Flat White

Melbourne University’s attack on freedom, on women – and itself

17 June 2021

12:03 PM

17 June 2021

12:03 PM

Melbourne University has warned staff teaching a course on feminism they must not say anything that could cause harm to transgendered students.

One imagines the university’s geography faculty will now rewrite their course so as not to harm flat earthers.

And staff teaching evolutionary biology will reconfigure lectures in order to avoid harming creationists.

What is certain is that the whole silly episode will, itself, one day form the basis of a social studies course investigating mass stupidity.

Melbourne University vice-chancellor Duncan Maskell gave the warning after the hurty feelings brigade – also known as the University of Melbourne Student Union Queer Political Action Collective – insisted a second-year philosophy subject on feminism was harmful to transgendered students.

They complained the subject was taught by a lecturer who had dared to ask women to detail how their experience of female bathrooms had been impacted by the inclusion of trans women.

The lecturer, Dr Holly Lawford-Smith, said “philosophy is all about asking questions”.

But, according to newspaper reports, the woke-chancellor told staff this week that “ the academic freedom to pursue questions concerning transgender identity” had to be balanced with “the damage and harm that our transgender colleagues experience from those questions being pursued”.

Maskell didn’t say what damage and harm women might experience from those questions not being pursued.

Nor did he say what damage and harm his university might experience when prospective students realised intellectual curiosity had been cancelled and so there was little point enrolling there.

When pursuit of truth must be balanced by feelings, you’re no longer fit to run a university.

The vice-chancellor did say that respect when discussing trans issues was important because “transgender people are first and foremost people”.

If he had sat in one of Dr Holly Lawford-Smith’s classes he might have learned that women are also people — provided, of course, that idea doesn’t harm someone in the student union.

Melbourne University is now considering a “gender affirmation policy” that would ban academics saying anything that has the potential to harm transgender staff and students.

This means the only person who would be unsafe when a question is asked about trans issues is the person asking the question.

The draft policy says: “Where the university determines that an activity or event poses an unacceptable risk of harm to [transgender and gender-diverse] members of the university community, it may determine not to conduct or host the activity or event on those grounds.”

What constitutes “harm” is not clear which, of course, is part of the evil genius of such policies. The woolly nature of the offence is deliberate so that people, who cannot possibly know if they are likely to be in violation of the policy, will self-censor.

But essentially, the university’s policy prohibits any ideas that aren’t the student union’s.

It is an attack on freedom, an attack on women and an attack on itself.

The University of Melbourne is now a dangerous place, not just for women but for anyone with an inquiring mind.

They should seek to study and work at competitor universities more interested in seeking truth than supplying emotional bubble wrap and where they are more concerned about stopping actual harm rather than preventing hurty feelings.

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