17 Skirmishes in Britain’s Campus Culture Wars

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By Kieran Corcoran | 3:29 am, May 6, 2016

Petty squabbles, bans and the theatre of the absurd rage on in British campuses – here are some of the most extreme:

Student almost booted from meeting for raising her hand

Imogen Wilson was accused of “inappropriate hand gestures” while arguing against her student union boycotting Israel.

Calls to ban free speech society

Confronted with the anti-safe spaces Speakeasy society, shocked students at the London School of Economics tried to strangle it in the cradle.

A critic at the LSE – frequently branded one of the UK’s most censorious schools – filed a motion to have the “self-important” group struck off – but did not succeed.

Milo Yiannopoulos banned from debate with feminist

Firebrand Yiannopoulos is causing havoc in the US these days – but managed to tweak plenty of Brits before heading west.

Horrified students at Manchester University banned both Milo and his outspoken opponent Julie Bindel, both of whom were branded “dangerous”.


Feminists in Bristol failed to stop him speaking, but turned the event into a debate after insisting he not be allowed to speak unchallenged.

MORE: Click here for our interview with Milo

Around the World in 80 Days party scrapped over cultural appropriation fears

Student leaders at Pembroke College, Cambridge, were scared that students would don “racist” costumes at a party honoring the Jules Verne novel.

So they cancelled the whole thing.

Iranian critic of Sharia law barred from speaking 

Maryam Namazie, who campaigns against theocracy, was banned from speaking at Warwick University.

Student officials canceled her visit after deciding her broadsides against Islamism were “inflammatory, and could incite hatred on campus”.

Kurdish soldier banned from talking about his war on ISIS

Macer Gifford, an alumnus of University College London, was planning to tell his alma mater’s Kurdish Society about his five months on the front lines in Syria.

But a student official nixed the speech, claiming there are “two sides” in the fight against ISIS and the UCL could not be seen to favor one or the other.

Campaign to ban “transphobic” feminist hero

Veteran feminist theorist Germaine Greer was forced to give a lecture to Cardiff University in the teeth of opposition over her views on transgender people.

Greer, who maintains that post-op trans people are not women – was faced with a 3,000-person petition and an in-person protest but gave her speech anyway.

She told her audience: “You can beat me over the head with a baseball bat. It still won’t make me change my mind”.

Civil rights campaigner snubbed by NUS

Peter Tatchell, a gay rights activist since the ’70s, was also branded “transphobic” by an official in the UK’s national student union (NUS), for defending Greer.

The organization’s LGBT officer refused to share a stage with him earlier this year, igniting a firestorm of criticism.

MORE: NUS Elects President Who Refused to Condemn ISIS

NUS purge of “oppressive” gay men

Everyone’s favorite union took another drubbing this spring after telling gay men to leave LGBT committees.

New NUS policy encourages students to scrap representatives for gay men, whom they said “don’t face oppression”.

Attempts to shut down Julian Assange speech

Wikileaks founder – and alleged sex criminal – Julian Assange was almost uninvited from a speech at the storied Cambridge Union Society.

Opposition to the speech forced a referendum among members of the society, which had hosted Assange before and has even seen the likes of Colonel Gaddafi speak.

The event went ahead after 77% of members said they wanted him there.

College forced to ship bronze art back to Africa

Jesus College, Cambridge, was bounced into sending back a “Benin Bronze” cockerel after a vote from its student union.

A motion decided that the bronze – a gift from an alumnus’s father – was booty from a “punitive” raid in 1987 so deserved to be returned.

Sombreros banned

Attempts by a local Mexican joint to hand out free sombreros at a freshman’s fair were swiftly met with a humorless ban.

Officials at the University of East Anglia said the traditional was an example of “cultural appropriation” and had them removed.

“Reformed” far-right leader banned

Tommy Robinson, the one-time leader of the UK’s English Defence League (EDL), was hit with a ban from two universities in quick succession.

Robinson, who has cut ties with the EDL in 2013 and vowed to counter extremism, was told he couldn’t visit Edinburgh or Durham universities, where he had been due to discuss free speech.

Abortion discussion banned

A college at Oxford University cancelled an abortion debate being held by a pro-life group after students said they felt unsafe.

Christ Church stopped two journalists from discussing the issue after unspecified “security concerns” over the event.

Nietzsche banned

University College London shut down a Nietzsche reading group before its first meeting.

A student council equated the philosopher with fascism and said students could not be allowed to meet and discuss his works.

Anything “sensitive” banned from Jihadi John’s alma mater

The London university which educated the ISIS executioner known as Jihadi John put a blanket ban on “sensitive” events after its links to the extremist were discovered.

The University of Westminster – where future terrorist Mohammed Emwazi studied – axed a talk on Mohammed and suspended anything else controversial when the killer’s identity went public.

Students sabotage comedian’s show over views on sex work

Students at London’s Goldsmiths University forced a comedian to perform to empty crowds as punishment for holding the wrong views.

Activists claimed free tickets for Kate Smurthwaite’s gig then deliberately didn’t show, leaving her with a thin crowd because she has said she disagrees with fully legalizing prostitution.