King’s is a royal pain

kingscollegeThe other day I wrote about an outburst of righteous, or rather self-righteous, student wrath at King’s.

The eruption followed a rumbling five-year campaign by a pressure group affectionately called ‘gay-stapo’ in some quarters. Once the lava of indignation splashed out, the photograph of Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, was removed from the university’s ‘Wall of Fame’ in the Strand.

According to the aforementioned pressure group, Lord Carey had forfeited any claim to the honour by having opposed homomarriage, something he was obliged to do, if only institutionally.

King’s, in case the outlanders among you are wondering, is no poxy school somewhere in the sticks. According to 2016/17 QS World University Rankings, this university, one of England’s oldest, is in the world’s top 25. It boasts 6,800 staff shining the light of their wisdom on more than 27,600 students from some 150 countries.

All in all, King’s is a useful benchmark of England’s academic life, and I felt the mark was sliding down with precipitous speed – largely under the influence of young fanatics whose main reason for attending seems to be struggle for the liberation of… well, not mankind these days, but every base passion the fanatics deem worthy.

They are successfully browbeating the increasingly spineless regents into meek acquiescence, so far falling just short of public mea culpas accompanied by self-flagellation and most unflattering self-descriptions.

Things haven’t quite got as bad as at Soviet universities in the ‘20s or Chinese ones in the 60’s (when students abused professors not only verbally), but the vector is clearly observable. It’s pointing in the direction of a refuse heap, of the kind that would make passers-by pinch their nostrils.

Anyway, my article generated some interesting responses, with one reader objecting that “student activists of any kind have as much influence on the general student population as a fart on a force nine gale (as the saying goes).”

I respectfully disagreed, citing a few flagrant examples of said influence in action. Those, I suggested, testified to it being not so much flatulent as emetic.

However, having left the proverbial groves decades ago, and in another country, I couldn’t offer any first-hand insights. Those were helpfully provided by another reader, one of those youngsters who at times make me moderate my pessimism about the country’s future. Here’s what he wrote:

“I always keep up with your blogs, which I look forward to every day, but with this one I thought it might be worth adding whatever insight I could from within.

“I’m currently studying Theology at King’s, and the influence of the ‘gay-stapo’ at the university has grown noticeably even in the few years I’ve been here. Same with the ‘anti-racist’ student activists.

“It was a fellow Theology student in my year who campaigned successfully for the introduction of ‘gender-neutral’ toilets, and the creation of the ‘Wall of BAME’ (Black And Minority Ethnic). This latter phenomenon was in response to a row of pictures in the main corridor of female academics, none of whom were sufficiently brown for this person’s liking.

“Unfortunately this obsession with superficiality and victimhood has infested the university, and its leading figures are largely succumbing to it. The most farcical thing, for my money, was the drama concerning the apparent racism behind the lower average marks achieved by BAME students at King’s.

“When marking essays, our professors are given nothing but a student’s candidate number, which is changed regularly. How anonymous marking is supposed to nevertheless encourage racism is beyond me, but this Theology student and his followers decided that walking out of lectures was the answer. No doubt this improved their marks.

“He eventually quit the course, denouncing King’s as a ‘racist institution’ in spite of its efforts to keep step with the progressive timetable imposed by himself and others.

“More recently, we were encouraged by the Theology & Religious Studies Department to fill out a survey which asked us for our details concerning ethnicity and sexuality, before posing a range of questions about whether we felt that the Theology course represented us appropriately.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, plans are now in the pipeline to change the course to ‘Theology, Religion and Culture’, coming into effect in 2018 so the head of department tells me, apparently to broaden the appeal and range of the course. Straightforward ‘Theology’ is hard enough to find nowadays for potential undergraduates, and even the course as it is now has its failings and glaring omissions. There is, for example, no module on medieval theology whatsoever.

“A good friend of mine also doing Theology, at the same time a ‘Student Rep’, provides some official feedback to the department regarding the discontent all this has caused for those of us who retain some sense, but apparently his views are very much in the minority when it comes to the people who actually govern the direction of the department and the university.

“As you know, there is no debating with these people ultimately; the only thing one gets out of it is abuse.

“Anyway, it gives us something to pray about and struggle against.”

Indeed. If such is the state of affairs in Theology, one wonders how things are at Sociology. Doesn’t bear thinking about, that, at least not this close to Christmas.

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