Saturday, May 27, 2023

Jonathan Ayling: Academics don't feel free to air controversial opinions, according to survey

The second annual survey on academic freedom by the Free Speech Union is an eye-opening read for those of us who value ideas and solutions being openly debated in Kiwi universities.

The survey, which was conducted in conjunction with Curia Market Research and endorsed by their director and head pollster, had hundreds of participants from across each university.

Concerningly, this report shows that a majority of academics who responded at five of our eight universities disagreed that they were free to state controversial or unpopular opinions, even though this is one of the specific features of academic freedom as defined in the Education and Training Act 2020.

Across all eight universities, only 46% of academics agreed they felt free to question received wisdom and state controversial and unpopular opinions.

The rest disagreed. Men in particular, (59%), believed they were not free to voice these views.

Claims that those who were more senior (and therefore supposedly more secure) in roles, such as professors, were freer to speak on controversial subjects did not play out.

In fact, only 31% of professors agreed that they were free to state controversial or unpopular opinions. If those who have dedicated their careers to exploring specific subjects feel unfree to voice their views if they are unpopular or controversial, how can these conversations move forward?

Popular and uncontroversial perspectives are not going to cut it.

Problematically, it is clear that the flow of political persuasion mapped almost directly onto whether academics felt free. About two-thirds (64%) of academics who identified as “very left” and 70% of those who identified as “left” felt free to state controversial or unpopular opinions.

It decreased from less than half (46%) of those who are “slightly left” to one-third (34%) of those who are “centrist” down to one-quarter (26%) of those who are “slightly right” to 18% for those who are “right”. No academic who responded as “very right wing” agreed with the statement (admittedly, there was a small sample size for this group).

This, in the context of an academy that we already know has a left-leaning bent (the respondents to our survey reflect this disposition), is frightening for intellectual diversity.

Academics were asked about six specific subjects which might be controversial; a majority of academics felt comfortable discussing only three: religion, politics, and sexual orientation.

Some 59% of academics did not feel comfortable discussing the Treaty of Waitangi and colonialism, with at least one-third (30%) of academics at every single university feeling “not at all comfortable” (45% of academics from Otago were “not at all comfortable”).

Interestingly, Māori academics were much more likely to feel comfortable discussing this issue (54% felt “very comfortable”), while almost two-thirds (61%) of European academics did not feel comfortable (44% “very uncomfortable”).

When one sector of society feels they are free to participate and contribute to a discussion while another does not feel free at all, we all lose.

No matter who it is that is included/excluded, we will not develop the answers we need to address complex questions if major stakeholders are not free to participate.

Time and again in our past, important voices in our communities have not been free to contribute. To knowingly repeat this error again is folly.

These results are concerning, but the lack of engagement with research like this, and the problem they point to, is even more concerning.

Results last year indicated many academics do not feel they have adequate academic freedom. Each vice-chancellor was invited to participate in the research this year and learn from the responses of their own academics. Not a single one agreed.

Likewise, where is the Minister of Education on this issue? Where is the Tertiary Education Union or the Tertiary Education Commission?

Freedom in the university sector is stagnating, and its leaders either don’t know or don’t care......The full article is published HERE

Jonathan Ayling is the Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.


Anonymous said...

Captive is the word you are looking for. The coup has been stealthy and the net was wide. The very institutions that should be protecting all that built us up are destroying us from within.
As it is a political agenda we must start with the election and hope that enough people of all ages can help turn this around. Surely we are not just gonna take it?

robert Arthur said...

Curiously most academics are firmly wedded to the now conventional "in" viewpoint. Otherwise they would not have obtained their employment or progressed. Few would hold sufficiently opposite views to have any urge to express same. In answereing the question it is difficult to guess what theoretical situation they imagined. Perhaps even more direct questions would have been appropriate. "If you criticised the current partnership interpretation of the Treaty do you think your position would be in any way negatively affected?" and suchlike about co governance, use of te reo, favouritism of maori for course and positions etc etc. My guess is that, as elsewhere, all but maybe a few independent rehired retirees woukld be terrified of cancellation and woud not dare to be seen to be critical.

Gaynor said...

The truth is always worth fighting for. In the 1980s before home schooling we took our child out of school because the school refused to teach him reading and maths. They believed he needed to be 'socially adjusted' instead. Honestly you couldn't make this up! ' Anyway my husband at the truancy court case was fully supported by the magistrate who ridiculed the Education Department. If we had had the case going against us my husband would have lost his job, and had a criminal record put on him. As it was we were turned into social pariahs.
The case brought the Education Department to their knees and home schooling was introduced.
I have little sympathy for academics who would only lose their jobs.Stand up in mass against all this nonsense for goodness sake. Martyrdom and persecution is a badge of merit that can help further the cause of free speech.
Thank you free speech union for you bravery.

Anonymous said...

There is no greater uniformity of thought than at our universities. Their much-hyped commitment to diversity is about race, gender, class and sexual preference, not about ideas.

It has for may years been possible in certain disciplines to go all the way from undergraduate to PhD. level without having been lectured by a single conservative or libertarian professor.

So by default, none of these ideas exist.

How did this sorry state of affairs come about?

The Communists who’d begun colonising western universities to use them as factories of ideological reproduction had by the early 1970s achieved critical mass in many departments, especially those specialising in the study of society. Their growing dominance on faculty hiring committees enabled them to systematically exclude anyone holding alternative views.

Controlling the universities was based on the writings of Antonio Gramsci, one of the many disreputable Communists held up as intellectual icons by the academic Left.

In the 1920s, Gramsci realised that the western democracies were too attached to the benefits of individual rights, patriotism, and Judeo-Christian culture. These ideas were deeply embedded and would not be easily surrendered.

Revolution must therefore first take place on the level of consciousness. Gramsci’s adherents sought control over culture, organised religion, media, education, and other areas where intellectual discourse takes place.

The goal of these self-anointed “agents of social change” was to colonise, then subvert the institutions of the system they sought to destroy.

Starting as early as the 1950s, western university students have been increasingly subjected to systematic brainwashing by Gramsci’s disciples inside the academy. They were told they were learning not Communism, but “progressive” new ideas about race, gender and class. They were programmed with all the principles of Communism without the label then flattered for their cleverness in accepting the programming.

If you told them they were Marxists or Communists, they’d respond with a pitying smile, roll their eyes, and accuse you of “seeing Reds under the bed.”

After graduating, these useful idiots slithered forth from the academy into the media, education system, trade unions, Labour Party, entertainment industry, churches and other institutions that shape society’s governing ideas.

Our universities thus served as a transmission belt into wider society for a raft of Communist narratives about "race. gender, class and sexual preference."

As a result, the political centre of gravity has moved steadily leftward over several generations.