The 2018 university environment is held hostage by political correctness and an Orwellian sense of authoritarianism and censorship. The long-purported idea that our academic institutions are places of enquiry and debate is on its deathbed.
It is events like the Sydney University Liberal Club’s talk with Bettina Arndt on the campus “rape crisis” and the fallout this has on university culture as a whole that highlights this issue, and it is events like this that will pull universities back from the brink.
To provide some background, the Club engaged in a tiresome back and forth with the administration regarding security costs, which the university ultimately refused to assist with. Why are security costs even a factor? Because the left will use whatever means necessary to shut down discussion, just as they do with every event where its content does not fit their strict narrative of how the world should operate. The fact that the administration cannot grasp this, and refused to cover costs to ensure student’s safety was bewildering and irresponsible.
The event went ahead as planned, but not without predicted, violent and intimidating opposition. Paid ticket holders were barred from entering the peaceful discussion by a mob of screaming protesters who flooded the hall leading to the room. Any individual that tried to make their way through was obstructed, pushed around and verbally bullied with the intention of shaming them for wanting to calmly engage with a simple debate.
Young men and women were trapped inside the room, with security having to form a physical, interlocked barricade to stop the violent mob from entering the venue. There were no other exits, and attendees – many of whom had no opinion on Bettina’s views and just wanted to hear what she had to say – were trapped behind a wall of hateful, screaming members of the “tolerant left” barking at them like rabid dogs. It was only when the Police Riot Squad arrived that the protesters were moved on, after many paid ticket holders were bullied out of attending the talk.
One of the protesters chants ran along the lines of “this is what democracy looks like.” If democracy looks like a forceful, intimidating and physically abusive horde screaming at peaceful event attendees wanting to engage in a debate and trying to shut down their right to speak, then we have a serious problem.
On that day, university administration failed woefully in their responsibility to protect students, and to protect free speech and the right to engage in discussions. What’s most alarming, is that only through the support of Bettina’s crowd-funder, free-speech advocates and Victorian Liberal Party President Michael Kroger assisting with security costs, all these students would have been left alone by the University to face this mob. The outcome of that is something we do not want to consider.
When the administration refuses to step up for student safety, true advocates for freedom and enquiry will, and if more people do not stand to face these threats on our institutional freedoms, then generation after generation will be lost to this idea that disagreement is a crime, and the values that we hold true as Australians will be lost with them.
Jack O’Brien is the president of the Sydney University Liberal Club.
Illustration: The Entertainers agency.
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