A bold call? Certainly. Extreme? Without a doubt. Am I serious? Not entirely, but…things are fast reaching a pass where the wholesale dismantling of the existing university sector and rebuilding from scratch may be the only recourse.
When even left-leaning academics like feminist social critic Professor Camille Paglia are shaking their heads that “universities are an absolute wreck”, the jig is up. When professors are recorded screaming and threatening mob violence at journalists, academics rebel en masse at the very idea of teaching a course on Western civilisation, and peer-reviewed papers by professors are banished from the academic record under threats of violence, the threadbare veil of “academic freedom” is torn asunder.
Universities, far from being bastions of free-inquiry and, as Chris Trotter recently wrote, “wise counsel on matters of philosophy and politics”, have become fortresses of indoctrinaire intellectual stagnation. There is little intellectual freedom in universities any more, only narrow intellectual conformity. The only freedom is the freedom to parrot the dogmas of the left.
Although Trotter claimed, improbably, that “the real revolution, however, came not from the Left but the Right”, the numbers unequivocally tell otherwise.
Surveys of US campuses reveal that left-wing academics dominate university campuses. Left-wing predominance on campuses is 10-1 in their favour. In many individual disciplines, it’s even worse: in sociology and history, the left-wing takeover is almost total. There is no reason to think that British, Australian or New Zealand campuses are any different. A recent survey found that 80% of British academics are left-wing. The rabid backlash in Australia against the Ramsay Centre’s proposal to establish a study of Western civilisation reveals the same bias.
And it’s not just the Humanities. Survey data in the US shows that even physics, chemistry and computing are five-to-one dominated by the left. Anecdotally, talking to current students, vacuous left-wing ideologies are making inroads even into STEM subjects. From my own recent experience, certain science subjects are declared beyond discussion.
Consider, for instance, biology, where the disputable, left-wing ideology of transgenderism is fast becoming unchallengeable dogma. Academics who challenge transgender ideology have required personal bodyguards. Studies which dispute the “affirmation model” of transgenderism are attacked and forced out of academic journals.
What all this shows is that, not only have universities abandoned their own, self-declared principles, but trampled completely the tacit social contract by which the state funds universities.
According to the Magna Charta Universitatum, universities’ “research and teaching must be morally and intellectually independent of all political authority and economic power” and that universities are “the trustee of the European humanist tradition”. Instead, research and teaching is increasingly constrained within the bounds of left-wing orthodoxy.
As Chris Trotter wrote, the “deal […was] The workaday world paid for the universities and accorded them a large measure of autonomy, and in return, the universities supplied the expertise and advice that kept the workaday world ticking over”.
That deal has been comprehensively abandoned by today’s universities. Academics demand endless funding increases from taxpayers while they turn the academy into their personal re-education camps. As Trotter says, “students and their teachers of the late 60s and 70s began to treat the privilege of academic freedom as if it was a right. Very quickly, the universities ceased to be the scholarly enclaves of yesteryear”. The people are noticing: public trust in universities is declining. Trust in the sciences is plummeting, too.
In Australia, academics are attacking the very core of what it means to be Australian. What poet Les Murray called “the elite Revolution that rules unsullied by elections” has unilaterally declared that the historical and cultural heritage of some 90% of Australians is to be dethroned by academic fiat.
All of this not just a disservice to the taxpayers who fund it, it is a gross disservice to students and to the whole of academia. Taxpayers are entitled to expect a university sector which doesn’t sneer at them at every turn. Students are entitled to expect a broad, critically challenging education, instead of rigid indoctrination. Academia cannot do otherwise than wither and die when dogmatism, often openly violent, is the rule.
This is a situation not seen since the days of Lysenkoism in the Soviet Union. This is not just a threat to centuries of Enlightenment tradition. Lysenkoism had very real and horrific consequences for tens of millions of people.
What to do? Unfortunately, it seems that the bias has become so pervasive and impregnable that nothing less than a wholesale re-making of the university sector can remedy what is an institution broken beyond repair. How should it be done? I have no idea. A right-wing takeover would be no better than a left.
At the very least, what is needed is a popular revolt. Students, taxpayers, politicians, must firmly remind academics that the freedom they take for granted is not absolute.Cut the purse-strings and ignore the squealing.
If academics will not reform themselves, the people must force reform upon them.