Cambridge tutor: don’t force me to ‘respect’ your views

Over recent years, we’ve learned to pay attention to the intellectual trends and taboos on university campuses — they have a way of spilling out into mainstream corporate and political life.

Which is why the vote among the 7,000 faculty at Cambridge on a new ‘free speech policy’ matters. The results will be announced tomorrow at 5pm and will be an indication of the willingness to resist the increasing threats to free speech and academic enquiry around politically sensitive topics.

Cambridge has been in the news all year in this regard —rescinding the invitation of a visiting fellowship to Canadian academic Jordan Peterson, removing academic Noah Carl after his controversial study into race and intelligence, and subjecting a college porter to a campaign to be removed after he voted a certain way on a trans issue as a Labour local councillor.

I spoke to Dr Arif Ahmed, a Philosophy tutor and fellow on Gonville and Caius college, who has raised concerns that the inclusion of a requirement to be ‘respectful’ of people’s opinions and identities, included in the proposed free speech policy, risks legitimising future censorship. He thinks it could have been used to justify excluding Jordan Peterson, on the grounds that he has not been sufficiently respectful of certain religions, or forbidding the inclusion of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons in a course about free speech. He suggests it is replaced with the word ‘tolerate.’


The influence of universities:

“The universities are a kind of crucible from which all of these ideas spill out. So to take an example, if you think about trans issues, for instance, you know, that’s not just academics talking to each other. But about, you know, what it is to be a woman, what it takes, you know, whether it’s a social construction or not, that’s actually now spilled out into effect in people’s lives. We see, you know, with what’s what’s been happening in Britain, recently, you’ve seen, they can have a very profound effect on people’s lives, you know, whether for better or for worse, the gender recognition act, issues about whether you can give consent to puberty blockers, you know, these are all things that go to the heart of what makes someone’s life better or worse. And these are ideas that come from from academia. So clearly, it’s very important. The these ideas be discussed freely within an academic setting, rather than some particular dogma or ideology being imposed.”

The marketisation of higher education:

“The fact that universities now view students as customers means that there is much more emphasis on making them feel comfortable and making them feel at home.The rhetoric of the people who I politically and philosophically oppose, you find them saying quite reasonable things, which is that university is a community of scholars and students. And scholars and students should be made to feel comfortable in this community so that it serves some sort of social function. You can understand the move towards that now that universities have paying customers. They’re not being subsidised to pay for a certain public good; they’ve got paying customers and they’ve got to give those customers what they want.”

The threat to liberty:

“It will always come under attack from different directions, sometimes from the Left, sometimes from the Right. At the moment, I think it’s coming under attack from both the Left and the Right. So will always be necessary to defend it, there will never be I expect a permanent condition. And we can feel secure about the freedoms that we have. We must be, as they say, constantly vigilant about defending them. So I’m not optimistic in the sense that these sorts of problems will go away forever. On the other hand, it’s extremely heartening, of course, that there are people who are willing to speak out like, like Susan Moore, you know, who’s obviously had the most dreadful, unbelievable time recently, how far this goes, will remain to be seen. The other issue which, on which most of optimism turns in a way is the extent to which these things are either generational effects or age effects. And so what I’m what I mean by that is that it’s not entirely clear to me whether the phenomenon that we’re seeing amongst young people today, even though I don’t think it’s particularly widespread, is something that’s going to continue when these people get into their late 20s, early 30s 40s, and start running things, or whether it’s something that at least to some extent, you know, is that, you know, the kind of rebellion that teenagers having now just as dropping out and taking drugs as the kind of rebellion that teenagers had in the in the late 60s and early 70s. This is the kind of thing a lot of teenagers doing, and when they leave University go out into the real world, or how to get jobs cope with all kinds of pressures that most adults have to face, you know, they’ll very soon drop all of that stuff.”

