The education system in the United States leans to the left. A 2018 study, examining the politics of 900 US college administrators, indicated that administrators are “far more liberal than both the faculty members, that teach, then and the very students whom they teach.” 40% of those administrators, according to the study, identify as “far-left,” while on 5% identified as being on the right. When it comes to commencement speakers, liberal speakers outnumber conservatives 12 to 1. Also, we often hear of instances of conservative speakers being denied entry into college campuses (i.e., the Ben Shapiro incident at DePaul University in 2016).
Unfortunately, the situation is not much different across the pond.
Just like the US, the UK elected a conservative government which, despite all the issues it has to face because of Brexit, still maintains a healthy lead in most election polls. However, the ideological gap between British higher education and the rest of the country is tremendous.
A 2018 survey found that 8 in 10 lectures in British Universities identify as “left-wing.” According to the Adam Smith Institute, ideological hegemony can have adverse consequences: “[s]ystematic biases in scholarship; curtailments of free speech on university campuses; and defunding of academic research by right-wing governments” to name a few.
I attend University College London (UCL) and recently became aware that my university will be hosting expelled Labour activist, Jackie Walker. Of course, not every member of the left-wing Labor party is controversial. In recent years, many members of the Labour party and specifically its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, have been accused of anti-Semitism. What makes UCL’s invitation controversial is some of Ms. Walker’s comments.
According to the Guardian, Ms. Walker was suspended from Labour for her anti-Semitic remarks. At an anti-Semitism training session, Ms. Walker criticized Holocaust Memorial Day for “only commemorating Jewish Victims.” When notified by other members that the event also refers to other genocides as well, she claimed, “In practice, it’s not actually circulated and advertised as such… I was looking for information, and I still haven’t heard a definition of anti-Semitism that I can work with.”
Ms. Walker’s anti-Semitism goes way beyond that incident. On a Facebook discussion, she alleged that Jews were “chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade” and argued that “the Jewish Holocaust does not allow Zionists to do what they want.” When expelled from Labor, Ms. Walker claimed that she was the victim of “lynching lead by the Zionist Jewish Labour Movement and its supporters.”
At UCL Mrs. Walker will be a panelist at the book launch event The Responsibility of Intellectuals – reflections by Noam Chomsky and others after 50 years. This book of essays includes a contribution from Ms. Walker. The UCL Jewish Society, on a Facebook post, condemned the invitation:
“UCL Jewish Society is deeply shocked, angered, and saddened to hear the news that expelled Labour party member Jackie Walker has been invited to speak at UCL.”
Greg Leckey, the Treasurer of the UCL Conservative Society, expressed concern about Mrs Walker’s past comments, but defended the University’s right to host this speaker, citing the right to Free Speech. “A second or, in Mrs Walker’s case, a third chance should be given providing she can demonstrate true repentance for her previous anti-Semitic comments, however, if things get out of hand staff will have to intervene to ensure that no racial offence is caused. We [The Conservative Society] have invited many notable conservatives which have all subsequently been confirmed by the [Student] Union,” Mr. Leckey told me.
Speakers such as Brexit Party leader, Nigel Farage, would also be allowed, yet they would be considered “high risk.” However, Mr. Leckey made reference to an incident of vandalism against a poster, depicting Prime Minister Boris Johnson, at the UCL Conservative Society’s booth during the UCL Freshers Fair. Profanities were written on the poster, a Hitler-like mustache was drawn under PM Johnson’s nose and the Conservative Party logo was ripped off. “That goes to show there is some aspect of our society, being conservative, being unpopular on campus” Mr. Leckey noted.
In many ways, even though the United Kingdom does not have the same First Amendment Rights, conservative students in the UK, at least at UCL, have it much better than conservative students in the US. For instance, 5 figure security fees, similar to those imposed by my Alma Mater, Boston University, in order for the Young America’s Foundation to host Ben Shapiro, are unheard of here.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.