Big Brother arrives at the University of St Andrews

October 1, 2021 • 9:15 am

The University of St Andrews loves Big Brother, for the school is enforcing an invidious form of mind control on entering students. You have to take a “bias test”, and if you don’t conform by answering questions correctly in a test of Wokeness, you don’t get to take classes. Read on.

I got two tweets this morning (below) about what’s going on at the school in the eponymous and historic Scottish town. The first tweet showed a woke phrase underlined, while the second gives most of the full article, which came from The Times of London (it’s paywalled for me, but the link is at the screenshot below.) You can also find the story at GB News or The Daily Fail, which don’t add much information. But good luck trying to find it at the Guardian!

At any rate, you can read most of the story from The Times at the enlarged photo below (click on it twice to read) or a shorter version at The Fail.

Click once or twice to enlarge:

The Fail finishes the student’s quote:

One student blasted the move, saying it forces them to agree with claims that contradict academic free speech.

She told the Times: ‘I wasn’t happy with it, effectively you had to agree with what they’re saying and these statements weren’t factual things, these were opinions.’

She said it was putting freshers between a rock and a hard place because they did not want to start at the university by complaining.

She added: ‘It seems like they [the university] are pushing an agenda and it appears performative and contrary to academic freedom and freedom of thought.’

I’ll assume that the questions asked of the students are true, although The Fail says that the Uni says the Times report is “inaccurate and misleading”. But the content seems to be correct. Here’s what the Fail says about the University’s response.

A spokesmen for St Andrews University said: ‘The Times report is inaccurate and misleading. These modules have been in place at St Andrews for several years.

‘With exception of the good academic practice training, all of these modules were introduced at St Andrews in response to clearly expressed student demand.

‘Our students pushed for the mandatory consent module, wrote the sustainability module, and were central members of the EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) group which brought in the mandatory diversity module.

‘The modules were developed to align with St Andrews’ strategic priorities (diversity, inclusion, social responsibility, good academic practice, and zero tolerance for GBV) and help develop skills and awareness valuable to life at university, and beyond.

‘In our experience, students recognise the value of these courses, and we have encountered only one complainer in the past five years.’

Note there is no denial by the University of the content of the modules as reported by the Times.

Of course the issue here is not student pushback (what student would object to this?; most are probably self-censoring), and one beefing student may not express general sentiment. Nor is the issue who designed the modules, for in Nineteen Eighty-Four the populace is enlisted in its own oppression.

The issue is freedom of speech and thought, and that is what these modules are squelching. They are enforcing a conformity of thought to which you must adhere before you can even start your studies! You can see what the students are supposed to think: they must acknowledge their “guilt” (inquiries suggest this is “white guilt”). As for “we should treat everyone the same”, in some respect that is true—for moral equality and, with respect to civility, in personal interactions.. But every professor knows that students are unequal in their abilities and some may need extra tutoring or office hours. No professor (this test is for students only) would say that “all students should be treated equally,” as that doesn’t even ensure equality of opportunity. You can see how a question like this is ambiguous and could confuse the students.

And you have to agree with the notion that everyone has (unconscious?) biases and stereotypes.  I have no idea what the Dundee and biodiversity questions are about.

Regardless of this parsing, though, having this test administered before starting school, being required to pass it and mouth certain answers, is St Andrews forcing ideology down the throats of its students. The quoted student is much wiser than the University when she says, “It seems like they [the university] are pushing an agenda and it appears performative and contrary to academic freedom and freedom of thought.”

She’s wrong only when saying “it seems like”. No, that is exactly what they are doing.  As you see, the creeping rot is on both sides of the Atlantic.

40 thoughts on “Big Brother arrives at the University of St Andrews

  1. I expect this has been discussed somewhere, but how exactly does one “treat people differently, in a way that is appropriate to their needs so that they have fair outcomes and equal opportunity” in a class?

    1. When I was at UCL’s Library that dealt with Deafness, we long ago realized that appropriate equal access meant giving help according to needs. “From each according to abilities, to each according to his needs.” Not controversial. But perhaps it just means things like helping or supporting students with say dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression etc? Not sure…

      1. I was later thinking my ‘plaint was off-kilter. Of course we give opportunities of help for those who seem to need it. Remedial classes, office hours, tutoring, and much more. We do that for everybody. But of course the implication of the article is that they are to treat people differently based on their skin color.