Written by UnHerd


  1. Herein we look through an array of comments in the Media of late, albeit a tsunami of scribe on either side of the Atlantic, and behold many simply "INFANTILE-ANTI-TRUMP-ABUSE", or indeed to target ANYONE  who by action or word, dares to posture such a persona outside of the realms of the Liberal PC Sheep-Pen, whereupon we, if disposed to the manner of "critical thinking", witness the signature of "indoctrination", albeit by Fashion and Media a population to both intellectual and physical subservience and each unaware of their own indoctrination to serve another's bidding..! Therein the stuff of ..?liberalism?.. or more the hall-marks of Fascism tip-toeing to our door.
    Thus to consider …
    These people in their wanting delusional psyche call themselves
    However, by the evidence of their comments alone, reveals these people bear all the hall marks of FASCISTS and no different to 1930s GERMAN FASCISTS in their manner and indeed their intimidatory actions, albeit by fashion, work-place and propaganda
    Therein how they SHAME BRITAIN and AMERICA, and yet they are here established and indeed, in America and thriving, albeit equally with the help of a quasi "Fascist Media" posturing, likewise, Liberal Infantile Attire.
    Then make no mistake, for such the seeds of all History's resulting Storms, be they "Conflict or Catastrophe", we here and now, reside, and such as fate decrees one or t'other will soon come to pass.
    Then take heed,  100 years hence to offer: "COULDN'T THEY SEE IT COMING": Albeit a REAL AND PRESENT DANGER to all avenues of your Freedom we now in ignorance, live within and observe, often in silent mode lest we perceived a Wolf in an evident flock of subservient Indoctrinated-Sheep, albeit at our future cost ..!

  2. Even the best intentioned and mannered individual ideologue will be found to be disrespectful to those who present themselves as victims of their own identity. Dangerous precedents

  3. You are no longer taught in the education system, you are indoctrinated.

    Critical thinking has been abandoned by these people and places.

    Marxism destroys mankind …

  4. Sometimes an actual study will of its own nature not 'respect' another because it does not have the same roots or beliefs. This is a slippery slope and I wish Cambridge had not stepped onto it in 2016. Suddenly staff and students need to be told PC etiquette? Nah, they just need good manners – and if they don't have them, someone will tell them so anyway. I object strongly to being told what I can and can't say because what I think and believe is extremely important to me – I'm sure most people feel exactly the same.

  5. I was free from the censorship education when I left university. The workplace is now fully infected in my opinion… my big corporate workplace has now been attempting to re-educate us on this inclusivity and diversity stuff, it’s really depressing and makes working there less enjoyable, and we perform worse in our jobs. They’re “training” has made us less productive, as apparently the most important thing about being a good salesperson, is to recognise your biases, admit that your are inherently racist and bigoted and so on and so forth…. blows my mind that serious people can’t see the danger of what they are peddling.

    Thank you for your content UnHerd.

  6. That actually sounds great, respect is much needed in the universities… opinions I think Is the key word here…. the "tolerance" is what the left likes to peddle as they spew hate speech to shut down other opinions

  7. One of the greatest fallacies of our times is that people at universities are intelligent. By definition those students have NO experience whatsoever of adult life. They have never held a proper job, never owned property, never had a mortgage to pay, never had children & sent them to school….& quite frankly their lecturers are all part of that well paid gravy train that denigrates the working class….

  8. …"so long as it's legal" is these days not much cover, given the prosecutions under the communications act and the push for ever tighter 'hate speech' legislation and interpretations.

  9. Hi Freddie, I have 4 observations: 1 I tend to avoid discussions about subjects that might lead to conflict. This includes talking about religion, the climate emergency, covid 19 vaccines and plant-based diets with my family, most of my cycling chums and some of my closest friends. 2 The subject of religion is particularly tricky. I’ve been listening to the Sam Harris interviews for a while; I think he’s doing great work. Like you, he interviews good thinkers, listens to them — but tells them when he doesn’t follow their arguments. The very fact that he interviews people with ideas he doesn’t agree with means that he respects the person — but not necessarily their ideas. Or you could say that he respects the person — and tolerates their ideas. 3 The practice of active listening is key here — and I’m trying to practise active listening. It feels as if I have to actively shut down part of my brain [the part that is preparing an opposing view] in order to listen. It’s hard to be a split personality. 4 You seem to be able to listen very well. What’s your secret? Any advice? In short, this was a great discussion between you and Dr Arif Ahmed — you demonstrated outstanding listening skills. Well done. Let us know how Arif gets on. Best wishes, John

  10. Many years ago, when I was hired at the medical center of a large state university in the US as an assistant professor I was presented with a document to sign accepting the position. In the document was a statement that I would never participant, support, or agree to any activity that was directed to the overthrow of the university or government. I crossed it out, initialed my strike, and signed the document. Nothing ever came of that. It seemed very strange to me at the time.