British universities have become too politically correct and are stifling free speech by banning anything that causes the least offence to anyone, a group of leading academics warns on Saturday.
A whole generation of students is being denied the “intellectual challenge of debating conflicting views” because self-censorship is turning campuses into over-sanitised “safe spaces”, they say.
Their intervention comes as an Oxford college considers removing a historic statue of Cecil Rhodes, one of its alumni and benefactors, because he is regarded as the founding father of apartheid in South Africa.
Oriel College says the statue of Rhodes, on a building he paid for, jars with the values of a modern university. It is facing a battle with Historic England, which has listed the statue as an object of historical interest.
Writing in The Telegraph, the academics, led by Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at the University of Canterbury, and Joanna Williams, education editor, Spiked, say it is part of a “long and growing” list of people and objects banned from British campuses, including pop songs, sombreros and atheists.
They say the “deeply worrying development” is curtailing freedom of speech “like never before” because few things are safe from student censors.
Because universities increasingly see fee-paying students as customers, they do not dare to stand up to the “small but vocal minority” of student activists who want to ban everything from the Sun newspaper to the historian David Starkey.