    1. The Guardian failed to mention the fact David Miller accused Jewish student at the university of been “pawns of Israel”. In fact, the crank is absolutely obsessed with Israel, and produces InfoWars-style diagrams supposedly showing how Israel controls everything, including policies at his [former] university. In his response to being fired, he blames [want to guess]……Israel. Of course, he does.

      Oh, and something else the Guardian didn’t mention. He’s part of a “working group” of professors, racists, and cranks who are deeply involved in pro-Assad war crime denial, insisting that Assad’s chemical weapon attacks were all “staged.”

      PS Some might remember that when it was announced Miller was been investigated, two petitions were launched – one demanding action to be taken against him, one defending Miller. Judith Butler signed both!

      PPS – You won’t be surprised that the antisemitic “Zei_Squirrel” is a keen defender of him. Wouldn’t be surprised if Mano Singham of FTB is an admirer. He likes his antisemitic cranks.

      1. Whilst I agree with what you say, it is a part of free speech is we have to accept people we regard as evil or fools speaking.

        1. But we do not have to hire them to teach our students.
          If he did anything tied up with his employment at that university which was similar to some listed above, dump him, with no negativity towards free speech in such a case.

  2. “… all of these modules were introduced at St Andrews in response to clearly expressed student demand.”

    What that means is that some students asked for them. One should not regard “students” as all having the same opinions. The right to disagree with other students is crucial.

    1. I bet thry never polled. What happened was a few academics in gender studies and black studies put their students up to demanding it.

      95% would vote against it so thry never ask.

  3. “I, the undersigned entering student, agree to treat others with the same respect, consideration, and fairness I would want for myself, regardless of their color, creed, sex, or disabilities.”

    I wonder how many micro aggressions, harmful biases, and literal acts of violence could be pointed out in the above.

      1. It’s not clear, but I wrote that. I was trying to come up with a reasonable replacement for the “bias test,” just something which could have been written years ago without causing remark. Students would be signing something fairly innocuous, a commitment to following basic principles of fairness and tolerance which wouldn’t be seen as conflicting with free speech or debate.

        It wouldn’t pass in today’s climate, though.

      2. I’d say: not a problem, you can sign. One solution to the silver rule here is you agree that you want people to vigorously question and debate your claims in class, the way you want to vigorously question theirs.

    1. “I would want for myself” – there’s the get out clause. Perhaps you want to be argued with, opposed, disagreed with, abused!

  4. Key indicator: “‘Our students pushed for the mandatory consent module, wrote the sustainability module, and were central members of the EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) group which brought in the mandatory diversity module.” At a different university of which I have some knowledge, the EDI committee turns out to be the perfect vehicle for opportunistic stirrers of the student-politician variety.
    One can easily write the scenario for how a small number of active busybody students, together with a few similarly minded educrats in administration, created the “student demand” for Big Brother.

    I’ve just been reading part of Pinker’s latest, on how the San people of Africa use probabilistic and Bayesian thinking, in their own way (i.e., broad-sense scientific rationality), in their tracking and foraging strategies. Apparently, universities of the Anglosphere are in the process of replacing this kind of mental
    activity by professions of woke faith and Diversity Statements. If this trend drives us to set up new, alternative institutions of higher education, a useful rule might be to engage San hunters instead of educrats to help plan and administer them.

  5. Time to develop some kind of tectonic ingeneering to push Britain away from Europe and paste it to North America. 🙂

      1. The Scots or a large section, have been pulling away from the rest of the UK for some time. I would suggest however that they are no different in wokeness than anyone else in the western world. The triumph of chameleon politics – you just change your colour to match the background presented.

        “With the holy thou shalt be holy, and with a perfect man thou shalt be perfect.
        With the clean thou shalt be clean, and with the froward thou shalt learn frowardness.”

        Tick the right boxes to conform- your tongue can swear but your heart remains hidden.

    1. No. I don’t even find that funny. I’m UK born and bred and all I can say to that is how would you feel if your common sense, outward looking, rationally constructed society was turned into crap almost overnight?

      I and just about EVERYONE I know is appalled, depressed, exasperated, ashamed, embarrassed, enraged and discombobulated at our current international situation. Our disgusting, xenophobic government and egregious, EU-baiting UKIP style political nobodies illegally forced us (the EU vote was won fraudulently, it’s a matter of record) from our friends and neighbours, into European limbo.

      Thanks to these f***ing idiots and their cronies, we now have shortages in a huge number of consumer items, including household and car fuel. We are told by our ‘PM’ that this is just a necessary adjustment to Brexit, even though he promised sunlit uplands, with no downsides.

