These are not good times for British universities. As from next year, it has been announced today, selection of students to be admitted will take into account whether or not their parents attended university. The intention, supported by the government, is to increase the number of students from poor backgrounds. The effect can only be to discriminate against those from educated backgrounds. In its early incarnation, the Soviet Union went in for this sort of social engineering, denying higher education to those defined ideologically as bourgeois. In the end, the damage to the nation became evident, and schools for the elite were opened, which was almost as iniquitous.
Free speech is also under attack. An Oxford professor, David Coleman, a demographer, has done research that suggests that mass immigration brings very little economic benefit to the country, if any. A petition has been got up to have him dismissed as a racist. Academics here and there, with the support of their trade unions, have attempted to boycott Israel and Israeli colleagues, purely on the grounds of who they are and where they come from. The cancellation of a lecture by Matthias Kuntzel at Leeds University is the latest step in making British universities irrelevant.
Kuntzel is a political scientist from Hamburg University, with an additional research fellowship at an institute in Jerusalem. An eminent authority on Iran, he has published a good deal about the messianic fervour of that country’s leadership. In particular, he has shown how Nazi propaganda and subsidies in the Hitler period laid the groundwork for modern Muslim anti-Semitism. And that was to be his subject at Leeds, under the title, “Hitler’s Legacy: Islamic anti-Semitism in the Middle East.”
Ahmed Sawalem, described as president of the university’s Islamic society, wrote to the Vice-Chancellor of Leeds, Professor Michael Arthur, to complain officially that he had searched for Kuntzel’s writings on the internet, “and they are not very pleasant.” Kuntzel was shown this complaint, and one other apparently from a Muslim student, accusing him of doing this “to increase hatred as I clearly regard it as an open racist attack.” The lecture, and subsequent workshops, were duly cancelled on the grounds that the decision to cancel was purely a matter of bureaucracy. As a spokesman put it, the university had to protect the safety of participants in the event and to maintain public order. Which is worse, the cowardice, the mendacity, or the foregone assumption that Muslims were about to resort to violence and the authorities were helpless in the face of it?
Kuntzel had previously delivered this lecture at Yale. His comment was, “Nothing like this has ever happened before – this is censorship,” adding, “This is a very important subject and if you cannot address it on university property, then what is a university for?” We know the answer to that – to keep out the children of the educated, and to give the children of the poor the impression that they are being educated.