Toby Young Toby Young

Will my kitchen be designated a ‘safe space’?


As the father of four children who will be entering higher education in the next few years, I’m worried that my home will shortly start to resemble a university campus. In other words, I’ll be forced to declare my preferred gender pronouns, the kitchen will be designated a ‘safe space’ and the collected works of J.K. Rowling will be burnt on the garden lawn. You may think I’m joking, but a new poll from the Higher Education Policy Institute lays bare just how thin-skinned today’s students are.

For instance, 61 per cent of undergraduates say that ‘when in doubt’ their university ‘should ensure all students are protected from discrimination rather than allow unlimited free speech’ and 79 per cent believe ‘students that feel threatened should always have their demands for safety respected’. You may think it was ever thus – haven’t the long-haired opium-eaters always been zealous enforcers of progressive orthodoxy? But the same questions were asked of students six years ago and they’ve become even less tolerant since then.

A new poll lays bare just how thin-skinned today’s students are

In 2016, an alarming 16 per cent of respondents thought ‘students’ unions should ban all speakers that cause offence to some students’, but that figure has now climbed to a whopping 39 per cent. Today, 76 per cent of students think universities should ‘get rid of’ controversial statues and memorials, up from 51 per cent in 2016. Six years ago, 48 per cent of undergrads supported safe-space policies; that number is now 62 per cent. I’m tempted to brand these militant crybabies ‘Generation Snowflake’, but they’re so hypersensitive that might lead to mental health services on campus being overwhelmed.

Nick Hillman, the director of HEPI, charitably attributes this decline in support for free speech to the tough time students have had in the past six years, leading to a preoccupation with ‘safety’.

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