      And why has this all happened? Because a mere 25% of our population voted leave, based on lies, xenophobia, stupidity and delusions of British exceptionalism. Unfortunately, the older end of the UK populace still feels vicarious pride in the empire and World War 2. The tragedy is that 95% of them weren’t even alive in WW2, and 99% had NO role in it whatsoever.

      My kids, and when they have them, their kids, now have fewer options, worse choices, vastly reduced economic and educational opportunities and a more xenophobic, angry society to live with. It’s all down to the self-interested, conservative politicians; the WW2 & empire loving, xenophobic idiots. My kids’ future has been irrevocably harmed by this corrupt (this is not controversial, the vote was won and forced through illegally) government and the nauseating, repellent senior politicians who have pushed, then kept pushing this disaster along, solely to further their own sad and selfish careers.

      I’m sorry, but I just can’t view this with any humour. I find what has been enforced on me and my family extremely upsetting and distressing, and I’m not alone. Many people in the UK feel that Brexit has been a personal tragedy, and difficult to accept. At least Trump could be voted out after 4 years; the damage that Johnson and his disgusting friends have inflicted on the UK is different. It’s extensive and will last decades, worse still – there is no easily identifiable way out.

    1. Vonnegut is a brilliant writer but that story is daft. I remember reading it when I was a ten year old kid and wondering how someone could miss the point so completely.

      The fact is that I was only reading the story because I had special treatment at school due a learning disability.

      A blind person or a deaf person can’t have equal educational opportunities if they are just treated as though they could see and hear like everybody else. Making allowances for such disabilities does not entail a dystopia where no one is allowed to see or hear.

      So it is perfectly true that equality does not always mean treating everybody the same.

      1. Robin,
        Looks like you are referring to some other story. Because Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” is about how in the future everybody is made equal — in the outcome — to everybody else by dragging those who are more capable down to the level of those who are less capable. For example, skinny ballerinas have to wear heavy weights so they cannot leap in the air higher than fat ballerinas.

  6. What an unbelievably stupid idea that is. Especially when we are training kids to b weak minded and thin skinned so that everything is offensive to them. Unconscious bias… So what? People are allowed to have positive or negative views on everything and everyone and should be openly debated to change views and learn from each other no cower or berate when views may offend.

    1. The unconscious bias is only whites and worst of all heterosexual males. The best is their proof of guilt: denying it.

    1. +1

      According to The Complete University Guide, 39% of the students at St. Andrews are “International”. Although I have no figures, I suspect that a large part of the remaining 61% will be English/Welsh/N Irish, as is the way with British universities. I guess wokeness is international now.

  7. Those on both sides of this issue have this silly notion that having an unconscious bias is something to feel guilty about. Having biases is just part of being human and nothing to get upset about. It is like feeling guilty that you are attracted to someone who is not your partner.

    Incidentally, equality does sometimes mean treating people differently according to their needs. A blind person, for example,. needs particular resources and allowances in order to have an equal opportunity in education. The same goes for people with certain diagnosed mental illnesses.

    Is wasn’t aware that this was even controversial.

    1. Equitable versus equality?

      I can’t tell you about my unconscious biases, but I do have loads of conscious ones. The good news is: I can confabulate reasons for my conscious ones.

    2. In most contexts and for many reasons, like the ones you cite, unequal treatment is of course legal, necessary or just. 6 year olds go to elementary school, not to work for money, and sex with them is illegal, different from 35 year olds. The problem is that “equal treatment” as a positive good is usually only evoked in the context of people deserving not to get worse treatment because of their race. The implication of the question and its “correct” answer here here is thus that now it’s okay to discriminate according to race (which is controversial), maybe even to achieve equal outcomes by having different academic standards for different people.

  8. This puts me in mind of the difficulties students at Brigham Young University go through with a faith crisis, for instance when they learn of Joseph Smith’s polyandrous relations, or the absence of scientific evidence in support of the Book of Mormon. They are interviewed by their bishop from time to time re: their “worthiness”, which includes their active belief (nay, “testimony”) of Joseph Smith and the tenets of Mormon doctrine. Waiver but a little and they can be put on probation until they get their minds straight, and if they don’t succeed in coming back to full belief, they get kicked out, losing all their academic credits, shaming their families, etc. The temptation to just say what the leaders want to hear and get on with life is enormous, and takes quite a toll on a person’s sense of integrity.

    Freedom of conscience is a nice idea until someone thinks they have some power over you.

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