Sunday, March 18, 2007

University challenge

It seems Oxford and Cambridge universities take different lines on the question of free expression. When a student magazine at Clare College Cambridge published one of the Danish Mohammed cartoons, the reaction was:

In a statement issued by Clare College, senior tutor Patricia Fara said: "Clare is an open and inclusive college. A student produced satirical publication has caused widespread distress throughout the Clare community.

The college finds the publication and the views expressed abhorrent.

Reflecting the gravity of the situation, the college immediately began an investigation and disciplinary procedures are in train."

The Union of Clare Students also tried to quell the furore provoked by the publication.

Calum Davey, the union's president expressed his "deep regret" over the publication and offered his sincere apologies for the offence caused.
In Oxford, when a student refugee advocacy group began a campaign to oust a Don for his membership of Migration Watch, the response was different:
An Oxford spokesman said: "Freedom of speech is a fundamental right respected by the university. Staff have freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom, and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges."
It's actually something of a mistake to expect principled responses from universities, especially these two ancient institutions. The only way they have survived the Reformation, Protestant versus Catholic violence, the Civil War and the social changes of the past century has been by being what one might charitably call "supple". They bend before the wind.

So these two incidents tell us something about the contemporary climate. Collecting statistics about migration is still within the pale, but the institutional capitulation to extremist Muslim demands is almost complete.

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