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25 Jun, 2020 12:35

Selective outrage? Cambridge University lectures Twitter about academic freedom, after professor says ‘white lives don’t matter’

Selective outrage? Cambridge University lectures Twitter about academic freedom, after professor says ‘white lives don’t matter’

Cambridge has proclaimed that it will defend the seemingly indefensible, after one of its professors stated that ‘white lives’ aren’t valuable. Is this the same uni that ‘canceled’ Dr Jordan Peterson, Twitter has asked?

In a series of now-deleted tweets, Dr Priyamvada Gopal, a lecturer who specializes in postcolonial literature and “critical race studies” at the University of Cambridge’s Churchill College, announced that “white lives don’t matter,” and that whiteness should be “abolished.” Unsurprisingly, she received mountains of criticism for her divisive utterances.

In the current racially charged era, one might assume Cambridge would want to distance itself from her radical pronouncements, but it seems to have assumed a bolder position. “The university defends the right of its academics to express their own lawful opinions, which others might find controversial, and deplores, in the strongest terms, abuse and personal attacks,” the prestigious institution tweeted on Wednesday, adding that any attacks leveled against its faculty were “totally unacceptable and must cease.”

The statement elicited howls of “hypocrisy!” from social media, with numerous commentators pointing out that Cambridge was clearly selective when it came to defending controversial opinions. In March 2019, the university withdrew Canadian professor of psychology Jordan Peterson’s fellowship, after staff and students protested. Peterson, who rose to prominence after deriding the compulsory use of gendered pronouns, has been accused of being transphobic – an allegation he denies. Announcing its decision to withdraw the fellowship, the university said it aimed to foster an “inclusive environment” and that all staff and visitors must uphold those principles.

“What was unlawful about the opinions expressed by Dr Jordan Peterson? Certainly, you may find his views controversial, but you rescinded his visiting fellowship when students objected. Where was your robust defense of his academic right to express a view?” asked one unimpressed observer. Similar frustration was expressed by popular political pundit Dave Rubin and journalist Tom Harwood, among others.

Although Cambridge appears to be standing by Gopal, it’s far from clear that she will emerge from the scandal unscathed. A Charge.org petition calling for her university post to be terminated has already gathered nearly 12,500 signatures.Academics have landed themselves in hot water for far lesser offenses. Earlier this month, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, was placed on leave after refusing to be more generous in their grading of assignments by black students, in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing.

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