
    Posted May 4, 2020 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Dare I ask why the word ‘women’ is succeeded by an asterisk?

    • JezGrove
      Posted May 4, 2020 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      I suspect it’s an inclusivity thing like the + at the end of LGBTQIAP+ (although in that case, I’m not sure they would accept “incel” – they’re not that inclusive).

  5. merilee
    Posted May 4, 2020 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  6. Posted May 4, 2020 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Do these young students really believe that if something they consider objectionable isn’t spoken, it doesn’t injure anyone and it goes away? All it does is make such thoughts remain in mind unspoken, but still believed, and to one day erupt more vehemently. Perhaps with violence.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 4, 2020 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    “Protection of Transgender, Non-binary, Disabled, Working-class, and Women* Students from Hatred in University Contexts”.

    “In University Contexts”? How does this differ from the straightforward “at this University”?

    Freakin’ academics (and would-be academics in the student body) — they write almost as poorly as freakin’ lawyers. In both instances, much of it is jargon-ridden sludge.

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 4, 2020 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    The same goes for Down Syndrome: 7 American states criminalize a woman seeking abortion if they’re doing so because the fetus has the chromosomal condition causing Down Syndrome. Given that abortion is still legal for every other reason so long as it’s early in the pregnancy, this makes no sense.

    It’s not meant to make sense; it’s meant to be the camel’s nose under the tent.

  9. max blancke
    Posted May 4, 2020 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Once you have passed the restrictions, you need to put yourself in the position to define what “hate speech” is, exactly. That put you in a position of power somewhat comparable to the person who counts the votes.

  10. DrBrydon
    Posted May 4, 2020 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know why these students’ parents are bothering to send them to university; they clearly already know everything.

  11. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted May 4, 2020 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Such is the slippery slope of “hate speech”.

    trying to carve out more exceptions to free speech.

    Here we go again: there is no slippery slope if it is the law of the land. “Hate speech laws in England and Wales are found in several statutes.” [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hate_speech_laws_in_the_United_Kingdom ]

    And they are compromised – put against – other rights under the same statutes of UDHR. There is nothing explicit about harassment, except article 12:

    “Article 12.

    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

    “Article 19.

    Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

    Now how that relates to students going beyond the law is doubtful. I don’t think they should do it, because as you say then it isn’t regulated.

  12. Posted May 4, 2020 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    “Hate” speech–and “harmful” speech, “demeaning” speech, “racially charged” speech, and speech that “glorifies” violence are such elastic and entirely subjective concepts (and concepts inevitably subject to being warped by political bias). The dangers to academic freedom and to free expression posed by these Oxford students and the same dangers posed by the logic and arguments of the open letter posted on the U of C’s English department’s website.

  13. Deodand
    Posted May 4, 2020 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Remember that a fair chunk of those students probably believe something like this statement from a YouTube video since deleted (I found the complete statement in a response video.) by a Canadian Student in 2012.

    “Free speech is the right to educated speech. If you utilize your right to ‘freedom of speech’ but then are socially or politically apathetic, you don’t vote, educate yourself on social issues, if you are not involved in the community, if you are not involved in being a citizen, an educated citizen, you have no right to free speech.”

    Quite simply, agree with us or have your words censored and be subjected to ostracism by the ‘moral elite’.

  14. Richard Metzler
    Posted May 5, 2020 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    They took great care in naming their proposition to protect everyone from hate… except able-bodied, well-off cis men. Funny how that works – it’s almost like they hate men…?

    • Posted May 5, 2020 at 6:33 am | Permalink

      Yes, I noticed that too. It’s OK to abuse able white men, just because.

  15. peepuk
    Posted May 5, 2020 at 4:32 am | Permalink

    I probably will have less a problem with this kind of paternalism if the damage, caused by some words or phrases, is quantifiable. Currently this seems only to be based on opinions about how people should feel.

  16. mfdempsey1946
    Posted May 5, 2020 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    The list of formerly reputable universities that prospective students should steer clear of grows steadily longer.

  17. Shawn
    Posted May 6, 2020 at 3:46 am | Permalink

    Regarding your flippant remark that Trump “mocked the disabled”- sorry, but THAT DID NOT HAPPEN. That was a case of the media lying and manipulating information to make it APPEAR that way to further their anti Trump agenda, just like they did after the Charlottesville incident, where they claimed Trump claimed “white nationalists were fine people”. He DID NOT.

    Immediately after he said “fine people on both sides” (which he was referring to people ON BOTH SIDES of the statue removal debate) he said (I’m paraphrasing) “But NOT the white nationalists, they should be totally denounced”, the media edited his speech to purposely exclude that remark, so they could claim he was “praising white nationalists”.

    The gay man who started the “Walk Away” movement, Brandon Straka, has a video where he debunks the claim that Trump “mocked a disabled reporter”. If you watch it, and are intellectually honest, you’ll see that Trump DID NOT “mock” his disability. The video is only about 6 minutes but if you only want to see that segment, go to about 2:05

    As far as the rest of the article, yes, this idea of “hate speech” is ludicrous. And as others have mentioned, it doesn’t seem to apply to straight, white men. Or even gay white men, for that matter.

    • Posted May 6, 2020 at 4:26 am | Permalink

      Sorry, it’s clear from the video, the reporter himself, and the analysis here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/08/02/donald-trumps-revisionist-history-of-mocking-a-disabled-reporter/
      That Trump mocked the disabled reporter.

      As fr the “fine people on both sides remark’, Trump had to backtrack on that after ten days. You can see the transcript of his largely incoherent remarks after ten days at PolitiFact: https://www.politifact.com/article/2019/apr/26/context-trumps-very-fine-people-both-sides-remarks/

      Nobody said in the original report that Trump said “white nationalists were fine people”; he said, and it was reported, that “there were fine people on both sides.” That’s a dog whistle.

      At that time he deided he had taken too much flak for what he said and so backtracked. The media did not edit his original remarks; he editied his original remarks by backtracking ten days later.

      You are the one who is not intellectually honest, and have lied about the disabled reported and distorted the time line of Trump’s remarks in Charlottesville.

    • sugould
      Posted May 7, 2020 at 6:15 am | Permalink

      Mr Trump used to says things, then a few days later would claim“I never said that.” Then it became, “What I meant was…” Now we’re supposed to buy “I was being sarcastic.”

      I guess his current “I take no responsibility at all,” covers everything he says, too. I does seem like it.

    • Filippo
      Posted May 8, 2020 at 12:23 am | Permalink

      ‘ . . . Brandon Straka, has a video where he debunks the claim that Trump “mocked a disabled reporter”.’

      What does the underlying music add to this video? I guess market researchers have determined that the typical viewer has a short attention span and has to be entertained.

      Trump did mock the reporter. At the same time, did the reporter insist on pursuing his line of questioning, although it was reasonably another reporter’s turn? (No excuse for Trump’s mocking.)

  18. Posted May 6, 2020 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Are christophobic speech included among ‘hate speech’?

  19. Carmen Lee
    Posted May 18, 2020 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Online Aggression: A Linguistic Perspective and commented:
    Anti-hate speech motion at Oxford University: “Named the ‘Academic Hate Speech Motion’, the motion sets to establish a new policy on hate speech within the University to include ‘incitement of hatred on the grounds of gender identity, disability, and socio economic status, including to trans, non-binary, disabled, working-class, and women.”


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