Student protests: are young people too sensitive these days?

Mar 10, 2016 by

Safe spaces and no-platform policies have come in for media ridicule. But a more nuanced debate is taking place on university campuses

Students are having a tough time in the public eye at the moment. They’ve been called coddled and spoilt, and told that they don’t understand freedom of speech. Disdain has come from high-profile figures including Richard Dawkins, Jackie Ashley (president of the University of Cambridge’s Lucy Cavendish College), and University of Oxford chancellor Chris Patten. But is the criticism warranted?

“It upsets me when people have a go at students,” says Joanna Williams, a higher education programme director at the University of Kent. “It’s unfair because it’s not all students who want to ban things; campaign groups and students’ unions often represent a tiny minority. Also, students are often just acting out political trends taking place in the rest of society. Look at the petition to ban Donald Trump from the UK.”

But Williams says we should nonetheless be active in addressing these concerns. When Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines was banned by student unions in 2013, for example, she says many mistakenly drew a causal link between a “yukky song and real sexual violence”. Instead, she says, academics need to show students how to debate and challenge ideas that they disagree with.

Source: Student protests: are young people too sensitive these days? | Higher Education Network | The Guardian

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