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A lecturer used the N-word to illustrate a point about colonial history. A group of students subsequently left the room, and the management started talking about 'safe spaces' in teaching. But we must not let ourselves be controlled by student demands for ‘safe spaces’.
OPINION ON THE UNIVERSITY POST
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Does ‘a safe space’ mean the same in Gaza, Israel and Ukraine as in Denmark?
Have the concepts of safety become diluted, have the boundaries been moved too much for what students can complain about, and does UCPH bend the knee too quickly when under attack from students?
Has the fear of student reactions become so great that UCPH allows itself to be controlled by it?
On 11 October, the University Post published a feature article describing a lecture at the Global Development programme. A group of students got up and left when a teacher used the so-called N-word in his lecture. This episode is an example of a deplorable trend.
It is nice to see that there was partial support of the teacher from Global Development’s management. But in general, there is simply no longer much room for differences of opinion at UCPH.
Ironically, the pursuit of inclusion has led to the exclusion of all those who do not conform. Jane Austen’s concept of the importance of a balance between sense and sensibility has been lost so that now there is only room at the University for sensibility, not for sense.
Dare we teach William Shakespeare, who gives voice to characters who speak ill of Africans, Jews, Arabs, the poor, the disabled, homosexuals as well as chauvinistic, white men, viragoes, and adulterers? Auch, auch, auch …
Students hopefully attend university to cultivate their minds, and this has traditionally been done through challenges in the form of encountering viewpoints that do not harmonize with one’s own and not by bandying platitudes.
It is disturbing that the freedom of thought necessary for higher education is being banned at university level and seems to exist only in society outside academia.
Life can be ugly sometimes and it does not become prettier by ignoring history and the pertinent historical terms. Knowledge becomes amputated if we do not call the beast by its name and avoid using the terms used through history. After all, using these words professionally is far from an expression of the teacher’s attitude – and this is what students must learn to distinguish between.