Librarians aren’t known for causing trouble. But at our elite universities, in the grip of an increasingly unhinged culture of offence-taking, it doesn’t take much to cause trouble nowadays.
This is the news that a library director at King’s College London has been forced to make a grovelling apology for emailing around a photo of Prince Philip. Hot on the heels of that student at Abertay being investigated for saying women have vaginas, this one is right up there with the most absurd campus stories to date.
In a bulletin marking the Duke of Edinburgh’s death, Joleen Clarke, associate director of the university’s libraries, sent a photo of Philip and the Queen opening the Maughan Library at King’s College in 2002. ‘[W]e thought you might like to see this photo’, she wrote to colleagues.
Naturally, a chunk of her colleagues then went completely mental. According to a source in the Mail on Sunday, Clarke was ‘made to account for herself in a kangaroo court’. She was then forced to recant in humiliating fashion.
‘[T]he inclusion of the picture was not intended to commemorate him’, she wrote in a follow-up email. ‘Through feedback and subsequent conversations, we have come to realise the harm that this caused members of our community, because of his history of racist and sexist comments.’
So, despite Philip having a long association with King’s (he’d been a governor since 1955), and King’s having a long association with the monarchy (the clue’s in the name), Philip is apparently unworthy of commemoration – because, like a lot of people pushing 100, he wasn’t particularly politically correct. According to the Mail on Sunday, those who were angered by the message included the university’s ‘anti-racism group’, which said the email caused ‘harm’.
This is all deeply authoritarian and utterly pathetic at the same time. If you feel genuinely ‘harmed’ by a photo of the queen’s consort you probably shouldn’t work at a university, or anywhere else, or ever leave the house. It seems that our universities are staffed by infants.
Students and students’ unions have borne a lot of the blame for campuses' descent into wokedom – and not without justification. A few years ago, the students’ union at KCL made headlines for despatching ‘Safe Space Marshals’ to police a talk given by noted rabble rouser Jacob Rees-Mogg.
But academics and university management have downed the Kool-Aid as well. The sorts of denunciations, Stasi-lite initiatives and woke platitudes that were once confined to blue-haired SU types are now being mouthed and implemented by universities themselves.
In recent weeks, Cambridge published a microaggressions list online, allowing students and staff to anonymously report instances of alleged racial slights. Examples of which included raising one’s eyebrow. (It has since been taken down, following criticism from dons.)
What was once a relatively fringe identitarian ideology now has a near stranglehold over our most elite institutions of learning. From the ‘women have vaginas’ scandal to Prince Philip photo-gate, campus cancel culture is becoming more farcical because there is so little internal pushback against it.
Here’s hoping we see more pockets of resistance, as we have seen at Cambridge in recent weeks. Otherwise we risk handing over our universities forever to this tyranny of massive babies.