Closed University

Another university tells another student to shut up about All That, but there’s a twist.

Alistair Bonnington, an ex-BBC legal adviser and former honorary law professor who taught Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during her student days, posted his views on an Open University forum during a discussion about the 18th Century French writer Voltaire – an advocate for freedom of speech.

But his comments, referring to Scotland’s Hate Crime Bill, which will allow men to self-identify as women, and the ‘woke’ backlash faced by Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling earlier this year over her trans views, were deleted.

He’s a law maven, and an adult, but the OU wouldn’t (and won’t) let him speak freely.

In his post, Mr Bonnington, 68, who is now an English Literature student at the OU, argued the SNP plans ‘would make it a crime for anybody to deny that a “trans” woman (ie a man) was a real woman’, adding: ‘It looks like feminists in Scotland can look forward to incarceration. Poor J.K. Rowling may need to become an exile like Voltaire!!!’

So the OU sent him a “warning letter” telling him he was violating forum rules.

Accusing the OU of ‘infantile and anti-intellectual behaviour’, Mr Bonnington last night said: ‘Bear in mind this was in a debate about free speech. For the university to do what it did is an absolute joke.

‘Universities should be places where free debate can be had between people who hold different views. If we’re not allowed to debate things in universities, then things have got into a bit of a mess.

‘That’s just Stalinism, basically, and I find it quite shocking for free speech to be treated as an expendable commodity by a university.’

Especially when what you’re saying is just a simple, basic, obvious truth. The OU might as well forbid its students to say dogs are not cats, or turnips are not raspberries, or the moon is not the sun.

Mr Bonnington added: ‘I’ve taught in universities for over 25 years, but it seemed to me extraordinary that a university would be basically enforcing a particular viewpoint. It’s an incredibly infantile approach and anti-intellectual.’

It makes it all the more extraordinary, and obnoxious and destructive, that the viewpoint the university is enforcing is so childishly fatuous and reality-denying. The public infrastructure is trying to force us to echo a lie, and it punishes us if we refuse.

Last night, an OU spokesman said: ‘We will not allow views to be presented in a way that is hostile or degrading to others. This does not infringe our statement on academic freedom, which supports opinions and arguments, including those that could cause offence to some people, to be openly and freely expressed.’

Ha that’s funny because yes it does. Of course it does. The second sentence flatly contradicts the first.

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